Thursday, August 23, 2012

Continental Hotel

Continental House (1972)

Continental Hotel (Continental House)

Location: Bay and Dundas Streets, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

Opened/Closed: 1950s/60s

From "Rethinking Class in Lesbian Bar Culture: Living the 'Gay Life' in Toronto, 1955-1965" by Elise Chenier: 

When Joji Hazel came to Toronto in the early 1960s, her search for a gay women's bar landed her at the Continental Hotel, a public house long considered home to local bar-going lesbians.' Hazel lived in a small town one hundred miles outside the city, and what she knew of lesbian bars was gleaned from pulp fiction novels and The Ladder, a magazine published by the Daughters of Bilitis, a San Francisco-based lesbian organization, where the evils and merits of lesbian bars and butch and fem 'roles' were the subject of regular debate. Hazel claims that she felt well prepared for what she would find, but as she stood before the "dingy building" located in "a seedy section of Chinatown, noted for prostitution and narcotics," she almost lost her nerve.

Had Hazel never read about lesbian bars, she probably would have been struck by the tough masculine demeanour of many of the women inside. She might have been put off by the constant stream of sex trade workers and johns moving in and out of the ladies' and escorts' room. But after three hours of careful observation, what took her by surprise was how the gay women inside were segregated into two distinct groups. They are "stalwarts from two differentworlds," she explained in a short article published in The Ladder in 1963. "One . . . was condescending and at times a little jeering; the other was brash, defiant, puzzlingly defensive . . . . A line might have been drawn on the floor, so divisible were the players." Significantly, Hazel knew exactly where she stood, or more precisely, sat. Her description of "brash" butches at the Continental was unequivocally critical; presumably why some women might jeer at them needed no explanation.

Read the rest here.

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