Vancouver today is home to Davie Street, one of North America’s most vibrant gay villages. Our city’s annual PRIDE parade draws crowds in the tens of thousands. Our city has openly gay politicians and monuments to gay activists. But it wasn’t always this way…
Those born in Canada before 1969 entered a world where gay people were considered “criminal sexual psychopaths” under the Canadian Criminal Code. Judges handed out prison sentences to gay men caught in love affairs. Canadian police forces regularly undertook vicious intimidation campaigns against members of the LGBTQ2+ community, who lived in constant fear of being outed. Being labelled gay might mean losing your job, your home, your friends, and access to your children.
Times have changed, but the memories don’t need to fade. So walk, learn, and laugh with us on the Really Gay History Tour. We promise it will be an adventure you’ll remember forever.
The walking tour
Meeting outside Vancouver City Centre Skytrain Station, the walking tour first visits the historic Hotel Vancouver to talk beer parlours and clandestine gay meetups. Across the street you’ll learn the strange case of Rex vs Singh at the old courthouse, now the Vancouver Art Gallery. Next you’ll cut through Robson Square to Granville Street, once home to the city’s very first gay bars.
Weaving a path through Imperial Court coronations, drag kings at the Quadra, gay struggle at the United Church, Patient Zero and Nelson Park, you’ll find yourself in the gaybourhood on Davie Street.
The walking tour strolls the historic West End as you discover protests, bookstore bombings, Jim Deva Plaza, a transgender campaigner who blew the whistle on the biggest crime in Vancouver history, Vancouver’s secret gay village, and the remarkable story of two-spirited warrior Gone to the Spirits.
You’ll finish in the heart of the historic Davie Street village with its wonderful array of bars and restaurants. The perfect place to enjoy a post-walking tour cocktail!
The Really Gay History Tour is a Forbidden Vancouver walking tour researched and designed by storyteller Glenn Tkach with support from company founder Will Woods. Glenn and Will would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project, including Vancouver PRIDE, the Forbidden Vancouver storyteller team, everyone at Vancouver Mysteries, Roxanne Kalenborn, Kaschelle Thiessen, Ron Dutton, David Reid at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Tom Carter, Maurice Guibord, Neil Whaley, Jamie Lee Hamilton, Drew Dickinson, Crema, Lani Russwurm, Robert Wegrzyn, Heather Farquhar, Kiri Marr Photography, Gary Patterson, Tim Stevenson, and to all the people who never gave up the fight.