‘Til Sunset Island Party: Celebrating What the Toronto Islands Mean to the Queer Community

The city’s LGBTQ+ community has always had a connection with the Toronto Islands. On August 1, 1971, 30 to 50 brave individuals gathered for Canada’s very first openly queer picnic on Hanlan’s Point in celebration of queer pride. Proudly christened ‘Gay Day’, this picnic is widely considered to be the beginning of Toronto Pride by many activists at the time. That same month, We Demand, Canada’s first federal queer rights protest took place on Parliament’s steps in Ottawa, demanding acceptance and full equality.

The attendees of the picnic were made up of folks from Toronto Gay Action, the University of Toronto Homophile Association and the Community Homophile Association of Toronto. Also included among these young people were the photographer and Glad Day Bookshop owner Jerald Moldenhauer, writer James Dubro, gay activist Herb Spiers, and past MPP for Parkdale-High Park, Cheri DiNovo.

Hanlan’s point is the now famously clothing-optional beach on the Islands, its embrace of nudity dating back to as early as the 19th century. The permit for the beach was revoked in the 1930s by scandalized Torontonians, but it was once again reinstated in 2002 due to the work of Totally Naked Toronto, maintaining that nudism is not inherently sexual and a rebellion against society’s social constructs.

For those of you who may not know, the beach remained a popular haunt for queer folks throughout the 50s regardless of the law until the permit was officially renewed — and remains so today. By the 70s it was recognized as a queer-friendly hangout spot. The open-mindedness of a nudist-friendly space has allowed for people of diverse gender expressions and sexual orientations a space where they themselves can feel safe and welcome.

The Toronto Islands, and Hanlan’s Point specifically, has become a historic LGBTQ+ site and for many folks in the community, visiting the islands has become a time-honoured tradition.

To celebrate and honour this aspect of Toronto’s unique queer history, Pride Toronto held its first-ever ‘Til Sunset Island Party last June. It was a day full of music and dancing, delicious cocktails and even some merfolk! Continuing the tradition, we are hosting another Pride Toronto island party this year — and it’s not too late to get your tickets for only $6.52!

It seems that it has become its own tradition that the Toronto Islands flood each year, which meant that our original party date had to be pushed back. But that’s okay because now we have an excuse to continue the Pride Month celebrations! Join us to officially celebrate Pride one last time this summer on Sunday, August 25th! Starting at 1:00 p.m. at Gibraltar Point (443 Lakeshore Avenue, Toronto) and going until, well, sunset at 9:00 p.m., the island party will sure to be a day you won’t want to miss.

Not sure what to expect? We got you covered! There will be ample opportunity to kick back and relax or join in on the party. Lounge in the sun, feast at our all-day BBQ, or grab a drink and dance the day away! Our pals at Sauza Tequila will have a sampling bar so you can try out some specialty cocktails! Additionally, Beam Suntory Canada will be handing out some fun alcoholic beverages that you can enjoy during sets by some of our favourite local Toronto DJs including Jaime Sin, John Caffery, Diego Armand, Tamika and Sandy Duperval. We will also be graced with performances by some of the talented Drag Queens, featuring Jada Hudson as the event headliner as well as Aura NovaLuna DuBois and Selena Vale.

It looks like it is going to be a gorgeous day, so be sure to pack your bathing suits, towels and sunscreen! All bags will be checked at the entrance and no outside alcohol is permitted. Make sure to take a picture of the barcode on your ticket just in case you can’t connect while on the island. There won’t be any wifi and if we’re not able to scan your ticket, you won’t be able to enter. We’ll also be providing a free shuttle bus to make transportation to the ferry terminal as accessible as possible.

What better way to celebrate our one-of-a-kind queer history than to head back to where it all began? The skies will be blue, the drinks will be cold and the promise that the music will be bumpin’. Over 600 tickets have already been sold so make sure to get your tickets now!