Toronto's oldest LGBT bookstore puts on Pulse TO vigil for Orlando victims
'This violence that happened in Orlando, it’s an echo of violence that people experience every day'
Exactly one week after a gunman opened fire inside Orlando gay nightclub Pulse, Torontonians gathered at Nathan Phillips Square to remember the victims of the attack at a vigil organized by one of the city's oldest LGBT bookstores.
Hundreds attended the vigil Sunday night, coordinated by Glad Day Bookshop, which first opened in the Annex in 1970. It was a night of music and dance, with public displays of affection welcome, according to the event's organizers.
"With song and dance we remember," the organizers wrote on its Facebook page. "With song and dance we take up public space."
Katie Sly is a regular of the bookstore. It's always been a place of refuge for her — but perhaps never more than this week, she told CBC News.
"Specifically this week in the aftermath of Orlando, this space was opened up to anyone who couldn't stand to be alone and needed a place where they could be surrounded by other queer people," she said.
'Isn't about just this one moment'
"I live alone and I couldn't be alone this week," Sly said.
Michael Erickson was part of a group that saved the bookstore from closure four years ago. He calls the store a healing space for the community and envisioned Sunday's vigil as a way of extending that space.
"It's a way for us to feel less isolated and draw a bit of strength from each other," he said.
And while the attack in Orlando was what motivated him to organize the vigil, he says homophobia and transphobia remain problems in Toronto.
"In a lot of ways, this violence that happened in Orlando, it's an echo of violence that people experience every day in their lives, whether at the workplace, in their family… as kids, in high school," Erickson said.
"So, this isn't about just this one moment, it's about this feeling that it could happen to you, it could happen to us."
Sly says she experienced homophobia right here in in Toronto, as recently as a few weeks ago.
She says she was sitting in a park with a friend when a man decided to come and sit next to them and make anti-gay comments loudly in their direction.
"I guess we were reading as queer and a guy decided to come and talk… about how people were having sex with the wrong people and it's supposed to be a man and a woman."
"That actually happened a couple of days before Orlando and when Orlando happened, I had to reflect… What's the line between that and when a person decides to do something much more aggressive?"