Not the Niagara of my youth (and that’s a relief!)


l have been waxing somewhat less than nostalgic as I’ve learned how much progress has been made in the LGBTTQQ2S community in Niagara, where I went to college and worked through the 1980s.

It began as I read the profile of a remarkable young guy, Matthew Cutler, being honoured by Pride Toronto for “excellence in youth leadership”. (Follow the link and you’ll see why.) OUTNiagara, as well as Niagara Pride Support Services seem to be community organizations that we could only have dreamed about in the 80s, when Gay Outreach Niagara managed only a few dances and a community forum on HIV/AIDS.

Brock University’s radio station CFBU hosts “OUTspoken” Sundays at 4 p.m. I’d have been in there like a dirty shirt had this been going when I was working at a St. Catharines radio station and was a part-time Politics student there!

AIDS Niagara has flourished since the early days when we met as AIDS Committee of Niagara, a creature of the Regional Niagara Health Department.

With rainbow flag-raising ceremonies at St. Catharines City Hall, picnics in the park and even a bike tour nowadays, an indication of much wider community support, clearly things have come a long way since the days when the only community meeting place was a restaurant-tavern on St. Paul Street between a Canadian Forces recruitment centre and a then-seedy Leonard Hotel, followed by a short-lived gay-managed bar on the edge of downtown. Oh and a cruising area under a bridge. Lovely.

So congratulations to Matthew Cutler and all who have contributed to making Niagara what it is today – from campus groups, PFLAG and more. It’s a rationalization, I know, but I used to say, “If you were gay and lived in St. Catharines you’d drink too much, too!” I clearly would not have that excuse today.