When Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern proposed to his boyfriend six years ago this weekend, he did so while holding hands and dancing to music during a bustling Pride party on Church St.
He popped the question in the heart of the Gay Village, where he and Mathieu Chantelois lived, close to the string of clubs, bars and restaurants they loved to revel in.
The pair had recently moved from Montreal and purchased their first condo in a pocket of the city that "felt like home," recalls Chantelois.
"Living downtown was something we absolutely wanted," he says. He didn't want to be in an area where "neighbours may not like me and make my life more difficult."
Recently, the couple moved to the Queen-Bathurst area, but they still like to hang in the Village.
Meanwhile, in the city's east end, on a quiet, tree-lined street near Danforth and Woodbine Aves., another couple, Alison Kemper and Joyce Barnett, live with their two children, not far from the subway, libraries, daycares, parks and schools.
"It had some of the infrastructure we needed to have, the kind of lifestyle we wanted at an affordable price, so we moved in," explains Kemper, who married Barnett three years ago after more than 20 years together.
According to data collected by the Star, it seems these couples are not alone. While Ontario doesn't distinguish between same-sex and opposite sex couples in its marriage statistics, the City of Toronto does.
Date, sex and partial postal code data for same-sex couples married in Toronto was released to the Star recently under access-to-information laws. The information goes back to June 2003, when same-sex marriage was legalized.
The data, current to last month, covers 11,128 individuals; a little fewer than half were American and a handful were British.
The postal code data sheds light on different neighbourhood patterns of Toronto's own married lesbians and gay men.
Gay couples are most common in the Gay Village around Church and Wellesley Sts. and in east downtown, with clusters in Rosedale and the University of Toronto area.
Lesbians are also prominent downtown, with clusters in east-end neighbourhoods such as Riverdale, South Riverdale, Leslieville, the Beach and east Danforth. Rates are also high in the U of T area, Cabbagetown and Roncesvalles.
Generally, socioeconomic factors explain why lesbian and gay enclaves form in different areas, says sociologist Adam Green, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Because women typically earn less, lesbian enclaves appear in less wealthy areas and farther from main streets. Gay men, who are bigger earners, are traditionally more visible downtown, says Green.
Even when it comes to socializing, lesbians are less visible, he says, pointing out that gay men tend to mingle at bars and bathhouses, whereas women often gather at private parties and events.
While two women living together are likely to have lower incomes than a pair of men, professor David Rayside warns economics may not entirely explain the clustering.
After all, "there are pockets of Riverdale and Roncesvalles that are very expensive," says Rayside, former director of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto.
According to the data, gay men who came here from the U.S. to tie the knot were more likely to be from the south and California, particularly cities, while lesbians hailed more from rural areas of New York state and the Midwest.
Crispin Sheridan and Brian Puskar of Manhattan had never considered getting hitched in Toronto, even though it is the gay marriage capital of the world. They had already planned an extensive commitment ceremony on the beach at Fire Island Pines on Long Island when Sheridan phoned Rev. Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto to ask if he would marry them.
Hawkes, an old friend from Sheridan's U of T days, suggested the couple come here and make it legit. So Sheridan and Puskar hired a private vintage rail car, which they dubbed the wedding train, and transported their guests here for the big day on June 3, 2006. A week later, they reaffirmed their vows with Rev. Hawkes at Fire Island.
The early wave of Americans who rolled into town to get married has tapered off as more and more states recognize same-sex marriage. In 2003 about 120 U.S. residents each month travelled to Toronto to get married, whereas in 2008 that figure had slipped to 50.
One couple determined not to delay their nuptials was Gomez-Wiuckstern and Chantelois. They were married on July 4, 2003, about three weeks after the landmark decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage violated the constitution.
In fact, when they showed up at City Hall, the new marriage licences had not yet been printed. The only ones available were the old gender-specific forms.
"My name is listed as the wife," says Chantelois, laughing. "Because I was a gentleman I let Marcelo be the first to sign the form, so I became the wife."
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
You don't see hetrosexuals putting on a "hetro-pride" day, that now is politically incorrect. Its getting to the point that gays and lesbians have so much power and influence that you become the odd person out just to be straight. Gay "pride" has overtones of a religious crusade to recruit "more" to "their" fold. While society ever increasingly promotes gay it forgets that children have rights to grow up with a mother and a father and anything else is simply a promotion of a life style that will effectively further decline the birth rate and destroy Canada's economic future