(originally posted on TOmillennials.ca)
If I hadn’t moved to Toronto, I might still be living in the closet.
Yup, the big TO helped me come out to myself. Living in the most diverse city in the world exposed me to all kinds of people from different walks of life. It normalized what I had once thought was “weird” and showed me that being “different” and being “okay” were not mutually exclusive.
Growing up in the suburbs, everything was very clean, organized, and routine. A friend once told me she would never move to Toronto because it was “so dirty and full of weirdos”. Firstly, yes, we’re still friends. Second, I’ll admit the occasional surprise-whiff of lingering urine can be irritating, but I had a whole other take on “weirdos”: Toronto is eclectic, full of people unapologetically embracing themselves, their identities, their passions. Just go to Trinity Bellwoods Park on a regular day and you’ll see what I mean (freestyle ultimate wizards, Slacklining parties, etc.).
Because everyone in this city is so visibly different, there’s an unspoken understanding that our differences are also largely invisible – you know you don’t know what the other person is going through. Having a diverse social network builds tolerance through empathy and understanding. Google it, and you’ll find a myriad of studies in the recent decade revealing diversity not only brings different perspectives to the table, but it’s also a necessity to having teams that are more creative, compassionate, and, effective. In fact, even where you keep your ketchup is an indicator of how diverse a group is. Our respective differences are not an obstacle to co-operation and it’s proudly reflected in our city’s official motto, “Diversity, our strength”.
The sheer population of Toronto makes it much easier to support your passions and hobbies too. If you’re into longboarding, there are several longboarding communities and some pretty sweet shops in Kensington Market. Into coding and community-building? Hit up Civic Tech TO. New LGBT grad interested in professional networking? Join Out on Bay Street. The best chicken and waffles? The Dirty Bird, hands down (it qualifies as a passion). There’s something for everyone, no matter how “niche” you might’ve thought you or your interests are, because Toronto has the critical mass to support it.
Since moving here, I’ve attended various networking events and international speaker series, and joined several non-profit and social groups. More importantly, through them, I have met the most interesting of individuals and they’ve enriched my life through their stories. Moving to Toronto opened my eyes, flipped the narrative for being “different”, and made it easier to accept my own differences. So, thank you, Toronto, and see you at Pride.