I didn’t realize it then, but I quickly grew to understand what I was being allowed to experience: play. Just like in Trinidad and Tobago, it offered an escape, this time, from the boring, white, heteronormative, capitalist cookie-cutter life that not only didn’t interest me but innately wasn’t created for me - the black, queer, immigrant me. It gave me a place to redefine and re-imagine what my queer, black, kinky sexuality could be and how I would explore it. It gave me the opportunity to meet friends who struggled to fit in - unsuccessfully trying to whitewash ourselves to find connection and community - and allowed us to find each other and reclaim the parts of ourselves that homonormativity shamed yet wanted to embody. This was Toronto’s queer nightlife scene in all of its messy, uncontrollable, beautiful glory. This was my new playground, and the more I delved into it I realized it was me and my chosen family’s opportunity to experience the privilege of play and the joy that comes from fun on your own terms. To us, it was safety, love, cardio, and a chance to let joy and warmth be the overwhelming emotion in our lives, instead of fear and tokenism. I don’t know who I would be or what I would have accomplished if I was never exposed to the queer black and POC nightlife scene, but I know that I would never have had the opportunity to allow play to teach me a lesson.
I didn’t want to just survive; I, along with my chosen family, deserved to thrive.
Mark-Che Devonish is the Manager, Special Events at Canadian Stage and founder of The Rude Collective.
Photos: Brianna Roye.