There’s a Reason that We Love This Town
I grew up a short ferry ride across the harbour from Halifax, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (Halifax’s much maligned, but awesome little sister) and moved out east again four years ago.
Halifax is a historic city with the Celtic charm expected of Nova Scotia, overflowing with arts, culture, music and bars, so many bars.
I have a friend who refers to Halifax as the “lady-gay capital of Canada,” which it very well might be, per capita anyways. Despite some Toronto lesbians telling me that there were like five queer women in Halifax, and they all lived in one house (note: I love you Toronto, but most Torontonians don’t know much about anything East of Montréal), there are oodles of queers in Halifax.
As Halifax is the biggest city in the Maritimes region of Canada, lots of queers from across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI make the pilgrimage to our seaside city. Hali is also home to five universities (including an arts university folks, think of all of the queers), drawing uni-aged homos from across the country.
Fun (Queer) Times in the Maritimes
The Company House (The CoHo) (2202 Gottingen Street) There’s a joke in Halifax that there are two-and-a-half gay bars in the city; the Company House is the half, and it’s where you’ll find your lesbians. The Company House is technically a live music venue and is a great place to catch intimate music, comedy or poetry show (featuring a slew of queer women performers). However, it’s owned, staffed and frequented by queer ladies. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… The CoHo hosts the queer “Retro Night” and “Heavy Petting” (listed below).
Reflections (5184 Sackville Street) Refs is your obligatory local basement gay bar featuring pumpin’ electronic music, regular drag shows and a (not so gay) student night every Friday. Located right downtown, Refs is also of a special ilk of bars in Halifax deemed to be a “cabaret,” and so can stay open until 4:00am (most bars close at 2:00am).
Menz Bar (2182 Gottingen Street) As the name would suggest, Menz Bar is where you should go if you wanna shake your booty with some (older, likely bearded) gay men.
Featuring the infamous make-out *ahem* “library” room at the back of the bar (there is a security camera back there, you’ve been forewarned), Menz also holds the weekly So You Think You’ve Got Talent hosted by local drag sweetheart Elle Noir.
Michael’s Bar and Grill (6100 Young Street) Nestled in a strip mall in the North End, Michael’s is your local dive bar with a mini stage and sizeable dance floor. Walk or bus to Michael’s for artsy, hipster-y North Enders, live music and Sunday and Wednesday Karaoke (one of the best in Hali) with the fanny-pack sporting Lori the Guy. Michael’s Bar is also home to the semi-regular lady focused queer dance party, “Bitch Fit”.
Gus’s Pub and Grill (2605 Agricola Street) Smack dab at the centre of the North End (North and Agricola streets) the gritty Gus’s is a Hali institution. Put on your high waisted denim cuts offs and plaid and bike (essential North End accessory) down to Gus’s for copious amounts of beer, punk shows and It Felt Like a Kiss (monthly dance party featuring “motown, doowop, sweet sweet soul” and plenty-o-queers).
Company House Retro Night (2202 Gottingen Street) The Company House retro night is not a retro night in the wear-leg-warmers-and-matching-sweat-band-to-the-bar sense; it’s really just an excuse to belt out “I just wanna feel the heat with some body” in a room full of sweaty homos.
Heavy Petting (Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street) A hot queer discotheque held one Saturday a month. This sweaty dance party features disco, house and punk and is for (according to their Facebook page): “Homo’s, Queers, Transfolk, Lezbros, StoneButches, HardFemmes, Genderqueers, Bar Stars and Heteros.”
BitchFit (Michael’s Bar & Grill, 6100 Young Street) Co-founded by Adept Tatoo’s Amber Thorpe, BitchFit is a semi-regular queer dance party held at Michael’s Bar and Grill. The biggest mostly-lady-gay dance party outside of Pride, BitchFit parties have clever themes such as “Homo for the Holidays” and “But I’m a Cheerleader – Skool Gayz”. You will inevitably leave this party asking yourself “where did all of those lesbians come from?”
Guerilla Gayfare is a bunch of queers and allies who take over a bar that’s usually full of heteros one Friday a month. Each takeover attendees wear the same colour or adhere to a dress code such as floral and short shorts.
Drawing over 100, 000 people to our little sea-side city, Halifax Pride is the largest LGBTQ festival in Atlantic Canada. While Halifax Pride is not immune from the corporate sponsorship or controversy that has plagued big city celebrations, our Pride has managed to maintain some of the small-town Pride charm that larger cities may lack.
Halifax Pride Week begins with a good ole drag queen vs. dykes softball game and culminates in Saturday’s Pride Parade, but there are lots of events (official and not) during the week. Check halifaxpride.com for all of this year’s events.
Dykes vs. Divas Softball Game (Canada Game Diamonds, 1945 Bell Road) Always a big hit (pun fully intended) the Dykes vs. Divas softball game pits Halifax’s hottest drag queens against a crew of local lesbians. The always-packed event is held at the Halifax Commons. Go whether you like softball or not; there’s plenty o’ summery Haliqueers, sassy commentary and mid-inning makeup application to keep you amused.
NSRAP Time-out Lunchtime Lecture Series (Spring Garden Library, 5381 Spring Garden Road) This noon-hour lecture series, held in the Spring Garden Library, helps put some of the politics back into Pride. Past topics have included: trans human rights, HIV/AIDS in our communities and the history and politics of pride. A worthwhile sober, day-time Pride activity.
Hot Times Pride Bathhouse (Sea Dogs Bathhouse, 2199 Gottingen Street) The Hot Times Collective is a Halifax non-profit collective dedicated to creating sexy time events for queer people. During Pride, Hot Times organizes a bathhouse at the traditionally gay-men-only Sea Dogs Bathhouse that’s open to queer women and trans folks who usually feel excluded from Halifax’s only bathhouse. Get your hot ass over to hottimeshfx.wordpress.com for more information.
Drawing inspiration from the early Pride celebrations, the Dyke and Trans March is an overtly political, grassroots alternative to the Pride Parade started as a Dyke March in 2010. The first Dyke and Trans March was held in 2011 and is by and for all queer women and trans people (and their allies) and is traditionally held the Friday evening before the Pride Parade. The D and T March is part protest and part dance party; featuring homemade banners and placards, speeches by rad local queer and trans folks, a bumpin’ playlist and shit tons of denim and glitter.
The main attraction, the Halifax Pride Parade gays up Halifax’s main streets (Barrington and Spring Garden) on the last Saturday of Pride. Both the Parade and the crowds get bigger every year and the gaiety continues at the community fair and concert held at the Garrison Grounds immediately following the Parade.
WetSpot (Garrison Grounds) Continuing the tradition of hilariously named queer women’s parties, WetSpot is a mostly gay lady and friends party that held outdoors on the Garrison Grounds, at the foot of Citadel Hill on the last (Saturday) night of Pride. Last year the organizers had to do an emergency beer run, ’nuff said.
Plenty of Queer Fish in Our Sea
Despite the small city queer scene stereotypes, there are plenty of queers to date in Halifax. You’re most in luck if you’re OK with the 18 to 24-year-old set, due to the aforementioned universities. Any of the above mentioned bars are good places to meet women or other queers.
Halifax is also famous for queer dance parties (with obligatory glitter station) at various queerified houses in the North End. Make a Hali-queer friend and get yourself invited to one to meet lots of lovelies.
How to Know What’s Happening
The best way to find out what is happening in the city is to pick up a copy of Halifax’s alternative weekly paper The Coast (in most restaurants and cafés downtown) or visit thecoast.ca. Also, keep an eye out for event posters on polls around town.
Public Gardens (5665 Spring Garden Road) The Public Gardens is a Victorian style garden that is open to the public in the warm months. Smack in the middle of the city the gardens are full of flowers and shrubbery, ponds and streams, waterfowl and gazeboes and is a great place to go for a stroll or eat your lunch.
Citadel Hill (5425 Sackville Street) The entire city is built around Citadel Hill (and the fortress atop the hill). Citadel is a great place to sit when it’s warm with a picnic and a mason jar of wine and enjoy the view of the city and the harbour. In the summer it is ideal for sunbathing. At night, the top of Citadel is a long-standing gay male cruising spot.
Halifax Commons (North End) Spanning what would be several city blocks just North-West of Citadel Hill, the commons are a large grassy space with baseball diamonds, a skate park, a skating oval and playground. Try to avoid walking through the commons at night though.
Point Pleasant Park (5718 Point Pleasant Drive) A Halifax treasure, Point Pleasant is the largest forested park on the Halifax peninsula, has beautiful views of the water and is a great place for a walk, bike ride or a picnic.
Beaches and Other Sights
Nova Scotia’s tagline is “Canada’s ocean playground.” And while the Halifax Harbour is pretty to look at, you shouldn’t swim in it (we used to dump our sewage there). If you are in Halifax in the summer you need to get thee to a beach: Crystal Crescent Beach (located in Sambro, closest to the Halifax side) or Rainbow Haven, Conrad’s or Lawrencetown Beaches (on the Dartmouth side). If you long for fresh water head to Long or William’s lakes in Halifax and Banook and Mic Mac lakes in Dartmouth.
Nova Scotia has 10 universities in all, five of which are based in Halifax, making us one mega university town. Halifax’s universities are: Dalhousie University, the University of King’s College, Saint Mary’s University (SMU), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University, Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) and a small satellite campus for the French Université Sainte-Anne.
Dal is the biggest university in town with 15, 000ish students, located in the south end of Halifax. Dal has two queer focused student groups, DalOUT and DalAllies and is the site of various public events.
King’s is a small liberal arts university on the edge of the Dal campus (although autonomous from Dal in most ways, and proud of it). Known for their resemblance to Hogwarts, thesbians (and regular threatre productions), obsession with philosophy and classic literature (they have a Dante themed party folks), the King’s bubble is also home to many queers, and people who like them.
SMU has a reputation as a bro school that’s big into university sports, but is also one of the more diverse universities with an incredibly high percentage of international students. SMUQ organizes events for queer and trans students at SMU.
NSCAD is Eastern Canada’s only autonomous (although that’s been threatened as of late by governmental powers that be) fine-arts university. Note: Pretty much everyone at NSCAD looks like a great big ‘mo, and while many are, some just have really great style and queer haircuts. With a rad queer collective that throws the most fun queer dance parties, and makes the prettiest hand-made queer themed things to put on your wall and sew on your denim vest, NSCAD is where you will find boat-loads of queers.
Y’all know that Canadians love hockey. Halifax does not have an NHL team but we have our CHL Quebec Major Junior Hockey League hometown heroes the Halifax Mooseheads. Moosehead games are held at the Halifax Metro Centre, and are not really gay but are a time if you love hockey (especially if the beer is flowing).
Founded in 2010, the Halifax Roller Derby Association (HRDA) is Halifax’s all female roller derby league. The HRDA is the umbrella for the all-star team the Halifax Harbour Grudges and home teams Las Bandidas Locas & Dead Ringers. The Grudges, Bandidas and Dead Ringers skate in bouts against other Maritimes roller derby clubs. As you’d expect, many of the derby’s skaters and attendees are big ole queers.
A Spot of Tea (and Coffee)
Paperchase Café (5228 Blowers Street, Mon-Sat 8-8, Sun 9-8) Laid-back café above one of the city’s best magazine shops. Full of students, artists and other (mostly) young hip Haligonians using the free Internet while slurping caffeinated beverages and smoothies and eating breakfast, vegetarian chili, avocado melts and baked goods. Where I go if I want to see everyone I’ve ever known.
Steve-o-Reno’s Cappuccino (Main location: 1536 Brunswick Street, Mon-Fri 7:30-6, Sat 8-6, Sun 8:30-6) As the name suggests, you can get a yummy cappuccino or other frothy beverage or coffee of the non-steamed variety here with a baked good. Small, cheery and bright and right in the centre of downtown Halifax. In the summer there plunk yourself down on their small patio.
Two If By Sea (TIBS) (Halifax: 1869 Upper Water Street, Dartmouth (original location): 66 Ochterloney Street) The pride and joy of Dartmouth has made its way across the harbour with a Historic Properties location on the waterfront, adjacent to the ferry terminal and boardwalk. People are religious about their lattes and infamous oh-my-god-this-is-so-big croissants.
The spacious Dartmouth location is bumpin’ on a weekend day and sells the iconic “I heart Dartmouth” T-shirts.
Good Food Emporium (2186 Windsor Street) A North End staple, the Good Food serves, well, good, really basic breakfast eats, sandwiches and baked goods and hot beverages. Go here for an authentic North End Halifax experience (and some hot queers who work there).
Alter Egos (2193 Gottingen Street) On North End Halifax’s main drag, Gottingen Street, Alter Egos is one of the community’s most popular gathering spots. Chomp on samosas, pakoras or eggs benny on the weekend and sip on something fair trade coffee or a local beer while listening to some underground hip-hop. Great people watching on their small patio.
Fred. (2606 Agricola, Tues-Sat 10-6, Sun-Mon Closed) Owned by its namesake local Halifamous hair stylist and gay socialite, Fred Connors, Fred. is part beauty parlor, part café and part art gallery. Located at the centre of the North End (North and Agricola) and featuring lots of gluten free (and other) yumminess.
Java Blend (6027 North Street, Mond-Fri 6:30-6, Sat 7:30-5, Sun 9-3) Meet some real life North End hipsters at this locally owned roastery and café, which features delectable fair trade, sustainably grown coffee. Great for studying, reading or a coffee date with a friend or crush.
Humani-T Cafe (North End: 5755 Young Street, Mon-Thurs/Sat 8-8, Fri 8-11 (Open Mic), Sun 8-7, Downtown: 1451 South Park Street, Weekdays 7-11, Weekends 8-11) The original location in the North End’s lovely Hydrostone district is two floors. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a fancy “coffee creation” followed by, one of Humani-T’s gelatos.
World Tea House (1592 Argyle Street, Tues-Sat 11-8, Sun-Mon 1-6) Nestled between the bars and restaurants of Halifax’s most vibrant downtown street, Argyle St., World Tea House is where to go if you are craving quiet and a pot of delicious loose-leaf tea.
Sawadee Tea House (1871 Granville Street) Located on the cobblestone Granville Terrace of NSCAD’s downtown campus, Sawadee has the largest selection of loose-leaf tea in the city. The owner herself with mix you up a blend to help you get over that cold or hangover.
Tim Horton’s (Everywhere, seriously) For you non-Canadians; this blue-collar coffee and doughnut shop is a national obsession. There are three within a one-block radius in downtown Dartmouth.
Halifax Seaport Farmers Market (1209 Marginal Rd.) A must for Halifolks and tourists alike, this large farmers market is stacked with local, seasonal produce, canned and baked goods (including of the gluten free variety) and is busiest on Saturday’s. Sip a locally concocted tea at the Tea Brewery and get a breakfast wrap that’ll make you sing (literally, Chef Darren sings while he cooks) from Wrap So D.
Big (Gay) Group Breakfast
People in Halifax are serious about brunch. With so many late nights on the town, we kind of have to be.
Coastal Coffee (2731 Robie Street, Mon/Tues/Thurs-Sat 8-3) This small North-End breakfast stop serves brunch of the slightly fancier (read: not greasy diner food) variety. This counter-service café utilizes mostly locally sourced eats.
Chez Tess (5687 Charles Street, Sun 9:30-2:30, Tues-Thurs 11-2:30, Fri 1-2:30 & 5-10, Sat 9:30-2:30 & 5-10) A North-End neighbourhood restaurant known for their wide-array of crepes (including gluten free options). Enjoy a crepe, a home-style Nova Scotia breakfast (with baked molasses beans), smoked salmon latke inside or on Tess’s patio.
Mary’s Place Café (2752 Robie Street & 5982 Spring Garden Road) With two locations, this Syrian owned breakfast place is the cheapest and most plentiful breakfast hangout in Halifax. Vegetarian’s rejoice; you can sub in falafel for meat.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Ace Burger (2605 Agricola Street, Mon-Thurs 11:30-9, Fri-Sat 11:30-10) Run by a father son duo out of North End staple Gus’s Pub, Ace Burger offers the classics (classic burger, poutine, apple pie) as well as jerk chicken, haddock po’boy and veggie burgers.
Tom’s Little Havana (5428 Doyle Street, 11:30-2am daily, Brunch: 11:30-3pm) A former cigar bar, this cozy drinking hole is a great place to take a date, read by yourself or wait out a storm with a beer or a scotch. Located just off Spring Garden in central downtown, Tom’s is also open for brunch and serves things to nibble as well as a full dinner menu that includes greens with a wasabi dressing, sweet potato crab cakes, pad thai, paninis and artisans pizza. Cheap scotch on Sundays and Monday nights.
Wooden Monkey (1707 Grafton Street, Mon-Thurs 11:309, Fri-Sat 11:30-10, Sun 11:30-9) Landing on the slightly more expensive side of the Halifax food spectrum, the Wooden Monkey serves local, organic and macrobiotic fare. Both the Halifax and Dartmouth Waterfront locations have a plethora of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options (including gluten free pizza and beer!).
Morris East (5212 Morris Street, Lunch: Tues-Fri 11:30–2:30, Brunch: Sat-Sun 10–2:30, Dinner: Tues-Sat 5–10, Sun 5–0) Located on, duh, Morris Street (just off Barrington Street), Morris East is best known for their wood-fired pizzas (with the option of a gluten free crust) and yummy seasonal cocktails.
The Fireside Restaurant (1500 Brunswick Street, Mon-Thurs 11:30-midnight, Fri 11:30-1am, Sat 4-1am, Sun 4-11) The Fireside is famous for Martini Monday’s; martinis for a mere $5.00. This centrally located two-story restaurant also serves a wide variety of apps, seafood (lobster cakes, mussels, seared scallops, baked haddock, pecan encrusted salmon and beer battered fish and chips) as well as slightly upscale dishes such as raspberry brie-stuffed chicken.
Brooklyn Warehouse (2795 Windsor Street, Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-3:30, Dinner: Mon-Sat 4:30-10, Sun 4:30-9) The Brooklyn Warehouse is consistently voted one of the best places in the city to eat in Halifax’s alternative weekly newspaper, The Coast. Located in, you guessed it, North End Halifax, Brooklyn Warehouse is known for it’s cool atmosphere and delicious mix of bistro-esque and comfort food, made from fresh and local ingredients.
Dee Dee’s (5668 Cornwallis Street, Mon-Sun 10-7) Nestled amongst multi-coloured houses in a residential North End neighbourhood, this family-owned shop serves homemade ice-cream and burritos. Grab a cone and sit on the grass in the Halifax Commons on a sunny day.
Pizza Corner (Grafton & Blowers) The quint-essential post-bar haunt, pizza corner is thus named because three of the four corners at Grafton and Blowers Streets were occupied by pizza and donair joints. Although one of the pizza places has recently moved, this is still where revelers flock for massive slices of pizza (with or without donair sauce).
What the heck is a donair?: The donair is Halifax’s signature dish; shaved spiced beef and assorted vegetables topped with a sweet milky sauce and wrapped in a pita. You will be hard pressed to find an authentic donair outside of Halifax.
Willy’s Fresh Cut Fries and Burgers (5239 Blowers Street, Sun-Mon 10pm-4am, Tue-Sat 12pm-4am) For you non-Canadians: Poutine is gravy poured over french-fries and cheese curds and it is delicious. Willy’s, located steps from Pizza Corner, has the best poutine in Halifax.
Fishy, Fishy, Fishy
Halifax is located right on the Atlantic Ocean, so it would be a sin (you’re learning the local vernacular!) if you didn’t sample some fresh, local seafood. Most Halifax restaurants and pubs feature some sort of seafood, but these four have earned a reputation with tourists and locals alike.
Five Fishermen (1740 Argyle Street, 4-9 daily) Five Fishermen is Halifax’s most revered seafood restaurant, but likely out of reach for those with a tight budget. If you don’t mind laying down some cash, this is the place to go for a local lobster or helping of mussels.
Enjoy oysters on a budget at Oyster Happy Hour from 4:00pm-6:00pm daily.
McKelvie’s Restaurant (1680 Lower Water Street) A seafood restaurant with a (waterfront) view, McKelvie’s serves up all things seafood from the classics (fish and chips and lobster) to grilled voodoo oysters and tempura fish tacos.
Murphy’s on the Water (Cable Wharf, 1751 Lower Water Street) Murphy’s is located right on the boardwalk looking out onto the Halifax harbour. Net your own lobster and enjoy a delicious bowl of seafood chowder in this nautical themed restaurant. Murphy’s also operates various harbour tours.
Salty’s (1869 Upper Water Street, 11:30-10 daily, seasonal variation on closing time) Located in Halifax’s historic properties and right on the water, grab a seat on Salty’s patio and enjoy a large helping of fish and chips or steamed lobster.
Scotians really like their beer.
prideHealth’s mandate is to provide and advocate for safe and accessible health care services for LGBTQ people in Halifax.
Halifax Sexual Health Centre (6009 Quinpool Road, Suite 201) The Halifax Sexual Health Centre is a pro-choice, queer friendly clinic that promotes sexual and reproductive health.
We’re Here, We’re Queer
The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) is Nova Scotia’s umbrella advocacy organization for queer and trans people. NSRAP is the voice for LGBTQ people in the media and to government and has recently focused on lobbying government to include gender identity and expression in the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act and cover Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS). NSRAP also hosts a rad lecture series during Halifax Pride, the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The Trans Liberation League (TLL) is a recently formed ad-hoc group of grassroots activists trying to make Nova Scotia a better place for trans people. The TLL’s TRANSform Healthcare campaign, demands that the provincial government cover transgender related health services such as surgeries. Search TRANSform Health Care on Facebook.
South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre (SoHo), formerly the Dalhousie Women’s Centre, is a student-funded, volunteer-run resource centre that seeks to address oppression within a feminist framework. SoHo is both a safe space to chill and to organize.
Youth Project (2281 Brunswick St.) The Youth Project provides services and resources and holds events for queer and trans youth under the age of 25. The YP is housed in a beautiful Victorian home in the North End and holds weekly programs (such as the Talk It Out discussion group and the Transformers support group for trans youth and the Connect the Dots support group for LBGTQ youth hosted offsite in Halifax-area public libraries). The Youth Project also holds one camp for queer youth and one for trans youth during the summer and the annual Strike Out Homophobia bowl-a-thon.
Trans Family Nova Scotia is a peer-support organization for trans and gender queer people along with family, partners and friends. Trans Family holds in person meetings and hosts the Trans Family Nova Scotia Facebook group.
Halifax does not have a gaybourhood, so North End Halifax (and a few blocks of Gottingen Street specifically) is as close as it gets.
The North End is a racially and socio-economically diverse neighbourhood that is home to many artists, hipsters and queers. Traditionally, the North End has a large black population as well as a large number of low-income people. More recently the North End has become yet another target of gentrification.
The North End is largely residential (known for its multi-coloured homes) but is also home to a variety of locally owned businesses, restaurants and bars, including Menz Bar and the Company House.
A year ago, when local gay rights activist Raymond Taavel was killed, Gottingen Street was completely covered in rainbows in remembrance.
Hair and Ink
One Block Barbershop (2010 Gottingen Street, Tues 10-6, Wed 11-7, Thurs 10-8, Fri 11-7, Sat 10-4) One Block Barbershop is the undisputed king of hipster and “alternative” haircuts in Halifax. Go here for you’re a-symmetrical do’s, undercuts, bowl-cuts, ombre dye jobs and the odd (mostly queer) dance party thrown by various groups.
Thumpers Salon (1813 Granville Street, Tues-Fri 10-8, Sat 10-5) Consistently voted the best hair salon by Coast readers, Thumpers Salon, oh-so centrally located on Granville Street, and make food available to their patrons.
Newcombe Ink (5187 Sackville Street) Many within the queer community go to Rachelle Gammon at Newcombe, located downtown off of Barrington, for their ink. It’s a tattoo parlor, so it may be redundant to say this second-story shop a very cool space, but it is.
Lydia K. Tattooist is a bit of a tattoo legend in Halifax due to her stunning portraits and eye-popping colour tattoos. After leaving Utility, Lydia opened a private tattoo studio located in North End Halifax and you can book at appointment by emailing lydia.tattoo [at] gmail.com.
Adept Tattoos (6267 Quinpool Road) Owned by one of Haifax’s favourite tattoo artists, and local lesbian, Amber Thorpe, Adept Tattoos is an award winning tattoo shop located on Quinpool Road in the West End of Halifax.
Utility (6070 Quinpool Road, Tues-Sat noon-6) Likely Halifax’s most well known tattoo parlor, this is another award winner that is located on Quinpool Road.
Reading is Sexy
Venus Envy (1598 Barrington Street, Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5) Venus Envy is a must for any queer (or anyone really) visiting Halifax. This feminist, queer friendly (and staffed) bookstore and sex shop also serves as a stand-in community centre.
Unabashedly located on one of Halifax’s main streets, Barrington, Venus Envy is stuffed with sex toys, lube, natural period products, books, magazines, gay buttons, gay magnets, gay jewelery and gay flags. VE also host a wide variety of sexy workshops facilitated by their lovely and talented staff and guest stars.
The T-shirt sported by some of the babely VE staff says it best “Venus Envy Made Me Gay.”
Bookmark (5686 Spring Garden Rd, Mon-Wed 9-5:30, Thurs-Fri 9-9, Sat 9-5) Located on Halifax’s main street, Spring Garden Road, Bookmark has a great selection of new books and a formidable gender and LGBTQ section.
Bookmark also carries the hilariously titled children’s colouring book “Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with the Spoon” which celebrates diversity in gender and sexuality.
Atlantic News (5560 Morris Street, Mon-Sat 8-9, Sun 9-9) Atlantic News (which also serves as a corner store) has Halifax’s largest selection of magazines (and newspapers) from all over the world, including a small section for the gays.
I Will Not Make Boring Art
The Khyber Centre For The Arts (1588 Barrington Street, Tues-Fri noon-5) A non-profit artist-run centre. And as if that wasn’t cool enough they not only host exhibit and artist lectures but fundraising events and dance parties out of this historic building.
Eyelevel (2159 Gottigen Street, Hours: “Come on in if the lights are on and you see evidence of human life”) A North End non-profit artist run centre, which features contemporary Canadian artistes. Also a thrower of events including the hilarious and touching “Dear Diary” where folks read entries from their childhood/teenage diaries in front of an audience.
Anna Leonowens Gallery (NSCAD) (1891 Granville Street, Tues-Fri 11-5, Sat noon-4) Named after the school’s founder Anna Leonowens, the “I” from the King and I, this public gallery features the art of those within the NSCAD community. The openings every Monday from 5:30-7pm during the school year (get there early if you want food) feature student art.
Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) Art Gallery (166 Bedford Highway, Seton Academic Centre, 1st floor) This university run gallery, located a ways out on the Bedford Highway, sometimes features rad exhibits such as Activist Ink featuring art from activists and artists Emily Davidson, Dan O’Neill and Ericka Walker.
Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (923 Robie Street, ground floor Ignatius Loyola building) The first university art gallery in Halifax features contemporary art from new and established artists. The Director/Curator of this gallery is legendary Hali-gay activist, Robin Metcalfe.
Roberts Street Social Centre (2084 Creighton Street) No longer located on Roberts Street, as the name suggests, this community gathering space aims to give Halifax-area folks access to free or affordable independent and alternative media, art and education. The centre also aims to inspire social change through their projects such as the zine library, screen-printing collective, artist residency and various rad community events.
Queer Acts Theatre Festival is an annual pre-Pride LGBT theatre festival that features performances for and by queer and trans Haligonians and their allies.
Hosted at Neptune Theatre, the OutEast Film Festival is Halifax’s annual queer film fest featuring independent LGBT film from home and around the world. OutEast also throws various pink-popcorn adorned fundraising parties including the aptly named “That’s so Gay-la”.
Neptune Theatre (1593 Argyle Street) Halifax’s main stage for all things theatrical, this 50-year-old theatre, puts on a variety of productions, which have included Legally Blonde the Musical, The Importance of Being Ernest, La Cage aux Folles and Cabaret (as well as local fare). Each show hold a pay-what-you-can night the first Tuesday of each production, for those who don’t have a season’s tickets kind of budget.
DaPoPo Theatre is an independent theatre company that focuses on alternative and sometimes political theatre.
Zuppa Theatre Co. is an imaginative Halifax-based ensemble theatre company whose performances have featured some Hali-famous queers.
Rouge Fatale and Friends Weekly Drag Show (1983 Upper Water Street, Casino Nova Scotia) Halifax’s drag darling Rouge Fatale hosts a weekly show featuring guest appearances from her glamazon army at the Casino Nova Scotia every Sunday at 7:00pm.
Nova Scotia as a whole is still a very white (Irish, Scottish) province with substantial indigenous African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq (Aboriginal) populations. While the majority of Scotians speak English, there is a very proud French speaking Acadian population, mostly located in rural Nova Scotia.
Halifax is really the only locale in Nova Scotia big enough to be deemed a city (Nova Scotia is made up of small, medium and large towns, villages, communities and native reserves). The city is significantly more racially diverse than the rest of the province, but is also unfortunately very segregated (due to a long and sordid history of systemic racism, google “Africville” for one such example).
Halifax is home to a wide variety of mos, from gays in suits to queer punks, and also has a large (and active) trans population.
The media in Halifax is obsessed with talking about the city’s “crime problem”. They get almost as hysterical over it as they do about an approaching hurricane. A lot of this talk revolves around fights at the infamous Pizza Corner (where to find all of the drunk bros after the bars close on the weekend, as well as delicious pizza/donair/poutine), the Halifax Commons at night and the North End.
I try not to get wrapped up in the hype. There are violent incidents, like in any other major city, so take the usual precautions when walking anywhere at night. People (and especially queers) in Halifax are all of the friendly, so someone may offer you a drive or to walk you home. Also, Halifax is not that big, so a cab isn’t usually that expensive if that’s what you need to do to be safe.
I personally try to avoid walking down Argyle Street during a weekend night with an obvious lady-friend if I can, lest I be cat called by drunk dude bros. There are, however, lots of good places to eat, drink and listen to music on Argyle, so tourists shouldn’t discount it completely.
Cost of Living
The North Ends (in both Halifax and Dartmouth) are generally the cheapest places to rent or buy if you want to be close to the downtown. If you luck out (and have a few roomies) you can rent a room for around $300 but can also pay upwards of $900 for a one-bedroom in downtown Halifax.
Thank You For Being a Friend
Maritimers in general are known for being really friendly. I always loved coming home from Toronto because the ladies at the Tim Horton’s would call me dear and love.
Halifax is a pretty (small L) liberal city with a formidable queer and trans community. Many local businesses display the rainbow flag and there are a good many Hali-famous queers (artists, performers, business owners). Overall, Halifax is pretty homo-friendly. Like anywhere however, how nice folks are to you can depend on your skin colour, how much money you have, physical ability and gender expression and LGBTQ folks still face discrimination, harassment and occasional violence.
One of the things that makes Halifax’s queer and trans scene lovely and unique is the involvement and support of our straight and cis-gendered allies. From getting glammed up for queer dance parties (and leaving to make room for more queers we ask them to) to taking action against homophobia and transphobia, our allies are a loyal and plentiful bunch. There has even been a recent upsurge of gay straight alliances at Scotian High (and Jr. High) Schools.
Laws/Regulations Affecting Queers
Same-Sex Marriage: We have it.
Human Rights Protections for Trans Folks: Recently, both the province of Nova Scotia and Canada’s Parliament passed legislation to include gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
These changes are meant to protect people who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex from discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, education and more. While the passage of both of these laws was celebrated, many queer and trans people also acknowledge that there is still much we must do to ensure that Trans and gender variant people are accepted, safe and celebrated in our communities.
Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) Coverage: As many of you South-of-the-border folks know, Canada has publicly funded health-care. This means that we can visit the Dr. or a hospital without having to open our cheque-book (although we do pay for it through progressive taxes).
It’s something we’re pretty darn proud of.
Universal healthcare isn’t entirely universal though; it doesn’t cover most dental or mental health services. Up until very recently, it also didn’t cover “gender reversal/transsexual surgery.”
Following the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act, queer and trans activists focused their efforts on pressuring our government to cover much needed transgender related health services, including surgeries.
After concerted pressure from community groups, trans folks and their allies (and huge backlash after the government wrote a letter to NSRAP saying they wouldn’t fund SRS) the government announced that they would fund sex reassignment surgery (SRS) on June 12, 2013. Yay! This is a huge victory for Nova Scotia’s queer and trans community and our allies. We don’t, however, know the details of the new policy, such as what and how many surgeries will be covered, and to what amount.
How the G,L, B and T Communities Get Along
While I think our per-captita queer and trans population is quite high, Halifax is still a small city in a small (mostly rural) province and so, the Hali queer and trans community is fairly tight. There are communities and cliques within the LGBTQ community (suburb gays, the Company House crew, the activists, business homos, bar stars) and all-too-familiar divides (generational and political). But we generally try to work our shit out.