Today, Toronto truly lost an icon in Will Munro – artist, DJ, community leader and a dozen other things that meant a whole lot to many a person in this town. He passed away today at at the criminally young age of 35. I never knew him. I’d met him in passing a few times as he was friends with many of my friends and ran so many different events I attended regularly. And I’m sure my story is one that many, many people share, but the cultural mark his life made on Toronto truly navigated and changed my own.
When I moved to Toronto from a small town in 2002, I was a scared, naive 18 year old freshly out of the closet and totally terrified of the gayness that was and is the Church-Wellesley Village. It wasn’t until I attended Vazaleen – a monthly event Munro hosted – that my anxiety started to evaporate into a crowd of like-minded queer kids – many of whom would eventually become some of my closest friends. It’s a cliched little story to be sure… But it’s still a powerful one. I met someone at Vazaleen that would eventually introduce me to the folks at indieWIRE, a social encounter that almost single handedly formed my professional future. Munro may have not been the person that introduced us, but he was the one that created the space for us to meet.
Quite simply: Will Munro revolutionized how people lived, worked and played in this city. He created new spaces for artists, musicians and writers to create work. He created spaces for queer people that rejected the old-school gayness of Church Street to find each other. He gave us a community, and revolutionized this city as a result.
Tonight at Trinity-Bellwoods park, people will be congregating to celebrate Munro’s life, followed surely by a trip to The Beaver, the bar he opened and nurtured into the hub of Queer West. If you happen to be in Toronto and felt similarly affected, do come.