I moved to Toronto at the age of 17, and my friend got me a job working as a server on the patio at a pub in the gay village. It was really overwhelming to me, because I came from a small town where there weren’t a lot of visible gay people and then all of a sudden I was working in the middle of Canada’s largest gay neighbourhood.

It didn’t take me long to figure out why they would hire someone with no experience. Nobody lasted long there. It was dirty, the food was nothing to be proud of, and the owners were mean. But the worst thing about the job was the relentless sexual harassment.

Nobody meant to be predatory. It was just customers having fun. But there was a lot of teasing and jokes and objectification, and I got my ass grabbed, or got groped in some way, at least once every single shift. 

It was obvious that I couldn’t complain to anybody. The owners were borderline abusive and there was no way they were going to help me. I talked with my friend and he told me to chill out. 

I ended up only working there for a few months, then I got a job at a better restaurant. Today I’m a manager at a really nice place. 

When I look back on that experience I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m extremely grateful. I needed a job, it paid my rent, and in some ways it was a really nice introduction to the vibrancy and energy of the Toronto gay community. Seriously it was. On the other hand it was also incredibly exploitative. I don’t feel permanently damaged or anything like that. But I’m glad I got out quickly.