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Comfortably queer

Forget Eve, It's Adam and Steve around here

By : Adair MacGregor

There is no place in the world quite as gay friendly as Montreal. The gay population is so visible that every sector of the city has its own marked queer community. The peak of these smaller communities is the Gay Village. Filled with cultural events, parties, festivals and an extremely progressive nightlife, Montreal is able to boast its Village as the largest of its kind in North America.

It wasn’t always like this.

In the roaring 20s, the first visible generation of Montreal’s gays began to congregate around Rue Stanley and Rue Drummond. Although police raids were a regular occurrence, establishments became attached to their dedicated clientele. For this reason the community survived constant struggles, most reputedly with the coming of Expo ’67 which brought more raids in an attempt to ‘clean up’ the city for the coming tourist rampage.

It wasn’t until 50 years after the first gay clubs that things really began to change. On October 22nd, 1977, Truxx, a regular nightclub in the downtown gay district, was raided by police in battle fatigue and machine guns. One hundred and forty-four customers were forced into paddy wagons and brought to jail. The following day, the gay community rallied over 2000 people in protest to the raid.

After this ‘Stonewall’ experience, the Montreal gay community became more than a place to meet, but a centre for sexual politics and gay liberation. In December 1977, bill 88 made it illegal to discriminate against any persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Quebec was the second place in the world to ever pass such a law.

It is a running legend among city regulars that Mayor Jean Drapeau pushed the gay community out of downtown for the 1976 Olympics. It was, in fact, more economical than political reasons for the community’s change of location. Due to Montreal’s expanding economy, the downtown core was becoming extremely expensive and businesses were being forced to find more suitable locations to survive.

Starting with a strip club that opened up near Beaudry Metro station in 1982, and followed by several popular nightclubs the year afterwards, the area began to become a popular place for homosexuals to spend their evenings out. By 1985, the community had almost completely moved away from its old western haunts and into the east.

Over the last 20 years, the community has grown exponentially in size and in importance. It’s no surprise that the Village has become an important piece of Montreal’s history as well as the largest contributor to Montreal’s tourist economy. From its roots in the early 20s to its emergence as a Montreal staple, the Gay Village blazes with such a pride that crowns it as North America’s gay Mecca.

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