This weekend I visited Le Village Gai, a gay commercial zone on rue Sainte-Catherine in downtown Montreal. Touted as the famed gay sector in this queer-friendly French Canadian city, it is the place where gay people are told they must check out when in town.
I found Le Village not only boring, but strangely non-affirming. The strip that makes up the four blocks of Le Village consists of mostly male gay bars, sex shops, bath houses, dance clubs and porn video stores with a few restaruants. I found no lesbians or transgender individuals. I saw few people of color, except for a handful of young male hustlers waiting to be hired by older white men with cash. I found no non-porn queer bookstores, cozy cafes with queer poetry readings, places of worship for queer folks or even a shop to buy a decent gift for a queer friend (unless it is a friend who is male porn aficionado.)
Basically, even as a white gay man, I felt unrepresented. It’s not that I’m a prude and think that queer zones should be free of sex and alcohol. Some gay men escape to some cities to party just like some straight folks flock to New Orleans or Amsterdam to let their hair down. It’s just that I tire quickly from that sort of entertainment. I find it lacks stimulation. Perhaps the creators of such “queer spaces” believe it take Le Village to get off, but there is so much more to my queerness than sexual pleasure.
Besides feeling the lack of representation, as I walked through Le Village, I also felt concerned at how this queer space misrepresents us queer folks. If I were an uninformed heterosexual conservative Christian walking through Le Village, what would I learn about the queer community? Is it all about sex with hefty dose of alcoholic lubrication?
And how many folks live with those assumptions about us queer folks? They gain this misinformation from racy gay or lesbian TV shows, magazines and most often from the lies perpetuated by conservative anti-queer leaders.
But could you imagine if we judged all heterosexuals based on the behaviors of few party animals in places like Fort Lauderdale at Spring Break or Mardi Gras in New Orleans? That would be dishonest, irresponsible and of course inaccurate.
We are not easily represented in pop culture or through a handful of businesses. We are individuals with individual interests and form a “community” with opposing cultures and values. We have our issues and strengths as individuals and as a group. And no matter how sweet sounding the name, a person cannot properly experience us simply by taking a little stroll in a commercially zoned gay ghetto.