Monday, August 07, 2006

Vive le Montréal gai!

Two weeks ago, I posted about my experiences with Halifax Pride - an enjoyable, but still very small and community-oriented event. After the twenty-minute parade, the spectators quickly dispersed, and the city returned to its overwhelmingly heterosexual profile. To quote Seinfeld: Not that there's anything (necessarily) wrong with that. But it did serve to reinforce the fact that in almost all cities in the world, the gay population is a rather small fraction of the total. Outside of science-fiction films and novels, it's extremely rare to encounter a society where this is not the case; a "gay majority" never really exists beyond the gaybourhood/gay ghetto.

For the past two weekends in Montreal, however, it was almost possible to imagine a society where gays and straights were split 50/50 in the population. Host to both the annual DiversCité celebrations and the first ever OutGames (which included sporting events, cultural events and an international conference on human rights), the city was overflowing with gays and lesbians, and not only in the traditional Village along rue Ste.-Catherine, but also into the metro system and various other neighbourhoods. The number of people walking around the city sporting delegate badges (which entitled them to free transit use) was truly astonishing. For a few days, I felt like I had the tiniest sense of what it might be like to not be in the minority.

It felt good, and yet also reinforced the concerns and fears that come with daily life as an out gay man. Every time I engage in the slightest display of public affection with my husband - a quick peck on the cheek good-bye, for example - I am once again "coming out" to people, and reasserting my sexuality. Alone, I can "pass" for heterosexual if I choose to, but as a couple, even a casual walk down the street together can feel like an unofficial pride march, potentially (although rarely, thank goodness) subject to random negative catcalls from drunken teenagers in passing cars (and that's without holding hands). Even though I don't want it to be an issue, it is. We are far from living in a society where being gay is a non-issue. A few days in downtown Montreal gave me the briefest taste of what it might be like to not have my gayness be the first defining feature that another person would notice about me. I doubt that I will ever experience a society where that is in fact the case, but it certainly was nice to have a taste of it over the past week.

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At 8:36 pm, Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Very interesting post. The closest I ever had to that experience was one of the Marches on Washington several lifetimes ago. It was pretty amazing...and a little disconcerting, albeit in a way that made me think and therefore wasn't at all bad.

We were in Montreal at the same time, by the way, though I was just passing through.


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