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MONTREAL—Our pancakes that morning were a bit of a disaster—we opted to call them 'traumacakes'. The name seemed fitting, as we had made them; “we” being the messy, burnt (yet somehow still uncooked) product of our upbringings in a hetero/cis- sexist world of “just add and stir”. We choked them down anyways, stumbled out the front door, and made our way downtown to Montreal's Annual Pride Parade, Divers/cité.
We parked our bikes on Ste Catherine at the corner of du Fort, locking them to a pole sandwiched between a fancy restaurant, and its makeshift sidewalk patio. After grabbing half of an abandoned beer left by a patron, we proceeded to cross the street, heading south on du Fort. What a great use of public space, combined with such an appropriate breakfast!
We had trouble locating the event, wandering around on the wrong side of the Canadian Museum of Architecture, until we succumbed to our alleged gay genes, which lead the way like a Radical Faerie dragmother. Following the loud dance beats to the corner of du Fort and Rene-Levesque, we found ourselves surrounded by hot, sweaty homos clad in booty shorts, beads, and a whole lotta glitter.
Compelled by the overwhelming urge to strut, we werked our way over to a contingent with which to join forces. These skids were hard to miss, what with their choice of style and sass! In a parade where most groups (corporate fronts) were wearing brand-new, barely-there, rainbow-themed matching outfits, these folks coordinated differently. Donning homemade outfits of every type of floral, ripped denim, shredded mesh, and lots of black and pink, this contingent seemed shiny in a different way; we felt at home with these post-apocalyptic LGBT misfits. Dollar store glitter clinging to our bodies, we adjusted our electrical tape, unravelled our banners, prepped our garbage bag pompoms, and got ready to march as part of le/the Contingent ANTICAPITALISTE Contingent à la/at Pride (organized as part of Pervers/cité:The Underside of Pride).
While perhaps seemingly haphazard and reckless, these Queers arrived not only in epic style, but with thoughtful intent. Barb Legault, one of the main organizers of the bloc, was hard to miss. Sporting a busted fourth-hand construction helmet, work boots, and covered in smudged black charcoal, Barb was quick to welcome us with enthusiasm. Being shy and generally socially awkward, like many a queer creature, we appreciated this warmth. It isn't a secret that, even when we see each other around all the time, queers don't always approach one another or extend offers of genuine camaraderie.
Having crashed the contingent with our own personal anti-capitalist vendettas, we wanted to know more about our new friends, and why they had chosen the Pride Parade as a venue to voice their discontent. Both Barb and Mickael Chacha Enriquez, two of the central organizers of the contingent, expressed the need for radical queers and fags to repoliticize Pride, an event that began to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969, which challenged the ongoing police brutality experienced by queers, and particularly hustlers, transfolk, drag queens, people of colour, and street youth. These riots are commonly known as “The hairpin drop heard 'round the world”.
Barb told us about her early days as a Baby Dyke, when Pride seemed like, “a huge and colourful window [into] the gay world... It was empowering, making me feel like I was part of a community bigger than [myself] and my [regional community] of Sherbrooke, [where I] was the only out teenage dyke.” However, since then, Barb feels that Pride has been, “taken over by bars, banks, pharmaceutical companies, sex shops, and the like. With a theme such as '3011, a gay odyssey', the fight against homophobia, lesbophobi[a], transphobia, heterosexism, and patriarchy is lost all together.”
It is certainly true that Pride has become an oozing cesspool of slimy corporate manipulation. The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was obviously having a good time as the central sponsor of the reportedly $300,000 event—ads for their drug Viagra sprung up all over the place, and definitely not to the amusement of our contingent.
Walker "Best Dressed Homo" Oliver expressed concern and frustration about the changes they have seen in Pride over the years: "The earliest Pride marches were expressly political, confrontational, and organized at the grassroots level; queers were taking to the streets to protest police and state violence and demand visability... I see the commercialization of Pride as symptomatic of a brand of gay assimilationist politics and a citizenship-through-consumerism ideology that privilege straight-acting cisgender[ed] queers and violently marginalizes anyone who can't/won't conform to the dictates of white, middle-class heteronormative respectability." Furthermore, Walker said all of this awesome shit while they were wearing a sequined black onesy and matching rockstar shades. We also have a hot tip that they are, in fact, a potential model and/or movie star.
While we can't speak for all gay/lesbian, queer, genderqueer, or trans- people, (no matter how much our straight, cis friends continually want or expect us to), it seemed like this sentiment was shared amoung our ragtag posse of insurr-erect-ionaries. Several of our peeps could be seen peeling the offensive rainbow-themed Viagra ads right off of the street throughout the course of the parade. This task is easier typed out than done, seriously—Viagra wanted to cling to our Pride like plaque sticks to teeth. Once an ad was peeled off, there were cheers shared by our troop and many spectators before the rejected, tasteless stickers were balled up and kicked around like the gayest soccer match you've ever seen (...just kidding! Every soccer match is the gayest one you've ever seen). Some masked youth were also seen knocking over a phallic rainbow banner obscured by an overzealous Viagra logo. We were genuinely surprised to see onlookers take part in putting the banners back up—could Viagra be paying these people, too? Were these straight people merely doing their part to contribute to the dilution and disarmament of The (Radical) Gay Agenda? We can only speculate. We emplore you to call Pfizer and find out!
Admittedly, we were the minority. While we were handing out flyers about anti-capitalism and its relevence to this event, a group behind us was advertising Fugues Magazine (which was sponsored by Telus) with not only flyers, but the word Fugues actually stenciled onto their bodies with silver paint to match their outfits. They didn't seem very impressed with us, and were continually asked by our bloc to respect our space and desist from openly trying to compete with our pamphleters. One security personnel (who we remember as having left his post last year to join our Queers Against Isreali Apartheid contingent) actually approached us, asking us to confirm whether or not we had really been asked to stop flyering by other seurity staff (we were not, according to Barb and Chacha). We shook our hands, exchanged smiles, and he thanked us for coming back to this year's parade to participate.
While a lot of the parade admittedly felt frustrating and alienating for us, the sentence "wow, this feels like an exercise in futility" actually being exchanged between the co-authors on more than one occasion, we really did enjoy the energy of our flamin' and ragin' cohorts. Throughout the parade, we shouted several different slogans, such as, “No! One! No one is illegal!”, “Harper nous fait la guerre / Les queers en colère!” and “Police partout! Justice nul part!”. Those may sound like your every-rally slogans, but rest assured, there was a lot more lisp involved.
Our chants were belted out with gusto as we attempted to publically repoliticize Pride by making connections between a diverse range of queer struggles, including the ongoing fortification of borders, the criminalization & incarceration of (POC, poz, trans-, disabled, marginalized) bodies, police brutality, the medicalization of trans- identities, and violence targeting queer bodies in our everyday lives.
At the very end of the parade, just past Jeanne Mance, we had what seemed like a runway laid out for us; the contingent in front of us was far, far away. The group took the opportunity to huddle together, get low, and let out one last building chant before skipping down to the end of the event. It was surreal to be surrounded by predominantly straight onlookers who were (at least partially) trying to engage with our message, rather than stare at us with shocked disbelief or disdain like they usually do. Looking them queerly in the eyes, we adjusted our hankies and threw glitter to the wind as we joined our new friends in skipping to the official end of the parade, where we got in the awaiting cops' faces and let them know exactly what we were thinking: "Revolution! Avec les talons!"