Mun-Treal to Discover !

Yves Lafontaine
Welcome to Montreal, one of North America’s top choice queer destinations and, after Paris, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world. And make no mistake, Mun-treal, as only true anglophone Montrealers pronounce it, will embrace you in English or en Français, not to mention the 35 other languages spoken in our island city. Queer Life
Montreal queer life has, over the centuries, improved dramatically since a drummer with the French garrison stationed to protect the Sulpician Order of priests – the seigneurs of Montreal – was, in 1648, charged by the Order with “the worst of crimes” and sentenced to certain death in the galleys. But the gay drummer’s life was spared when he agreed to become the colony’s first executioner.

For over 300 years, Montreal, along with New York City, was the gateway to the continent. And so queer life flourished, mainly downtown before moving east following the city’s 1976 Olympic summer games. A handful of gay establishments remain in the downtown core, but queer life – and well over 100 gay and lesbian establishments – is now mainly centered along Ste-Catherine Street in the Gay Village between St-Hubert and Dorion streets. There’s a wide variety of bars, from upscale pubs to hardcore leather clubs, from women-only bars to the city’s renowned nude dancer bars. Last call is usually at 3:00 AM, but the city’s dynamic afterhours scene, anchored by Red Lite, Stereo, Aria and Sona, are open until noon. Montreal is also famous for its 15 popular, clean and well-equipped saunas, including the Bain Colonial Baths, the city’s oldest bathhouse which opened in 1914. In fact, the first recorded gay establishment in North America was Montrealer Moise Tellier’s apple and cake shop on Craig Street (now Saint-Antoine) in 1869, where men met and had sex.

A Vibrant cultural life
Gay life, though, is just one of the many exciting scenes that’s made this city the nation’s cultural capital. A vibrant arts scene, dozens of dance companies, as well as numerous museums, the Montreal Opera and Symphonic Orchestra, complement an exciting festival season that opens with the Montreal International Jazz Festival each June and winds down end of September with Image & Nation, the oldest and largest queer film festival in Canada. Even Divers/Cité’s Queer Pride parade, with over 750,000 patricipants, outdrew the city’s historic St. Patrick’s and Saint-Jean Baptiste Day parades since several years.

There are also many fine restaurants in Old Montreal and, though the face of the cobblestoned old quarter has changed quite a bit since 1642, the past is very much alive in such inns as l’Auberge le Vieux Saint-Gabriel, the oldest establishment of its type on the continent, built in 1754.

There are, of course, plenty of other interesting sites, sports and recreational activities geared to gays and lesbians throughout the year (notably Bad Boy Club’s seasonal circuit parties, including the mega-Black and Blue Party each October and the Wild & Wet in May). But you can find out what’s going on by consulting Fugues magazine’s monthly calendar (the Agenda) and updated guide listings; or by calling one of Montreal’s many gay and lesbian telephone information lines (Gayline or Gai-Écoute)