Between the LInes

Prophets & Profits

Richard Burnett
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was absolutely devastated to learn Montreal’s gay and lesbian bookstore L’Androgyne on St-Laurent Street - my favourite establishment on my favourite street in the whole world - was moving from the Main to the Village. That’s because as the growing chi-chi jetset strip inches its way up the street (it’s now got a foothold above Prince Arthur and has its sights set on Pine), rents are skyrocketing and more and more of the old immigrant family-run businesses are moving on out. The added irony of L’Androgyne moving to the Village in an era when gays and lesbians are moving to the suburbs — or at least out of the Village, which is home to only ten per cent of the 400,000 queers living in Montreal — isn’t lost on me. After all, the Village in this day and age has become a double-edged sword: depending on the day and my mood, it’s either the Village or a ghetto.

All we need to do now is pack up Montreal’s three remaining downtown gay establishments — Aux Berges, Agora and Q Zone — and we will have done ourselves what three and half centuries of police, state and religious persecution could not do: eradicate gay life — at least on the surface — from the visage of downtown Montreal.

I could not be more disheartened or more pissed. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a bitter old queen wishing for a return to the good ole bad old days. Gay life in Montreal has never been more exciting or more vibrant. It’s just the monolithic concentration of gay life will do exactly the opposite of what queer folks want: Instead of a flourishing diverse community spread throughout mainstream Montreal, it will exacerbate an already balkanized queer community.

And we are a balkanized community. We scream and scratch at each other like the catty queens many of us bitches are. Just ask American author and playwright Larry Kramer, who co-founded ACT-UP and NYC’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis eons ago. I think Kramer — who has made a career by screaming and bitching — would agree, but I won’t find out from him myself because he politely refused to be interviewed by this journalist this past spring because Kramer — suffering from end-stage liver disease inflamed by his HIV medications — was preparing to be operated on.

When I picked up Newsweek’s June 11 “AIDS at 20” special issue and read an interview with Kramer, I was devastated to learn he has 12-18 months to live.

As devastated as I was when I discovered L’Androgyne was moving. Because the face of the queer nation is changing. I can feel the ground shifting beneath my feet.

“The Angry Prophet is Dying,” Newsweek headlined the interview, with the kicker, “Controversial author Larry Kramer is a one-man history of the AIDS struggle, from early activism to the fading hope of medical salvation.”
Journalist David France writes, “Along the way, his tolerance for dissent has been notoriously nonexistent. Once he even publicly branded his own a lover a murderer because he was not fighting the [AIDS] scourge to Kramer’s exact specifications. As a result, he is just as often viewed as a noxious force, “disruptive and accusatory and unforgiving, even egotistical,” in the words of Annie Kantrowitz, a longtime activist.”
Kramer tells France, “I think I’ve made good use of my talent and my energy and my anger, even though we haven’t gotten anywhere near where I wanted us to get. So now I have end-stage liver disease. If you were to ask me about the future, I would tell you that I am very despondent about it.”

Fortunately Kramer is now on a waiting list for a new liver. “If he survives the surgery, as most do,” France notes, “he will be given immune-suppressing medications to keep his body from rejecting the new tissue. This will cause his HIV to run rampant. So he will finally go on the drug cocktails he has so far avoided, hoping they will not let him down.”

Kramer isn’t dead yet and I dearly hope the fighter survives this, his greatest battle. Because we still need his strident voice in a wonderful world where queers can’t make up their damn minds about whether or not they want a Village or a fucking ghetto.


L’Androgyne — now located at 1436 Amherst — is bigger and better, with a new lesbian erotica section (The Sappho Boutique), art gallery (L’Espace-galerie), home-video rental section (L’Androgyne Cine-Club), porn section (Priape Cine-Club), plus the Pride Boutique so we can all buy those tired trailer-park trash rainbow trinkets and rainbow flags. Now open daily from 10 am to midnight. L’Androgyne’s telephone number remains the same: 514-842-4765. See ya there! And Happy Pride.

Richard Burnett’s syndicated queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Hour magazine and The Ottawa X Press, as well as on the web at or at (click on the “Scene” link and scroll down to TDB) and (click on the “Opinion” link).