Outside of room 32 at the Elgin St courthouse, I spot three people sitting on the chairs in the hallway. They acknowledge my presence and after hesitating for a minute, I ask them if the Dixie Landers trial is in session.
A man looks up and smiles. He has short hair, is clean-shaven and wears dark rimmed glasses that match his black shirt and trousers. When he speaks, saying I can go inside, it is in a soft, gentle voice.
That was my first introduction to Michael Marcil. I had seen Dixie Landers before at various queer events. To me, Dixie was a tall, buxom woman with long blonde hair, an acid tongue and a wicked smile — she was nothing like the soft-spoken man I just met.
During the trial, I saw Marcil every day until he testified. After that, he never returned to the courthouse. The assault trial continued for eight days.
The case was the result of an altercation between Marcil and Andrew Lefebvre at Centretown Pub in May, 2007. Lefebvre was acquitted.
The next day, Marcil left Ottawa for his mother’s house in a small Ontario town. Since she had been in the courtroom every day and had been referred to by Marcil as his “security blanket,” it was inevitable that, after the verdict, he would return home to be with his mother, his family and his friends.
I got in touch with Marcil by phone.
“I have been told I am not worth it as a human being,” says Marcil. “It’s kind of a kick in the face to me to be reminded that I am in the minority.”
Over the phone, Marcil had trouble vocalizing what he was experiencing — a result, he says, of his brain injuries in 2007. But it is clear he is disappointed with the judicial system.
If the outcome had been different, Marcil would have been able to concentrate on getting his life in order, he says. As it stands, Marcil’s life is still on hold.
“If it was a guilty verdict it would have been over and that’s what I was really hoping for,” says Marcil. “I want my life back, I want to be able to live my life without this thing hanging over my head constantly.”
Marcil faces a quarter of a million dollar civil lawsuit filed against him and the Centretown Pub by a woman who was involved in the altercation, Sheri Rand. Marcil is not clear when the lawsuit will go to court.
He thinks that if Lefebvre had been found guilty the lawsuit would have been dropped.
“[The lawsuit] is now a very prevalent thing; it is the next issue we have to worry about,” says Marcil.
The impending case prompted friends of Marcil to plan a Dixie Landers Lawsuit Fundraiser in June. Although Marcil feels the fundraiser is necessary, he admits that he feels odd about it. If the lawsuit is dropped or if Rand loses, he says all the money raised will be donated to charity.
After three years, Marcil still struggles to express what is on his mind. He has difficulty finding the correct words when speaking, is prone to repeating himself in a conversation and, in his own words, he is learning to grow up again.
“Everyday I am learning to be this person. It’s like going through your teenage/young adult stage — but going through it very quickly,” says Marcil. “The difference is that I don’t remember what I was like. All the things that happen in your life, they shape your personality, they shape who you are — but those things aren’t there anymore, so my personality is completely different.”
Marcil may be struggling to adjust to a new way of life, and a new way of living, but he is surrounded by family, friends and supporters from the queer community. He also has Dixie Landers, who continues to attend queer events, raise money for charities and perform.
“I am an entertainer and I am there to make people forget their problems,” says Marcil. “I am on stage so that they forget the worst things that their lives bring to them. That’s what I do, that’s my drive in life.”