It’s easy to get sucked into the Village in Montreal — with several blocks of clubs, bars, bathhouses and cafés, the wandering eye may not want to leave Sainte-Catherine’s East end.
At first glance, the Village shows streaks of commercialism and mainstream culture, which is not necessarily the most accurate representation of the queer community in Montreal.
“I like the underground queer community in Montreal; it’s powerful, strong and hard to find elsewhere in other cities,” comments Nora Rohman, an active member who coordinates the weekly event Faggity Ass Fridays and gives BDSM workshops. “[It has] a lot of overlap with social justice issues which you don’t always find in queer spaces.”
Rohman, a Concordia University student in Sexuality Studies hailing from Los Angeles, and her partner Kate Lamothe are arguably one of the most dynamic and creative couples in the local queer community. Together they write “Cuntmunch,” a weekly queer, trans and sex-positive column that appears in the campus newspaper, The Link and are both active volunteers with Queer Concordia and many other organizations both at the university and in Montreal.
While Rohman keeps busy with Faggity Ass Fridays, a sustainable fundraising event for a local organization’s project to promote sex education in Quebec and running workshops on BDSM for other community groups, Lamothe recently launched her zine “(rio)T-Grrrl,” which takes a look at being a transsexual lesbian and what that means.
“In terms of trans peoples bodies, we’re almost never discussed,” she explains.
The first issue, “A trans dyke’s guide to lesbian sex,” was created solely by Lamothe. It explores this theme through erotic stories and images, rants and raves on being trans, a personal story on trans women’s genitals and it also includes a resource guide on where to access affordable hormones and therapy.
Lamothe’s inspiration for this project stems from the publication “Primed: The Back Pocket Guide for Transmen and the Men Who Dig Them” which looks at queer transmen who sleep with other men, but “this was me doing it more like a personal zine format than a guide,” she says.
The Ottawa native is a strong advocate for transpeople’s rights. As a performance artist and an active volunteer with Queer Concordia and the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, Lamothe’s voice is one that refuses to stay silent. She does multi-media performances which include film, music and poetry all centered on sexuality and gender and participates in different poetry slams and open mic nights around town.
“[The open mics] I go to are not queer by nature; I stir things up and like the reaction of the crowd,” she admits. “Some of my poem’s themes include gender liberation and harm reduction and they are very sexual.”
The sexual energy in Lamothe’s written and performance work coupled with Rohman’s kinkiness and interest in BDSM translates into “Cuntmunch.”
“We want to expand people’s ideas on what sex is,” Rohman explains about the column, “It’s not just for queers — we talk about sex in the most widely accepted way with a non-judgmental stance.”
Both Rohman and Lamothe notice that there are not many queer sex columns that deal with trans issues nor are there many queer female-oriented ones in the local newspaper — there are many which are geared toward gay men and the mutual feeling was that there was a gap. Lamothe explains that in sex columns, there is extremely little written about gender queers; a lot of what is covered comes from a clinical or medical perspective.
“The concepts of transexuality are talked about but the concepts of transpeople’s sexuality and pleasure are not.”
With a focus on gender ambiguity in the column’s language, “Cuntmunch” is what Rohman describes as a boundary pusher — it’s overtly political with topics on how to be a better trans and queer ally on campus to how to deal with sexual safety and identity.
“We’re providing another voice for queer folks on campus,” adds Lamothe. “It’s a sexuality column, not just a sex column per say.”
Speaking of boundary pushers, Rohman is a bit of one herself through her BDSM workshops. While there is a lot of information available on safety techniques, she found that there was a lack of it on aftercare concerning emotional and physical encounters, issues of consent and how to negotiate this with a partner.
“I feel that there’s the idea that a big black line [exists] between the vanilla and kinky communities,” Rohman says. “I don’t think that’s true — there’s always power in sex and no matter how people identify with it, I want to blur the lines so everyone can learn from the SM community.”
Rohman runs her workshops for different organizations and welcomes everyone, from the newbie to the well versed in BDSM. By going deep into the emotional aspects and making it student-friendly by including a portion on SM at the dollar store and how to do it cheaply and safely, Rohman not only gets to share her ideas but says that she has learned from what others have brought to the table as well.
“It’s one of the most powerful things when people share their personal stories,” she comments. “For people just getting into it, it’s empowering, sexy and beautiful.”
Lamothe and Rohman are always on top of new projects — summer plans include a second edition of “(rio)T-Grrrl” and continuing to work with community groups to plan alternative queer events.
“We’re proud in the work that we’ve done,” says Lamothe. “But the struggle isn’t over and we shouldn’t just sit back. There is still more to be done.”