Pervers/Cité is giving Divers/Cité a run for their (corporate) money. With 11 days of collaboratively organized queer events, this year’s festival boasts a play party, a book fair, a trivia night and a game of “Capture the Fag.” Half of the 21 events are workshops, something the organizers feel strongly about. “We definitely wanted to create lots of opportunity for dialogue, skill-sharing and learning alongside opportunities to share art, music and performance,” says collective member LB. Pervers/Cité maintains a politicized queer identity, provides Montrealers with a point of access into the queer community and directly challenges Divers/Cité’s claim to celebrate diversity, all the while stirring up a hell of a lot of fun.
Xtra.ca: Which issues will be addressed in this year’s festival?
LB: The workshops touch on a number of topics of concern to queers, including prisoner justice, Israeli apartheid and mental health. But politics definitely are not only contained in the workshops! Events like Lez Blues’ “Black Material: White Girl,” a retrospective chronicling Madonna’s 30 years of cultural appropriation, use performance and entertainment to inspire and challenge queers to ask questions about race and racism.
Xtra.ca: What do you see as the “mainstream gay agenda?”
LB: The mainstream gay agenda is generally either a single-issue story or is completely sidetracked and hijacked by corporate interests. Our community is actually much more diverse (in our political interests and lifestyle choices) than Divers/Cité recognizes. But the work of truly embracing the breadth of issues and interests that concern queers isn’t necessarily an easily consumable commodity that you can sell or sponsor.
Xtra.ca: How does Pervers/Cité stay accountable to the history it represents, something your organizers believe Divers/Cité does not?
LB: We believe that a queer identity is a political identity and that all Pride festivals have roots within a common struggle against oppression. Our history is one of resistance and action… The issues change and evolve, but the work continues. We have several critiques of Divers/Cité: it is overly corporatized, depoliticized, and generally consists of expensive events that don’t actually address the needs of our community. Also, the recent history of Divers/Cité is one of a continuous move towards less community oriented and more touristy consumerist agenda.
Xtra.ca: Which of this year’s events are you particularly excited about?
LB: Personally, I am particularly excited about the Lez Blues show, the Proud as Fuck Cabaret, the Anti-Israeli Apartheid contingent in the parade, the Queer Between the Covers Bookfair, the Community Picnic (which is not TD sponsored), and a number of workshops. In particular the Porn Drawing workshop, the Radical Queer Semaine organizing workshop, the Prisoners’ Justice workshop and the Safer Space workshop.
Xtra.ca: All of your events are free or pay-what-you-can. Why?
LB: Pervers/Cité believes that accessibility and inclusion is an important element of building our community. “Pay-what-you-can” policies are about creating financial accessibility for the entire community, about not re-creating or perpetuating capitalist systems of oppression.
Xtra.ca: Pervers/Cité seems to have a youthful feeling. Is the festival aimed at a certain age group?
LB: We aren’t specifically targetting any one age group and we actually are hoping to draw in a range of individuals. We’ve tried to have our progamming feature both daytime and nighttime events, as well as all-ages events. For example, the picnic on Aug 9 has been organized as a family-friendly event with activities planned for children as well as adults. Perhaps Pervers/Cité seems youthful because we are a relatively new group that approaches a well-established social phenomenon — Pride events — with a dynamism that sometimes gets associated with youth culture or activism. But really, this kind of energy comes from the way our community is coming together collectively, not necessarily from the age of those involved.
Xtra.ca: In one word, how is Pervers/Cité different from Divers/Cité?