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Montreal’s radical queers foster an alternative scene

Jan 23 fundraiser features burlesque and sex worker punk band

RADICAL QUEERS. Members of PolitiQ at Montreal's 2009 Pride parade. Credit: politiq.info

If you’re “queer and weird,” as organizer Jordan Arseneault puts it, you should check out the “punk, overtaking-church, sockhop vibe” at Radical Queer Soiree on Jan 23.

A fundraiser for Radical Queer Semaine, Radical Queer Soiree features performances by animator/storyteller Daniel Barrow, performance artist Arseneault, burlesque duo Douche la Douche and Johnny Forever, and male sex worker punk band The Dirty Housewives, followed by a DJ dance party.

“A lot of people have been looking for something like this since they moved here, whenever that was,” Arsenault says of the lively parties that RQS organizes. “They walk in and you see this look on their face like, ‘Oh, this is that scene that I wanted.'”

That scene is an alternative and inclusive one. Now in its second year, Radical Queer Semaine is a 10-day series of workshops, performances, discussions, direct actions, community building and parties that in some way address issues its organizers don’t feel are “sufficiently addressed in the gay mainstream.”

Last year’s week was “pretty magical,” Arseneault says. Kicking off with a talk by radical queer activist Michael Hendricks, the week included a workshop on serophobia and featured a folk night headlined by Rae Spoon.

“The major success of last year was the making of this group and how much we learned from one another,” Arseneault says. Out of RQS was born PolitiQ, a permanent collective.

“Beyond being present at demonstrations and writing letters to members of government, PolitiQ is also becoming an alternative queer media watchdog. They’ve been doing things like writing to Le Soleil, the paper in Quebec City, about certain derogatory comments made in an article regarding gay people as a sort of secondary or less valid sexuality.”

(Read more about the editorial published in Le Soleil)

RQS organizers aim for this year to be even more successful than last year. “We’re going to be putting a big strong emphasis on workshops, on community-building,” says Arseneault. “With that goal in mind, we have a couple of people who want to host a platonic speed-dating and not-so-platonic speed-dating night.”

RQS welcomes proposals for events from the community and is always looking for volunteers.

“The rewards are manifold,” Arseneault says. “You can make connections that you can have for your whole life and that may influence not just your social life, but your intellectual life and your understanding of yourself as a political agent. It’s really easy to get jaded out there if you’re working alone.”

RQS is especially looking for “people who just want to show up and don’t know what they want to do. We want to find a place for everyone to get involved.”

Saturday’s fundraiser will go toward renting a central space for RQS events. “So much of what happens in the queer community, and even in the alternative queer community, happens in bars. We’re so used to partying in for-profit spaces. We don’t usually all get together in places where you know that the money you’re putting into it is staying in the community. For many members of the group, it’s kind of, for us, the making of a non-capitalist, mini-village island of queer goodness that happens for these ten days,” Arseneault enthuses. “It’s like having our own rec centre.”

The suggested donation to Radical Queer Soiree is $10, but in keeping with the group’s collective and inclusive spirit, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

“All of the profits of the bar are going to be going to us, thankfully,” Arseneault says, “So buy drinks for your friends and you’ll support us too!”


Radical Queer Soiree takes place on January 23rd in the basement of L’église St. Pierre-Apotre, 1323 Rene Levesque Est. Performances from 9–12, DJs from 12–3. $10 or pay-what-you-can.

The call for proposals for Radical Queer Semaine (Mar 5-14) is open until Feb 14. Email radical.queer.semaine@gmail.com to propose an event or to volunteer.

For more information or to get involved with PolitiQ, visit their website at www.politiq.info.