“We also find it a bit troubling that the response from Fugues didn’t actually deal with the big issues we wrote about in our press release: that the government should actually be funding our community organizations properly, as opposed to squandering millions on an ad campaign that does very little to fight against HIV criminalization, stigmatizing and bureaucratic anti-trans government policies, regressive immigration reform, and for the rights of sex workers as well as public sex education in high schools.”
When the Quebec provincial government unveiled its anti-homophobia campaign in March, it received some expected criticism. The series of ads, which run on TV and the web, features images of same-sex couples embracing, followed by questions about comfort levels. Some Quebecers wrote to the government, complaining that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to such projects. The price tag for the five-year campaign is $7.1 million.
But while a few cranky homophobes were to be expected, one group of protesters, who go simply by the name Anonymous Queers, have created their own posters to protest what they see as an “overpriced and misdirected” ad campaign.
The posters feature a series of graphic photos of one man sucking on two penises, a famous Robert Mapplethorpe photo and an image of a trans woman. “This campaign left many of us disappointed,” AQ said in an email interview. “It’s not so much that we’re offended, as it takes a lot to get our panties in a bunch, but that we think it’s a poor use of resources. It’s unbelievable that anyone is still wooed by the idea that social media and marketing actually creates substantial long-term cultural change. Like, you just start a Twitter feed and hire a branding company and poof! Homophobia is all gone!”
The AQ collective states that while the government may have had the best of intentions, they find it “really troubling that our worth, as humans, is based solely on our ability to mimic the norms of heterosexuality in this campaign. It’s not saying that we should value queer and trans cultures (including our varied sex cultures) or our wonderful difference from bourgeoisie hetero boredom. This campaign screams, ‘We are just like you!’ and we are saying that actually many of us are not and that our differences should be valued and respected – not erased or sanitized.”
AQ printed hundreds of the posters and plastered them throughout Montreal’s gay village and downtown. They had plans to expand their postering into other neighbourhoods, but then the French-language gay magazine Fugues posted an article about the AQ’s raunchy campaign and many responded angrily in its comments section. Some suggested AQ members are homophobic provocateurs, while others called for AQ members to be arrested, claiming they are “setting back the movement.”
AQ says the statements are shocking but not surprising. “It feels like so many gays have traded in a radical vision of queer life, once so vibrant in places like Montreal, for a piece of the wedding cake. Initial reception on the street from passersby in the Village was appreciative and quite jovial – a significant difference from the reaction we received from Fugues and some of their readers.