Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Pushing buttons: Montreal’s Nora Rohman

Community organizer is loud and proud about her sexuality

'LESBIAN QUEEN OF THE MILE END.' Organizer Nora Rohman's one piece of advice? Talk more. "Healthy, hot, safe, mind-blowing sex lives come from open communication," she says.

“I’ve always been a button pusher,” says Montreal’s Nora Rohman, a provocative queer community organizer. But she’s too busy to care how other people may perceive her loud and proud attitude about sexuality. The indefatigable Rohman coordinates Head and Hands’ Faggity Ass Fridays (which raises money for The Sense Project, bringing queer and trans positive sex education to high schools), is a founding member of Against The Wall/Contre Le Mur (a feminist collective of queer and trans-indentified folks who throw sex parties and sex-positive workshops) and is a member of Audio Smut (a collective of feminist women who create a monthly, sex-related radio show on CKUT).  She also pursues Sexuality Studies at Concordia, an undergraduate major she helped pioneer. What is Faggity Ass Fridays?

Rohman: A fagilicious dance party with a cabaret/band/performance art/drag show/film screening/anything goes to kick it all off. It’s a fundraiser that is overflowing with glitter. It’s free condoms, gloves, and lube to take home. It’s booty-rockin’, it’s crazy themes, it’s dressing up, it’s high heels in the snow. It’s good music, good people, good times. It is simultaneously creating and sustaining queer community in Montreal. How would you classify that community?

Rohman: It’s like a fabulous red sequin dress, maybe with some grit and dirt thrown on there too. It’s incredibly vibrant. It seems that there’s an amazing cultural event going on all the time: support groups, performance art, strip-shows, radio, sex parties, knitting circles, drag, workshops, kiss-ins, the list goes on and on. In addition to your community organizing projects, you’re in the band We’re Coming. Can you tell me a bit about that?  

Rohman: We play lesbian blues songs about stolen strap-ons, broken hearts, and g-spot girls. I’m the singer, and for my stage persona, I am currently hoping to become as high femme as Jessica Rabbit. You’re also a DJ. What type of music do you favour?

Rohman: Kate [Nora’s partner] calls my style “queer Los Angeles.” I play really eclectic sets. I like everything from pop to grime to electro to hip-hop to punk to ’80s to salsa to cumbia to swing.  I like riot grrrl, Spanish rap, and mash-ups.  The list is long. Pat Califia’s quote “Being a sex radical means being defiant as well as deviant” is important to you. Why?

Rohman: His writing completely reorganized how I saw the world, how I saw kink, gender, sex, queerness, ability, sexuality. To me, society — and this happens in GLBTQ communities as well — so often labels queers, kinksters, polyamorous folks, etcetera, as deviant, as “outside the lines.” I think that being deviant means that many parts of who I am and who I love and my desires don’t fit. Ideally, instead of crawling into a tiny little ball of shame and self-lothing, I want to struggle everyday to embrace my desires. I’ve felt intense shame, and I’ve gone to some self-destructive places because of it. This is where defiance comes in for me. There are so, so, so many people who want to see people like me and the people I love curl up and die. Just living and loving and fucking is defiant in that way. Defiance means continuing to push, to advocate, to teach, all of that. You’ve been called “the lesbian queen of the Mile End.” 

Rohman: Oh goodness. My friends tease me about that all the time. I take it with a grain of salt, because it is silly. Are there lesbian queens from other neighboorhoods? Should I begin a hospitality expedition? Should we have a cucumber sandwiches and take over the village? I truly feel that so much of the organizing I do is a collective effort. There are so many people I’ve learned from, and so many mistakes that I’ve made and I still have to make. What’s the most challenging thing about doing what you do?

Rohman: Burn-out. I think with every year that goes by, I get better at cutting down the times when I burn-out and melt into a teary-eyed stress monster, but it still happens more often than I’d like. Balance is something I strive for, and don’t always hit. If you could give people one piece of advice about sexuality, what would it be?

Rohman: Talk more. Healthy, hot, safe, mind-blowing sex lives come from open communication. It’s really that simple.