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Queers conspire in Montreal

Radical Queer Week starts Mar 6

“‘Queer’ in my mind is more than who you’re having sex with,” says Andrew Thorne, one of the organizers of Montreal’s Radical Queer Week 2009, a week of workshops, performances, shows, music, video projections, artistic production, and direct action aimed at, well, pretty much everyone. “Feminists, anti-capitalists, queers, anarchists, drags, lesbians, seropositive people, communists, transgendered people, artists, fags, dykes, gender-fuckers, sex workers, punks, flamers, (s)kids, bizarros and all the folks that love them!”

“Whoever wants to come is welcome, as long as they’re not gonna be violent or oppressive or homophobic,” says Thorne.

The week kicks off on Fri, Mar 6 with guest speaker Michael Hendricks leading a discussion on activism and queer history, both personal and political, in an evening entitled Projecting Queer. Hendricks is a prominent Canadian gay rights advocate, and along with his husband RenĂ© Leboeuf, one half of the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Quebec. RQW organizers, ever upping the fun and inclusion in their events, say that a slumber party is planned for after Michael’s talk.

This is just the beginning of daily events for the next nine days. “There are a lot of different ways to build community,” says Thorne. RQW organizers seem to have tapped into as many ways as possible for people to get involved and have a good time.

Saturday brings a brunch, a workshop on community responses to sexual assault, and an afternoon of direct action, with radical queers taking to the streets and skating rinks for a day of “carnavalesque interventions and solidarity.” An evening of performance is planned for Sunday, and Monday revolves around sex work and queer solidarity, complete with videos and discussion with sex worker group Stella and Chacha Evidante. A workshop on consent and a documentary screening is planned for Tuesday.

Wednesday holds a Family Outing, and organizers are calling for “transvestites, cross-dressers, gender non-conformers and allies” to “take to the town to resist a two-gender system that tells us what we can and cannot wear.” They’re asking participants to “Cross dress or put on your favorite and most flamboyant drag.” The Family Outing is a way for people to show off outfits they might not otherwise feel safe wearing in public.

As if all that weren’t enough, there’s a film screening and “mega-party” on Friday, a music show on Saturday and a short film screening and march against police brutality on Sunday.

What inspires organizers to work so hard to create so many events?

“There are people that are pissed off about the fact that we’re still assumed to be straight,” Thorne says. “I can’t go out in public wearing a skirt without having that be a political statement. I’m pissed off that there still so much violence that happens all across Canada against queer people, especially in smaller towns, and there’s still so much fear that is created that we’re going to be the end of violence even if we’re not experiencing that. Even if I don’t walk down the street and get jumped, just the fact that I’m a queer-looking male person, I’m still afraid that someone’s gonna look at me and go, ‘Here’s another faggot walking down the street. Easy target.’ and jump me.

“More does need to happen to make the movement heard on a larger scale,” Thorne says, to combat oppression and make everyone feel not just safe, but celebrated.

“I’m really hoping that the Radical Queer Week will make some links, bring people out, and have something to offer for people in Anglophone and Francophone communities,” he adds.