When the Quebec government cut sex education from high school classrooms in 2005, teachers were left in a bind. They were encouraged to teach it to their students, but with already jam-packed curriculums on the table, how could they fit extra time in for sex education?
In response to the government’s putting sex ed on the chopping block, Head & Hands, a Montreal youth-focused organization, introduced The Sense Project. A program that gives both in-class workshops on sex ed and trains students from Montreal high schools to be peer educators, The Sense Project is committed to filling young minds with topics on healthy sexuality and how to make empowering choices.
The Sense Project not only benefits high school students, but it also plays a large role in Montreal’s queer nightlife. As a means to help support the program, a weekly event on Friday night called Faggity Ass Fridays was created.
Since Oct 2007, Faggity Ass Fridays has been held at the Main Hall, previously a club venue primarily for indie bands in the Mile End area. Now, when Friday nights roll around, it becomes an alternative queer-friendly space that sees packed dance floors and line-ups outside waiting to join in the fun.
“I find it more friendly — it has a different vibe,” says Robyn Maynard (DJ Dirtyboots), one of the night’s DJs. “There’s more variety of people — people of colour, women, those involved in the activist community and local artists. And it’s less expensive [than the Village].”
Maynard, who spins an eclectic mix of music from punk rock and surf to 50s girl rock, has been DJing at Faggity Ass since its beginning. Before the night becomes an all-out dance party, she takes in the performances which vary from week to week and include drag shows, burlesque dancers, film screening and live artists.
“There are so many crazy things happening, like [themes of] homozombies attacking and local artists’ cool projections showing while everyone dances to electro and buys beer that doesn’t cost six bucks,” adds Maynard. “People are really earnest, just very accepting — like when the music’s gone wrong during a drag performance, [the audience] would keep cheering. It’s a safe queer space.”
Keeping Faggity Ass Fridays safe is one of the main policies that party-goers know about when they first walk through the door. The five-dollar suggested donation ensures that no one is turned away and the money that is made goes directly to help fund The Sense Project. Free condoms, lube, gloves and sexual health pamphlets are up for grabs, thanks to Head & Hands.
The main goals of the event, besides keeping The Sense Project going, is to create and support a new sense of queer community, explains Nora Rohman, one of the coordinators. By attempting to make Faggity Ass more queer and gender inclusive space and working with a diverse selection of performers, the void for spaces outside the Village gets filled.
“For me, personally, there’s not a lot of women’s inclusion in the Village but at [Faggity Ass] it’s a pretty 50-50 split crowd,” says Rohman. “We even have gender-neutral washrooms.”
Preet Bhogal, a Faggity Ass regular, can agree with Rohman on the welcoming of an alternative queer space in Montreal. He keeps coming back each week because of the theme parties, new performances and the non-conformity of the crowd.
“The space is [one where] where people can go to every week and it’s not as esoteric,” comments Bhogal. “The event is queer and sex-positive and in a way it’s its own community where you can get to know people and talk to them.”
Now that summer is kicking in, Faggity Ass Fridays will be changing to a monthly event and will be taking place at the Playhouse (5656 Parc Avenue), still staying up in Mile End. The new venue will allow for live bands and more large-scale performances.
Also celebrating its first anniversary, The Sense Project will be hosting an event called Snap-on Sex Ed, an exhibit of over 20 art pieces including vulva molds, body paintings, STI songs and a film screening. The vernissage takes place on Friday, May 23 at the Snap Magazine loft space (4064 St-Laurent #1).
For more information on Head & Hands, The Sense Project and Faggity Ass Fridays, check out headandhands.ca.
To stay on top of upcoming Faggity Ass Fridays, join the Facebook group.