We don’t normally think of Pride as the time to curl up with a good book, but that’s something veteran writer and broadcaster Denis-Martin Chabot is hoping to change.
“Pride is about partying and drinking and having fun and hooking up,” Chabot says. “But it’s also about showing the world who we are and sharing our culture. Literature is a big part of that because it’s part of how we share our stories.”
In 2012, Chabot approached Montréal Pride about including literary events at the festival alongside all of the parties. For Chabot, it wasn’t just about creating space for his own art form, but also capturing the true spirit of the season. “Our community creates so much incredible work and I think this is a perfect time of year to draw some attention to that.”
This year’s Pride festival includes a whopping seven literary events sprinkled throughout the festivities. Some standouts include the return of Authors in Undies, where writers strip to their skivvies to deliver readings, and Tête-à-Tête, where Chabot will sit down for a conversation with Steve Galluccio, writer of the smash hit play-turned-film Mambo Italiano. And for those who prefer to enjoy literature under the sun, the Open Air Book Fair offers a chance to peruse books and meet authors in person, while exchanging flirty glances with literary-minded strangers.
This comes at a critical juncture for queer literature. Independent bookstores that promote queer work are vanishing. Small publishers that support queer voices are struggling. And writers are in constant competition for readers with the endless stream of content available online.
At the same time, Canada’s queer literary scene is exploding: big-name success stories like Zoe Whittall and Ann-Marie MacDonald, but lesser-known talents like Amber Dawn and Billy-Ray Belcourt are also garnering much-deserved attention. And the scene is becoming increasingly diverse, representing a wider range of perspectives on queer life today.
Spotlighting our community’s scribes is part of a larger national trend among queer organizations. Pride festivals from coast to coast are carving out more space for authors, and new initiatives like Toronto’s Naked Heart literary festival are working hard to highlight lesser-known voices.
For emerging queer writers, being able to sell a few thousand copies of their first book can go a long way in convincing publishers to give them another shot. And literary events mingled in with Pride festivities can bring potential readers into contact with writers they might never otherwise discover.
Beyond supporting our community, taking a break from our screens to pick up a book can have numerous positive effects — everything from lowering stress to reducing the chances of Alzheimer’s. For Chabot, it’s also a way of forming connections with others.
“When it comes to meeting people and hooking up, it means you’ll just be better at conversation,” Chabot says. “For me, my biggest sexual organ is my brain. If that’s not stimulated, then nothing else will be either.”
Supporting queer writers is also a question of activism. While the social aspect of Pride has gradually shifted from protest to party, a new generation of queers are working hard to reclaim that original spirit, asserting queer activism and questioning systems of oppression holding our communities back.
“Whether it’s in the streets or on stages or in bookstores, it’s important that we are out there, claiming our space and sharing our stories with the rest of the world,” Chabot says.
“Literature is a very different art form because it takes a bit more effort to consume than TV or movies,” Chabot continues. “But despite that, I believe in it and I will fight to be heard and for my friends to be heard as well.”