Queeries

Pervers/cité is an alternative Pride that's refreshingly unlikely to be sponsored by a bank

The Montreal event has spent 12 years offering an antidote to the corporatization of Pride.

The Montreal event has spent 12 years offering an antidote to the corporatization of Pride

A customer withdraws money from an ATM at a TD Bank branch adorned with the colours of the Pride rainbow flag. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.

Let's just admit it: Pride can be problematic. Corporate sponsors, intense crowds...As things have gotten better for LGBTQ folks, the mainstream has crept in — but that doesn't mean there isn't an alternative.

In Montreal — the city of alternatives — a group of folks have been working against the corporatization of Pride for over a decade. Pervers/cité is entering its 12th year, running adjacent to Montreal Pride, and offers a program of events that is refreshingly unlikely to be sponsored by a bank.

"This organization was founded on an acknowledged need to resist corporatization of Pride and foster an anti-capitalist, anarchist framework for supporting the production of non-normative queer culture and to further connections amongst queer communities," organizers Benjamin McGregor and Stephen Sherman tell CBC Arts. "Building on our core tenents of anti-capitalism and queer cultural and social emancipation, Pervers/cité is a platform through which queer cultural and social evolution can occur, on terms established by our communities."

(Pervers/cité)

For 2018, the festival has evolved in step with "the evolution of queer discourse," and in "response/opposition/conjunction to wider cultural machinations that we've seen over the past year."

"Corporate Pride only accepts queerness that fits into a consumer culture mold," they say. "Much of queer experience and expression fall outside of this realm. As we've seen in the past, marginalized groups are increasingly swept up into the fold of an anemic and corporate LGBT agenda. We believe that this process is detrimental to the queer imagination and the possible futures we could create together. Queerness suggests many other ways of organizing society, and by creating a zone for radical queer culture to evolve, we are challenging the social order as it presently exists."

The result is a great diversity of events, which, this year, include a kick off with a Latinx Dance Party and swanky pool party "to celebrate 20 years of the work ASTTEQ has been doing to support trans community organizing in MTL." There's also a planned ritual burning of the limited apologies offered by Montreal Police and the Trudeau government to LGBTQ people "for years of systematic abuse on the part of police and government agencies."

Police raid the Montreal after-hours queer party Sex Garage in 1990. (Linda Dawn Hammond/IndyFoto.com)

For McGregor, the events he's most pleased to see happening hold conversations that he thinks are absolutely vital and totally rarified — and not occurring within other Pride organizations. There is "a workshop run by and for sex workers who are uniting and organizing to protect their safety and livelihoods in response to SESTA/FOSTA, as well as 'Having Sex in a Police State,' a conversation held by Alex McClelland about how we will end HIV criminalization," he says. "These events are essential responses to some of the gravest issues affecting queer people."

Pervers/cité runs at the same time as Montreal's Pride, but McGregor and Sherman don't see it as a protest festival — at least not to the extent it's perceived to be or was in the past. "We exist to support crucial conversations and activism, as well as budding queer creativity in a way that is different for every event, every year," they say. "This isn't something that can reasonably be expected of a giant international festival funded by banking interests and other corporations who are drawn to Pride weeks by return on their advertising investment."

Corporate Pride only accepts queerness that fits into a consumer culture mold...We believe that this process is detrimental to the queer imagination and the possible futures we could create together.- Benjamin McGregor and Stephen Sherman, Pervers/cité

So what if you're in a city that's not Montreal and are interested in what Pervers/cité is pulling off?

"My advice on starting to organize a counter-festival to a local Pride would be start with just a few loosely linked events that are developed by community members in the city you find yourself in," Sherman says. "Start a conversation on social media that asks, 'What are we missing? What cultural/social opportunities do we long for? What are the queer lives we dream of?' See what it's like to organize with your fellow queers."

Pervers/cité. Montreal. August 10-19. Get more info on Facebook.

About the Author

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since way back in 2016, with highlights including co-hosting weekly live talk show State of the Arts, writing the regular LGBTQ-culture column Queeries and playing integral roles in the launch of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.