Montreal's 20th Divers/Cité festival kicks off on Monday and will be held in the city's touristy Old Port for the first time. Some say this is a sign of progress for the gay community.
Divers/Cité is a week-long festival that showcases arts and music by and for the gay and lesbian community. The celebrations were held in Montreal's Gay Village until this year.
Michael Hendricks, a gay activist, believes things have changed for the better over the years. From the public's acceptance and the LGBT community's exposure, Hendricks says the community is gladly losing some of the controversy it once stirred.
"It has become like a festive occasion where, in the beginning, we were like Barnum and Bailey – the circus. Now, we've become banal," said Hendricks.
The man is no stranger to the issues faced by members of the gay community. In 2004, a year before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, he and his partner, René Leboeuf, were the first same-sex couple to marry in Quebec.
Hendricks had tried to get married to his partner in 1998 but faced discrimination due to his sexual orientation.
"The lady explained that it didn't work like that," explained Hendricks.
"`You have to have a man and a woman.’ So I said to her, 'I do the cooking so I must be the bride. He does the dishes so he must be the groom,' and she said: 'Oh no it's not that simple, sir.'"
For Hendricks, obtaining the right to marry removed the stigma from homosexuality and gave those in the gay and lesbian community the same rights as heterosexual couples.
"What it means is that we are now recognized as a social unit. Not just adolescent deviants."
Despite these positive changes, Hendricks says the community must remain visible in order to push for more change and equality.
He says moving Divers/Cité to the Old Port means the festival will garner more attention and be placed in the city's core.
Divers/Cité runs from July 30 to August 5.