Discover all the LGBT history from 1969 to today!
By adopting the Omnibus bill, Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government decriminalized homosexuality. Prior to this, the majority of gay men and women in Québec lived in the shadows and in the closet, despite the popularity of few downtown gay bars. Montréal also had a few out local gay heroes including Armand Monroe, who was named as the Marilyn Monroe impersonator “La Monroe”, in Montréal’s Tropical Room of the Downbeat Club on Peel Street. In 1957, Armand demanded that gay staff be hired; on August 27, 1958, to mark his birthday, men were allowed to dance together for the very first time in a Montreal nightclub.
As part of an attempt to “clean up” the city prior to the Olympics, Mayor Jean Drapeau convened a Public Morality Program aimed at gay and lesbian establishments. Beginning with the raid on the Aquarius Sauna in February 1975 with a police raid, many well-known establishments were targeted, including Club Baths (January 23, 1976) and Cristal Sauna (February 11, 1976). From the 14th to the 21st of March 1976, the Sauna Neptune, the Taureau d’Or, the Studio 1, the Stork Club and Jilly’s, among others, were raided, fined and/or closed under often dubious charges. Many of the patrons and owners were arrested in what was, at the time, the largest of mass arrests in Québec since the 1970 October Crisis. In June, the Comité homosexuel antirépression (CHAR) was formed to protest the brutality of the raids; 300 people took to the streets. Finally, in October, the CHAR became the Association pour les droits des gai(e)s du Québec (ADGQ).
Police raided Truxx and La Mystique. On October 21, over 140 gay men were arrested outside the Truxx bar. The following night, 2,000 people took to the streets to protest these arrests and voice their anger. Québec became the first jurisdiction in North America to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, adding it to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
La Brigade Rose, a local community group, produced “Gairilla”, bringing together approximately 52 people in 1979 and 250 people in 1980.
Different community groups began to produce parades, first under the name “Gai-lon-la”, then “Marche Bleu Blanc Rose”, and always held towards the end of June. For a few years, the parade even fell under the banner of the “Fête Nationale”, since the June 24 date coincided with the Stonewall anniversary. Pink Brigade handed over the organization of Gay Pride to the ADGQ (Association pour les droits des gai(e)s du Québec), who organized Gay Pride until 1986.
Parades continued to attract revellers, sometimes in the thousands, to celebrate Gay Pride on Sainte-Catherine Street East, between Saint-Hubert and Champlain Streets, in the heart of the Gay Village.
July 15 was a momentous date in the history of Québec Gay Rights. When a group of overzealous Montréal police officers decided to violently break-up the “Sex Garage” party in Old Montréal, a series of events unfolded, in what was widely-held as Montréal’s version of the Stonewall Riots. That night 400 primarily gay, lesbian and transgender revellers were taunted, brutalized and arrested while trying to leave the party. Enraged and no longer willing to settle for unfair targeting, giant protests occured on that same night and the night following outside the Montréal Police Station 25. Images of the brutality outside the “Sex Garage” party circulated around the globe and nearly three million Montrealers were finally made aware of the fear and conditions constantly faced by Montréal’s LGBTQ population.
The events of July 15 lead to an investigation, a series of recommendations by the Human Rights Commission, the creation of both Black & Blue and Divers/Cité and fostered in a new era of cooperation and mutual respect between a newly sensitized Montréal Police Force and the LGBTQ Community. Today the Montréal Police is considered an ally in combating homophobia and protecting our rights. Lastly, the “Sex Garage” protests also mobilized the LGBTQ community and opened the door to a new era of inclusiveness, particularly with respect to the transgender population.
Suzanne Girard (formerly an organizer of the Image+Nation LGBTQ Film Festival) and Puelo Dier (an original organizer of the protests following Sex Garage Party) joined together to form Divers/Cité, after no parade was held in 1992. Together, they grew the Divers/Cité parade from a mere 5,000 people in its initial year to an estimated 200,000 in its 5th year. Divers/Cité was an integral and internationally recognized part of gay life in Montréal and an important cultural festival that featured many members of our impressive LGBTQ community as well as international performers.
On April 1, Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf invited crowds to witness and celebrate the first legal Québec gay marriage at the Montréal Palais de Justice, after a Québec Court of Appeals upholded, on March 19, the Lemelin decision. On June 29, the same-sex marriage legislation passed a final reading in the House of Commons making Canada only the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to officially recognize same-sex marriage.
Divers/Cité withdrew from the organization of community events. Célébrations LGBTA Montréal (currently known as Fierté Montréal Pride), a newly formed, community-driven and not-for-profit organization, took the reigns and proudly organized the Montréal Gay and Lesbian Community Day & Parade on July 28 & 29 2007. Célébrations LGBTA Montréal was launched with the unprecedented support of the members of Montréal’s LGBTA community. The 2007 edition launched many exciting new features including Grand Marshals, an Artistic Director, a theme, as well a series of awards to highlight spirit and float-design.
2012 marked the 6th edition of the Fierté Montréal Pride organization and festival. On this occasion, the theme of the parade was Our Flag, Our Pride. Fierté Montréal welcomed more than 327,000 people who took part in the activities. 2012 was punctuated by the presence of a special guest: David Testo, a former soccer player for the Montréal Impact, involved as Grand Marshals. Testo was one of the few professional athletes to have publicly come out of the closet, also paving the way for other LGBTQ athletes worldwide.
The 7th edition of Montréal Pride was a resounding success with a record participation of 462,560 on all 7 days of festivities. A more diverse programming than ever, has highlighted a LGBTA community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies) dynamic and proud. The year 2013 marked the 35th anniversary of the rainbow flag. The theme chosen by the organizers committee: Our flag, Our life: RED. Red, the first color represented in the rainbow flag embodies the vitality, love and passion of the LGBTQ community.
For this 8th edition, coinciding with the 30th Montréal parade, the theme was Our flag, Our flame. The color of the flag of honor was orange, which represents healing, vitality, energy and heat. A colour that represents the many facets of our community. A vibrant community, dynamic and diverse, united by a deep desire for acceptance and respect.
Despite four consecutive days of rain, the 8th edition of Pride Montréal was a great success in terms of participation and community involvement. During the seven days of the event, nearly 400,000 people took part in the various activities offered.
For the third consecutive year, the Pride Parade theme was inspired by the rainbow flag and the third colour which is, yellow, representing light and energy. The Parade was under the theme Our Flag, Our Energy. The Pride Parade, the largest parade in the province, broke all records. The sunny weather encouraged some 290,000 spectators to line the parade route along René-Lévesque Boulevard to admire and cheer on the 127 contingents representing Montréal Pride partners and the city’s LGBTQ organizations.
The 9th edition of Montréal Pride enjoyed unprecedented media coverage, giving the festival the opportunity to sensitize the general public about the realities faced by LGBTQ people. The presence in Montréal of International Grand Marshal Anna Sharyhina, director of KyivPride (Ukraine), brought to the forefront the violence and the difficult living conditions that LGBT people endure internationally. The popular transgender actress Candis Cayne also received much media attention, making an extraordinary contribution to sensitizing the media and the general public about trans people’s situations both here and around the world.