Fifty years after her passing, Judy Garland’s star shines bright

Adoration spanning over three generations transcends the LGBTQ+ community

Those who are familiar with Judy Garland (1922-1969) will probably associate her with The Wizard of Oz (1939), but in a career that spanned four decades, Garland made 34 feature films and a series of albums including Judy At Carnegie Hall (1961), for which she was the first female artist to win a Grammy for Album of the Year.

  Rupert Goold’s biopic, Judy (2019), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to critical acclaim, especially for Renée Zellweger’s transformative performance as Garland. Though biopics seem to be the most accessible medium for navigating a celebrity’s life and career, there are other venues where they can be produced just as well, and perhaps even more successfully.

On Oct. 10 at the Diving Bell Social Club, Montreal-based drag queens and performers paid homage to Garland’s legacy in Crystal Palace: The Judy Garland Show!, which allowed the audience to consider the seemingly endless ways we might interpret, represent and celebrate a pop culture icon’s legacy.

Like other celebrities whose lives were cut too short, Garland has often been diluted to her personal battles, focusing on her status as a “tragic figure,” and not emphasizing the resilience and strength that earned her place in entertainment history.

Adapted from Peter Quilter’s 2005 play End of the Rainbow, Goold’s Judy focuses on the last year of Garland’s life, when financial struggles led her to headline a five-week residency at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London.

The film is sprinkled with flashbacks to her days under contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc (MGM), with Darci Shaw portraying young Garland. Judy aspires to shine a light on Garland’s lesser-known final days, when decades in the throes of the entertainment industry had caught up to her, personally and professionally.

Since we are in a moment in which the misogynistic attitudes of the entertainment industry are being confronted, the film can be difficult to watch at times. Flashbacks to Louis B. Mayer’s MGM soundstages – the studio that activated her lifelong dependence on prescription drugs – speculate what could have happened to Garland and many other stars during the Studio Era.

Zellweger most noticeably transforms into her role through body language, from the way she holds the microphone to her posture and facial mannerisms. When Zellweger sings – live, without dubbing – her uncanny portrayal is only slightly blurred, as her vocal intonations are too convincing to detract from her ability to capture Garland’s spirit.

Though the flashbacks act as signifiers of Garland’s past, there could have been more references to her accomplishments after The Wizard of Oz. Nevertheless, the sniffles I heard in the theatre – mine included – cannot be ignored. As exuberant as the concert scenes are, the film’s most effective moments are far more intimate. A heavyhearted conversation with daughter Lorna Luft in a red telephone box confirms Garland’s unconditional love for her children, and a fictionalized post-concert visit to the apartment of two adoring male fans – a gay couple – captures Garland’s enduring significance among the LGBTQ+ community.

Due to Garland’s adoration within the LGBTQ+ community, she remains a popular subject for drag performances, most lovingly highlighted at a recent tribute at the Diving Bell Social Club.

Featuring Crystal Slippers, the two-hour show began with a reenactment of Garland’s television appearances. Performers Peaches LePoz, Prudence, Maxine Segalowitz, and Dolly Blonde also provided their talents to an evening that was all about Garland. Hosts Tranna Wintour and Thomas Leblanc provided humourous commentary throughout the evening, offering trivia and sharing their perspectives into why we are still celebrating Garland 50 years after her death.

A stripped-down performance of the song “It Never Was You” by Slippers, most poignantly showcased Garland’s contribution to Hollywood history, as clips of her films accompanied the performer, who was clad in a handmade red gown under a dimmed spotlight. Additional highlights included a powerful rendition of the immortal ballad “Over the Rainbow” by Blonde, and a tragic-yet-hilarious cover of the torch song, “The Man That Got Away” by LePoz. Cameos by Barbra Streisand (Prudence) and Liza Minnelli (Segalowitz) underscored the impact that Garland has had on the careers of other legendary songstresses.

With an audience spanning three generations, the room abounded with a soaring appreciation for Garland. It was easy to smile throughout the evening, even in the more melancholic moments, because the show’s evident attention to detail exceeded that of a blockbuster stage production. As someone who is about 50 years too young to have seen Garland perform in-person, this was a night that will be difficult for me to ever forget.

As Judy ends on the hopeful yet heart-wrenching notes of “Over the Rainbow,” Crystal Palace concluded with a lively performance by Judy (Slippers) and daughter Liza (Segalowitz). Indeed, both Judy and Crystal Palace: The Judy Garland Show! demonstrate the many ways that a celebrity’s life can be celebrated, represented and questioned.

Judy is playing in select theatres and will be released for purchase next winter. Check out the Diving Bell Social’s diverse range of programming at their website,


Graphics by @sundaeghost


Hollywood’s girl next door or swift business woman?

I was never really a Taylor Swift fan. Sure, her songs get stuck in my head from playing on repeat on the radio, but Taylor Swift always represented something unattainable; a tall, blonde, blue-eyed, skinny, perfect girl next door loved by everyone who met her. Her attempt to be darker in her past albums seemed really comical to me.

In my opinion, her recent music video, You Need To Calm Down, tackles more than just the fight for equality. It seems to be shouting to everyone, “Hey! If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it!”

The music video and VMA performance featured cameos by several prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as Ellen DeGeneres, RuPaul Charles, and several drag queens.

According to USA TODAY, after having won Video of The Year at this year’s VMAs, there has been a lot of backlash claiming the pop star is “using Pride as a fashion statement or marketing ploy.” But many in the LGBTQ+ community have her back, and her allyship seems to really benefit the community regardless.

In an interview with Insider, Tan France,  Queer Eye’s fashion guru, stated that he believes the community shouldn’t automatically assume that Swift is acting on self-serving motives. France added that even though the pop star hasn’t been a vocal advocate until recently, she has taken great strides in her allyship, concluding her music video by urging viewers to sign her petition in support of the Equality Act. The petition has since obtained over half a million signatures and counting.

The act has yet to pass in the U.S. Senate, and Swift hopes the petition will urge the Senate to proceed. If approved, the Equality Act would protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination, ensuring that all American citizens are treated equally.

With a net worth of over $360 million, Billboard stated that the pop star has made some very charitable donations to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD),  the Joyful Heart Foundation for survivors of sexual assault, and various Go Fund Me campaigns, among other things.

Her charitable actions don’t necessarily speak louder than her luxuries – what with her two private jets and $84 million real estate portfolio, according to a recent article in the Business Insider. We can’t forget that Swift is not just Hollywood’s girl next door, but a boss business woman doing her best to manage her extreme successes.

Swift released her new album, Lover on Aug. 23. Featuring radio hit “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down,” among other poppy tunes such as “The Man” (where Swift imagines her life as a man) and “Soon You’ll Get Better.”  In the latter, the star sings “I hate to make this all about me, but who am I supposed to talk to? What am I supposed to do?” — her music is, after all, about her. She is the centre of her work, and she just happened to jump on the LGBTQ+ train. We can’t shade her for that.

In my opinion, although she could be doing more for other communities worldwide (ie, donating to Indigenous communities in Brazil affected by the fires in the Amazon), there is a lot of pressure put on Swift, and other celebrities, to be vocal allies. This makes them prime bait for public backlash – while these are figures that can use their positions for political advantage, they are not politicians, but privileged voting citizens. They simply have louder microphones than the rest of us.


Student Life

Slice of Life: Peeing in peace

It shouldn’t be so hard to make washrooms gender-neutral on campus

Ah, gender-neutral washrooms: so controversial (sigh), yet so simple. News flash! Everyone has a gender-neutral washroom in their home, and everyone deserves access to a facility that suits their needs. But the call for more gender-neutral washrooms goes far beyond that. It’s about advocating for the right to feel safe in a washroom—a right cisgender people often don’t think about.

Many ideological and physical constructs of society, right down to the way washrooms are designed, exclude many LGBTQ+ members. Non-binary people having to choose between ticking off ‘male’ or ‘female’ on certain forms; trans people having to choose which washroom to use—or choose to not use the washroom altogether—are all examples of these exclusionary structures.

D.T, a trans advocate and public educator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, said it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number and location of accessible gender-neutral washrooms across the Concordia campuses. “I also have a problem with ‘single-stalled’ washrooms in general,” said D.T. “Why do we have to exclude ourselves, and further isolate ourselves?”

Ella Webber, a trans student at Concordia, said they found a list of gender-neutral washrooms on the Centre for Gender Advocacy website. It also has information about other resources available to trans and non-binary students, both at Concordia and around Montreal. “Concordia never mentioned that in [the] orientation which I went to,” said Webber. D.T. explained that the list on the centre’s website hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t account for construction on campus that may bar accessibility. “I think at orientation we should be notified about Concordia’s queer facilities like [the centre] and their resources,” said Webber. “When I do find [gender-neutral washrooms] it’s super helpful, and so much more comfortable for me as a trans person.”

Personally, I know there are single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms on the Loyola campus on the second floor of the CC building, in the Hive Café, and in the basement of the CJ building. D.T. informed me that, in the H building on the downtown campus, Reggies bar, the other Hive Café, plus the 5th, 7th and 10th floors, all have gender-neutral washrooms as well (although, due to construction on the 7th floor, the washroom is currently inaccessible—same goes for the VA building).

D.T. and the centre described the H building as extremely problematic in terms of accessibility, one of the reasons being that many of the single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms in the building are shared with wheelchair users. This means they are only accessible with an access code or key provided by the security desk on the first floor (not where the washrooms are). Trans and non binary students not only have to locate the gender-neutral washrooms that are actually open on all of three floors in the Hall building (total number of floors is 12), and plan to get the necessary key or access code, but, after all that, once at the security desk, they may be asked to justify their needs to the security officer. “They run the risk of being outed and asked intensive questions,” she said. “It’s super shitty.”

D.T. met with Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, a few months ago to communicate the centre’s goals—both short and long-term—for the gender-neutral washrooms project. Short term, they would like to see three types of washrooms: an all-gender washroom available to everyone, trans or not, regardless of their gender identity and expression; a men’s washroom for men, male-identifying or transmasculine persons; and a women’s washroom for women, female-identifying or transfeminine persons, explained D. T.

Long term, the centre would like all washrooms to be gender-neutral, thus “respecting everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.” While Woodall was very supportive of the centre’s project and their demands, he said these changes would take time. “The centre is not satisfied with this response,” said D.T. She also explained how something as simple as changing signage to actually indicate whether a washroom is gender-neutral helps increase accessibility and awareness. “We don’t want only promises,” she said. “We would like the university to put a concrete plan in place to get us to our goal.”

I’m a big fan of the ‘my rights end where your rights begin’ logic, so let’s talk privilege for a second. Do you navigate your days thinking about where the next available and safe washroom is? Do you mediate your liquid intake so you don’t have to go as frequently? If you answered ‘no’ to the above, I’d suggest rethinking the privilege—yes privilege—you have of simply using a washroom. Everyone should be able to pee in peace.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Updated on Jan. 9. 2024

In the original version of the article, one of the two sources was named fully. One of the sources has since requested to be left anonymous.

Student Life

Carving out inclusivity at Concordia University

Florence Gagnon is creating the LGBTQ+ community she never had

Florence Gagnon has spent the last 10 years working to ‘spread the word’ and increase visibility for lesbians within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Her message? “We exist, and these are our experiences.”

Gagnon is the guest speaker at the second annual Queer Homecoming, an event that carves out a unique space for the queer community amidst Concordia’s orientation activities.

This year, she is set to share her success as an entrepreneur, founder and president of a non-profit LGBTQ+ organization and co-creator of a successful web series, to name a few accomplishments. Before she began her prolific career, Gagnon was a first-year student at Concordia, surrounded by hundreds of others at her own homecoming.

It was her love for art, coupled with the search for something outside of the small, suburban world that didn’t entirely accept her sexuality, that led Gagnon to move to the big city to study photography at Concordia. She said the experience changed her life before she even stepped foot in a classroom. “I felt like I was in the right place, that people were different and I was fitting in,” she recalled. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I guess it was the right context because I got to try so many things. I partied a lot, and I just met so many interesting people.”

One of those people was filmmaker Chloé Robichaud, who was studying in Concordia’s film production program at the time. “We talked a lot about our coming out, and the context we lived in in Quebec,” said Gagnon. “I come from the suburbs, so my coming out wasn’t the best experience ever, so at the time I felt like I was missing role models and information about what it is to be a lesbian.”

Their conversations turned into brainstorming sessions, and in 2012, they launched Lez Spread the Word (LSTW), an online platform that describes itself as seeking to “gather, inform, and shed more light on the lesbian community in Quebec and elsewhere. As well as offering informative and entertaining content, the site is a resource for women who do not have many references with regard to the lesbian community.”

Lez Spread The Word (LSTW) magazine. Photo courtesy of LSTW.

Only two years later, Robichaud and Gagnon crossed the second item off their project list: a web series by and for lesbians. Féminin/Féminin follows a group of lesbians as their lives intertwine and their stories unfold against the familiar backdrop of Montreal.

“We wanted to create something that we didn’t have at the time [of coming out], and thought we could help people, and also just for us to meet other girls,” said Gagnon. Following its premiere in 2014, Féminin/Féminin received much acclaim, winning the Best Fiction Web Series award at the Gémeaux Awards, and was renewed for a second season.

Keeping up with the momentum of her success, Gagnon spearheaded the launch of the LSTW magazine in 2016. LSTW is now distributed in 17 cities worldwide, with a third issue launching Oct. 23.

Still, with a reach greater than she ever imagined, Gagnon says visibility remains a significant obstacle. “Even now within the LGBTQ movement, it’s difficult to have a place. People think that within this movement [that] we’re all equal, but as women, it’s more difficult than it is for men,” she said, adding that even the use of the word ‘lesbian’ is contested within the community.

“People ask us why we use that word and not queer. At first it was really personal; I was identifying as a lesbian because I didn’t know anything else at the time. But at the same time, I’m happy to honour the past fights of women in the 80s. I think the word is loaded, but for us, we are pretty proud.”

Despite some pushback, Gagnon is optimistic for the future. “Things have changed over the past years. More visibility for the community and just being ‘different’ is celebrated more than it was before.”

Whether English or French speaking, there is visibility and power in numbers. Gagnon hopes people will come out to events like Queer Homecoming and get involved with projects in the community.

“I would love for the francophone and anglophone scene to mix more,” she said. “I think it’s really important—we need more communication. We still have so much to do.”

Feature photo by Saad Al-Hakkak.

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