Queering Montreal’s Map

Interactive database Queering the Map reveals the queer experiences that are everpresent yet invisible in the physical world

In May of 2017, Lucas LaRochelle launched Queering the Map, a crowdsourced digital archive for queer experiences, which now features over 20,000 written entries from around the world. 

The idea for Queering the Map came to LaRochelle while passing a tree where they had met and shared numerous experiences with a long-term partner. Reflecting on their own mental map and queer experiences led to the concept of a database where anyone could anonymously share their own experiences with a pin on the space where they’ve occurred. “The aim of the project is to make legible memories, histories and moments of queerness that would otherwise disappear,” said LaRochelle to CBC Arts in 2018. 

Submissions are entered as pins on the map and comprise feelings, events and stories. Ranging from love, sex, heartbreak, and happiness they reveal an honest image of queerness relative to the physical spaces it occupies. “Our first date. We talked for hours and you kissed me outside my apartment. 2 years later and I still think about you” shares a submission pinned in the Plateau-Mont-Royal. In February 2018, engagement shot up after the map went viral on Facebook, sparking growth from around 660 pins to 6,500 pins in just three days and garnering attention worldwide.

During their time as a resident of the Fine Arts Reading Room (FARR) at Concordia in Design and Computational Arts, LaRochelle created the map with a little help from friends and tech consulting from the FARR Lab. LaRochelle noted, “I was primarily inspired by Tumblr in the early 2010s, which is one of the places where I for the first time saw queer and trans people expressing themselves on their own terms vis-a-vis text and image.” For LaRochelle and those they connected with online, anonymity helped form the digital landscape into a place where identity and queerness could exist at ease and as intended by each user. Anonymous submissions on Queering the Map serve to mirror the positive effect a platform which universalizes user presentation has had for online queer community.

After five years online LaRochelle is seeing how a queer approach to space develops after its first steps and successes. With the project’s expansion to the global scale, it must reckon with how the growth of the space we inhabit conflicts with a core facet of the Map: the intersection between queer liberation and decolonization. 

Its moderation system, which vets submissions for hate speech, spam, and personal information shows where they must adapt, given how moderation is currently based in Montréal but overlooks entries coming from global, specifically non-Western, perspectives. 

“Rather than myself and most of my friends [who do the moderation] who are located in the western context, a better moderation system would be moderated by people who have more knowledge of that specific culture and context,” said LaRochelle, referring to a localized moderation system across geographic regions.

Queering the Map has since used event opportunities to explore the project’s themes and questions in a concrete space. In 2019, Concordia’s 4TH SPACE hosted Queering the Map: On_Site, a public exhibition which sought to embody how it’s themes interact in a complex way when brought off the digital platform. The collaborative event held curated workshops and performances including digital self-defense for marginalized communities, a latin dance partner class, counter-cartography through beadwork, self-reflection through hip hop, and mapping desire through movement.

With potential for a podcast and docu-series, there is much on the horizon for Queering the Map. Still, it’s impact in the past five years can be seen on the site itself across the thousands of heartfelt contributions which connect the queer community across the map.

Check it out or submit your own queer experiences at


The trans community strongly responds to oppose Bill 2

Concordia University Television (CUTV) hosts trans-advocate Celeste Trianon to speak on Bill 2

The Quebec National Assembly tabled Bill 2 on Thursday, Oct. 21, which has been cited as one of the most regressive trans-rights bills in Quebec’s history. Bill 2 would see that only transgender people who undergo gender-affirming surgery can successfully request an official sex change on their birth certificate.

The inability to represent yourself legally as the gender with which you identify is extremely limiting for trans people. Simple tasks like preparing a CV or cashing a cheque with your preferred name become much harder.

Under the new bill gender reaffirming surgery will be required for anyone to change their sex on legal documents, a surgery that results in infertility. The policy effectively forces sterilization upon anyone who wants to be legally recognized by the gender with which they identify on their legal documents. It would also forcibly out trans people and strip them of safety.

The trans community and advocates throughout the province have responded en masse to the discriminatory policy proposed by Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.

Concordia University Television (CUTV) held a press conference in conjunction with the premiere of their new documentary on trans rights in Quebec, featuring trans-rights activist Celeste Trianon, an educator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“Let’s just say this bill is an enormous regression and the most transphobic bill of not just Quebec but Canada as a whole. It is truly the most regressive bill in the entire country,” said Trianon.

The regressive nature of Bill 2 has led to many pointing out the province’s failure to address gender issues compared to other provinces, but this has not always been the case.

“Actually Quebec once upon a time was ahead, the ability for trans people to change their gender marker was first introduced in 1978, albeit with lots of requirements, of course. And trans people have been protected from discrimination on the basis of sex since 1998. So there have been lots of advances both at the legal and judicial levels a long time ago, but in recent years Quebec has really fallen behind,” said Trianon.

The Quebec government wants to make up for the loss of the ability for trans people to legally change their documents with the addition of a new gender identity marker.

“This gender identity marker is separate from the sex designation and will effectively serve as a way to separate trans people from their cisgender counterparts. By separating [them], this makes trans people extremely vulnerable, extremely seen,” said Trianon.

“Fighting for trans rights is broader trans inclusion in society which necessarily involves not being as visibly trans, but this trans identity marker will make them extremely visible.”

The response to Bill 2 has been “overwhelmingly and unanimously negative” from the trans community, according to Trianon. Protests have already taken place and a legally-binding petition was filed by Trianon on Oct. 26 in order to give Quebec citizens and residents a clear pathway to participate in the legal system in the fight against Bill 2. Efforts have been made to contact lawmakers by phone and email to make them aware of the transphobic nature of the bill. Quebec Solidaire works closely with the Centre for Gender Advocacy and has opposed the bill along with some Quebec liberals.

When it comes to other levels of government within Canada, Trianon said “There have been a lot of informal responses, but there hasn’t been anything official yet. But the trans community can only hope that there is official involvement.”

In the meantime, there is still hope for those who want to fight against Bill 2.

“There are so many things you can do. A few things that have happened already are grassroots activism. Protests have been planned as little as three or four days after the bill was introduced […] You can always join in with them. Additionally, you can always donate funds to organizations fighting for trans rights.”

Some popular organizations which take donations are Project 10, Gris Montreal and the Montreal LGBTQ+ community centre.

“You can sign the legally-binding petition as soon as it is made available. You can also call your lawmakers to tell them directly this bill is wrong, tell them we won’t accept transphobia and interphobia in modern 21st-century society,” said Trianon.

You can learn more about the fight against gender oppression at the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s web page, and watch CUTV’s documentary on the evolution of trans rights here.


Photograph by Evan Lindsay

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