Arts Arts and Culture

Má Sài Gòn: Documenting Queer Vietnam

Vietnamese-Quebecois director Khoa Lê’s new documentary highlights queer lives in Saigon.

On Friday, Feb. 2, Cinema du Parc hosted the much-anticipated Montreal premiere of Quebecois director Khoa Lê’s documentary, Má Sài Gòn—which has been making the rounds in film festivals since 2023. Má Sài Gòn, which translates to“Mother Saigon” in Vietnamese, fixes its bold and inquisitive gaze upon Saigon’s queer communities, all while triumphing its subjects in their most mundane acts of courage.

Though not explicitly autobiographical, for Lê, Má Sài Gòn represents a profoundly “personal quest” of reckoning with his conflicted feelings towards Vietnam—a motherland that feels both familiar and foreign, both loving and suffocating. “Should I live again one day, I still want to be your son,” is a refrain that echoes throughout the documentary. 

Having moved from Saigon to Quebec at the age of six, Lê is now a successful queer filmmaker who seeks to explore the imagined, alternative paths he could have lived if he had stayed in Vietnam. “Connecting with that landscape and those people helps me search for the person I could have been,” he said. 

Má Sài Gòn. Photo by Danny Taillon

Indeed, there is an undeniable poetic and surrealistic quality to Má Sài Gòn, especially in its dream-like sequences which feature distorted visions of Vietnamese flora and fauna. Borrowing the naturalistic qualities of cinéma vérité, the loving way that Lê’s camera captures hidden beauty in even the most mundane scenes astounds in its subtlety: the studied, careful peeling of a pomelo, framed with the glow of an afternoon sun; the soft bickering of two husbands snuggled up in the same train cabin; the proud, adoring gaze of a mother watching her son’s drag performance for the very first time. These snippets of everyday life—offering so little yet so much—allow viewers to understand Má Sài Gòn’s protagonists in intimate and unexpected ways.

Mimi Ha, a fellow Vietnamese-Quebecois and recent graduate from UQAM who attended the screening, expressed how moved and excited she was to see more diverse representations of Vietnamese people in a Quebecois-made film: “Vietnamese people and culture is so much more than just the typical immigrant boat people story. It makes me feel good to see that, even in Montreal, we can see another side of Vietnam that no one’s really seen yet.”Lê hopes that his work’s resonance with audiences will open up more opportunities for fellow Vietnamese filmmakers to challenge the white-dominated, homogeneous standard in Quebecois cinema: “That is the engine that motivates me to work harder,” he said.


Beyond mainstream media: how Léo au féminin portrays love realistically

First screening of the mini web-series Léo au féminin

The mini web-series Léo au féminin premiered on Feb. 21 in a full room, brimming with excited people, at La Tulipe on Papineau Ave. The evening was dedicated to featuring the first four episodes of the ten-episode web series. The series centers around the tribulations, anxieties and health concerns of a young CEGEP student named Léo and her friends. 

Co-director and screenwriter Éléonore Delvaux-Beaudoin recounted being inspired by her personal life to create this auto-fiction. She was studying in CEGEP when she  pitched the idea as a short film to her friend and classmate Catherine Quesnel. The pair decided to turn it into a mini web-series, recruiting some of their classmates and friends in the process. 

“We realized the strong link we had while writing,” said Quesnel. “It’s an auto-fiction we wrote together, but it’s mostly based on Éléonore’s life and I really immersed myself in her world.”

Delvaux-Beaudoin shared her experience of living with an invisible disability, something rarely portrayed in cinematography. She has several life-threatening food allergies and shared that, a few years ago, she almost died because of them. 

“Catherine and I also wanted to show the mental pain that comes with these invisible disabilities,” said Delvaux-Beaudoin. “We don’t realize that people with these autoimmune diseases live in a state of constant fear: a fear of eating, touching, sharing, kissing.”

The subject was treated in a subtle way, which captured its complexity with finesse despite the episodes being short. Each episode contains a sequence focused on a meal, showing the anxiety that Léo experiences around food because of her allergies. 

In addition to these explicit scenes, details that seem insignificant at first become more important when we notice the seriousness of the character’s allergies. Examples include when she has to remind her boyfriend to brush his teeth before kissing, or when she scrutinizes food labels.

The series also touches on queer relationships, open and non-monogamous relationships and love in all its forms. After being bombarded with classic rom-coms by Netflix during the Valentine’s Day season, this series created by young people for young people is a breath of fresh air with its very realistic and wholesome portrayal of relationships. 

For co-producer Lu-Sergei Denaud, showing queer relationships and queer joy on screen was an important aim in the production. They pointed out that traditional TV in Quebec rarely portrays queer stories in a good light and that Léo au féminin aimed at showing both the complexity and beauty of queerness.

“I think that this series also serves to show that we are a more open generation, that we are freeing ourselves little by little from the heteronormative confines,” said Denaud. “I find that with Léo au féminin I can finally say, and I hope that our generation will be able to say, ‘finally, I see myself’”.

Despite the fast pace of the mini-series format, the scenes never seem forced. While featuring the usual topics found in coming-of-age dramas, this take on youth felt refreshing. 

Set in Montreal with a cast of CEGEP students and created with a very minimal budget, the series gives a more realistic vision of transition into adulthood without falling into classic tropes of teen movies, all while maintaining a poetic fiber. 

Léo au féminin delves into Gen-Z themes beyond traditional coming-of-age stories. Léo, for instance, spends a whole dinner explaining to an older person what the LGBTQ+ acronym means, has panic attacks in her workplace or even spends $300 to adopt a cat.

The production is now working on finding a platform to host the series which will come out in a few months. You can follow Léo au féminin here.

Queering Montreal’s Map

Video Editor Marie Stow revisits spaces memorialized by Montrealers in the Queering The Map project

Read the story here →

When fashion and music meet queerbaiting

Why I’m critical of Harry Styles’ fashion

At 27-years-old, British singer Harry Styles is already a universally recognized fashion icon. In his post-One Direction career, he adopted a more flamboyant and fashion-forward dress, wearing pink suits, pearls, sheer tops, dangly earrings, nail polish, and high heel boots. He’s earned significant praise for breaking away from the strict (and boring) confines of traditionally masculine clothing. The culmination of Styles’ rejection of toxic masculinity through fashion was in December 2020 when he became the first man to grace the cover of Vogue solo — wearing a Gucci gown.

Others have already pointed out that he isn’t exactly a pioneer; his fashion is inspired by musicians David Bowie and Prince, who were also known for “gender bending” fashion before he was even born. This trio’s fashion isn’t exactly unique or revolutionary either, however. These three are just those who have been uplifted by the industry, and our culture, because they have been deemed more palatable.

Bowie was white, and although Prince was a Black man, for part of his career he was presented as multiracial due to his lighter skin tone, and his role as a biracial musician in Purple Rain. Bowie and Prince flirted with rumours about their sexuality, with Bowie even stating that he was gay and bisexual in the 70s, but both were ultimately presumably straight, as Bowie later said he was “always a closet heterosexual,” while Prince became quite conservative.

Despite this, Prince and David Bowie are widely considered to be gay icons. In contrast, Little Richard, a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer remembered for his “fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona” who inspired Prince and Bowie musically and stylistically, has not been afforded the same status even though he referred to himself as gay and omnisexual throughout his life. Sylvester, an androgynous and openly gay singer best known for his 1978 disco hit (and LGBTQ+ pride anthem) “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” has also been largely forgotten in this discourse.

Styles has kept his sexuality ambiguous. And while I respect his desire to keep certain details private, there is a long history of bisexuality being used by musicians to seem more interesting and transgressive which has ultimately contributed to stigma that continues to surround bisexuality. He’s denied “sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting,” but I’m admittedly a little weary. Even if Styles is queer, right now, his sexual orientation is ambiguous and he’s only ever publicly dated women. This allows him to benefit from queer aesthetics and allows queer people to identify with him, without Styles having to deal with nearly as much homophobia as other entertainers like Lil Nas X or Billy Porter, who also sport very feminine and androgynous fashion on red carpets and are both openly gay men.

Styles’ rise as both a fashion and queer icon shows how, despite more representation and diversity in our media, we haven’t made much progress since the heydays of Bowie and Prince.

Actor and singer Jaden Smith was featured in a womenswear campaign for Louis Vuitton at age 17, wearing a skirt. This made him the first man to model women’s wear for the fashion house. Smith has been wearing outfits similar to Styles for years, once wearing a skirt to his prom and even launching a gender neutral clothing line. But as one Twitter user pointed out in response to someone commenting on Styles’ impact on the fashion industry, “its the way jaden smith has been wearing the outfits harry styles has, but yall called him weird and made fun of him.”

Fashion similar to Styles’ is common among male K-pop idols, who are frequently criticized for “looking like girls” in the West. G-Dragon, a 32-year-old South Korean rapper and the leader of hip hop group Big Bang, has been called “a chameleon who often makes peak-era Lady Gaga seem staid.” Though, for much of his career, G-Dragon has dressed quite traditionally masculine (albeit much more fun and fashionable then the average male celebrity), he’s also been unafraid to wear makeup, heels, skirts, and drop earrings, or sport long hair and look beautiful. He’s gone way beyond anything Styles has ever done in terms of gender-fluid fashion, but in his more toned down moments he’s dressed very similarly to Styles.

Despite this, male K-Pop idols like G-Dragon are not considered queer or fashion icons, and neither is Jaden Smith. While there are other factors besides race or xenophobia at play, it would be irresponsible to totally ignore that.

When it comes to male celebrities — whether we’re talking about Styles, Prince, or Smith — feminine, androgynous, flamboyant fashion is usually exotica. Rarely do they actually dress that way off stage or off the red carpet or magazines. When they dress outside traditional gender roles they do deal with criticism, but they also get attention and praise while regular queer people who dress like that are at risk of violence when they walk down the street. So when our culture puts men like Styles on pedestals, it feels like a way for society to pat itself on the back as super progressive while ignoring the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly queer POC.

I think Styles is helping to make fashion less binary and showing a different type of masculinity, and I’m happy he’s dressing however he likes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical and have an intersectional perspective that helps us realize why his fashion is so hyped up. There is a long history of queer and Black culture being appropriated by privileged white cishet people who are celebrated for these aesthetics. And queer people are often so desperate for representation that they will idolize the crumbs they’re given even when it’s obvious queerbaiting.

So the solution seems simple: you can love and appreciate Styles’ fashion, but make sure you’re uplifting the true pioneers.


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert


On being bisexual

Exploring the issue of bi-erasure

I’ve known I was bisexual since the age of 14. I came out to my friends in high school and was met with mixed responses: I got everything from “that’s awesome,” to “I knew it,” to “well, as long as you don’t fall for me, it’s fine.” The way I came out to my family was during an argument, and I was met with quite a bit of disdain.

When I turned 17, however, I started to feel trapped into picking a different label. Since I knew that people thought my bisexuality was fake, I figured that I could choose to identify as a lesbian instead. The issue was that I knew I liked girls, not just guys, so I chose to identify as a lesbian because it would be easier to explain if I was ever dating a girl. Had I been able to embrace my bisexuality, it would have been less of an issue to bring a girl home.

Nine years later, I am married to a man, and we have a baby. My husband knows I am bisexual, and he accepts that. Yet, in the eyes of many, I am heterosexual. Of course, this is not the case. However, in many ways, I feel I have to justify my sexuality whenever it comes up.

Prior to meeting my husband, when I was in relationships, I would never tell people that I was bisexual. I would avoid my sexuality as a topic because I feared backlash. I even almost tried to not tell my husband, but I knew that was not a good idea. If I wanted the relationship to work, I had to be honest. I knew that in the long run, lying would hurt both of us.

While the person closest to me accepts my sexuality, a lot of people don’t, both in micro and macrospheres of my life. The thing I hear the most is that bisexuality is akin to confusion. It is usually followed by the idea that bisexuals are cowards because they just want to float in the middle. This assumption is so frustrating because it makes bisexuality seem like a copout, and I really don’t think that is true.

My family and I have engaged in many debates about bisexuality. One family member stated that they understood being gay or lesbian, but that being bisexual seemed fake. Again, this pushes forth the idea that bisexuality just doesn’t exist. If I am stating that I feel attraction toward both men and women, I don’t understand why that has to be debated.

There was a time in CEGEP where I was part of an LGBTQ club, and I remember feeling uncomfortable with trying to embrace my sexuality. I would hear comments about how bisexual people had an advantage because the dating pool is doubled compared to other people in the LGBTQ community. It was kind of crazy to me that within a group that was supposed to embrace different sexualities, I felt so ostracized.

I have dated women in the past who have said they could never date a bisexual person, and I felt like such a fraud. I would go along with the sentiment, and act like I wouldn’t date a bisexual person either. In retrospect, I realize that the issue was with the girls I was dating, and not with me.

Honestly, I find that my battle with the acceptance of bisexuality has been a bumpy one. In many ways, I know that some people are probably pleased with the fact that I am with a man and not a woman. Part of the reason for this is because it is deemed “easier” in society to be in a heterosexual relationship. Also, for many of my family members, biological children are a staple, and it was less difficult for me to have a child because I am with a man. Growing up in a primarily Italian household, heterosexuality is the norm, and by being with my husband, I am fitting the mould of being an Italian woman.  I also know that there are people who are upset that I, supposedly, chose to be with a man over a woman, because it comes across as me choosing heterosexuality.

I am frustrated with the lack of recognition of bisexuality as a legitimate sexuality. As someone who uses this label, I know it is real. The notion that bisexual people are taking the easy route is detrimental to our mental health, especially when it comes from people in the LGBTQ community. There needs to be an acknowledgment that my sexual orientation is real, and that everyone who is bisexual is valid.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Queer spaces and their beauties

Why I feel safer in spaces dubbed as “queer”

I am grumbling and cursing in multiple languages as I make my way to La Sala Rossa on St. Laurent Blvd.

Where the flipping hell is this place?

I spot a few people smoking outside what could be the place I was searching for.

“Excuse me,” I calmly called.

“Yes, honey boo-boo?” one of them said, cheekily.

“Do you know where I could find La Sala Rossa?” I asked, a small smile playing on the corners of my mouth.

“It’s over here, baby girl! And let me just say, your eyeliner could kill a man! Work it, girl!” another one said.

I find myself smiling even wider. What a wonderful way to say hello. Suddenly, my mood is elevated. I stay outside for a while, sharing a smoke with this group of wonderful people before walking into La Sala Rossa, where the Massimadi’s Launch Soirée for the 12th Afro LGBTQ+ Film & Arts Fest was happening, Bo Johnson ready to take the stage.

Bo Johnson. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I did not expect to feel so loved and accepted in a place where I knew no one.

“Non à la discrimination!,” someone on stage yelled. That seemed to be the founding theme the night. Everywhere I turned, people of all shapes, sizes, colours and genders were socializing with each other.

“Condoms? Can’t be too safe! Take ‘em, they’re free,” a person shouted at me over the music, with a big smile on their face.

I laughed wholeheartedly—and I was even more impressed by the fact that I didn’t feel uneasy at their comment. It was almost like they were offering me gum. It was that normalized.

Afro-beats and soulful music galore, la Sala Rossa was booming with love that night. And I think it is because it was a celebration of queerness and love.

I find that whenever I am in a space where queerness is not accepted, or is, but minorities aren’t, I feel uneasy and weird, as if I don’t belong.

But whenever a place is dubbed “queer,” I feel relieved. I feel safe. As if anyone and anything is accepted. And I believe this is why it is important to preserve these spaces, and not only that, but advertise them constantly. There is no better feeling than complete acceptance from the other, whether you are a person of colour, of a different religion, queer or straight. Everyone should adopt Lady Gaga’s philosophy!


The 12th edition of Massimadi, Montreal’s Afro LGBTQ+ film and arts festival is taking place now until Feb. 29. With panels, film screenings and dance parties, the festival celebrates local and international afroqueer artists and personalities, closing off with an extra-special dance party for Nuit Blanche.

Feb. 25

Massimadi: Virtual Reality, presented in collaboration with the McCord Museum and Gris Montreal, “Another Dream brings the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple to life. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands.” Experience afrofuturism at its most risqué. 


McCord Museum

Alternating times, for more information visit 

Feb. 26

Massimadi x Cinema Moderne screening of two films, Fabulous, directed by Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Badassery, directed by Sarafina McIntosh and Sunita Miya-Muganza, with special vogueing-guest, Lasseindra Ninja.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

Cinema Moderne 

7 p.m. 

Feb. 27 

Massimadi x Initiative for Indigenous Futures x AbTeC: Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace Panel: Intersections in Futurity, with Quentin VerCetty, Dayna Danger and Maize Longboat, moderated by Anastasia Erickson. Where Afrofuturist and Indigenous Futurist creators meet.


EV 11.705

6 p.m. 

Feb. 28 

Massimadi presents, Transfuturisk: two more film screenings, Negrum3 (Blackn3ss) and Transfinite, followed by a panel discussion on Afrofuturism as an Artistic Process, with Concordia Simone de Beauvoir Institute alum, artist, writer and creative director, Nènè Myriam Konaté.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

McCord Museum

7 p.m. 

Feb. 29 

Tour exhibition, A Hazy Collision at Never Apart with local artist Gaëlle Elma. 


Never Apart, 7049 rue Saint-Urbain

2 p.m. 

Feb. 29

Nuit Blanche closing party with Backxwash and PureMulaTo. 


La Sala Rossa, 4848 blvd Saint-Laurent 

10:30 p.m.


Feature photo by Owllix. Massimadi Opening Collection by Kevin Calixte.


Queerement Quebec: Young queer stories at Image+Nation

Concordia students were particularly well represented at Queerement Quebec

Queerement Quebec is always a favourite among the public of Image+Nation. The Montreal LGBTQ+ film festival has been organizing the Quebec short film night for 19 years now. This year’s edition was held at the Phi Centre, on Nov. 26.

Out of the eight filmmakers who presented their work that evening, six were Concordia students or alumnae.

“Thank you, Concordia,” said Charlie Boudreau, the director of the festival. “Every year this school produces great filmmakers who end up having a well-deserved place either here at Image+Nation, or in the wider Montreal festival circuit.”

Boudreau mentioned that Image+Nation received four times more submissions than the number of films they were able to show at Queerement Quebec. “This proves that Quebec cinema is very much alive, and that every year there are new queer voices which we try to put out there,” she said.

The last film of the evening, Delphine, by Chloé Robichaud, was probably the best directed. Ever since Robichaud graduated from Concordia 10 years ago in film production, she has become one of the most prominent queer directors in contemporary Quebec cinema, having directed two feature films and many television series episodes, in French and English.

Her last picture won the best short film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this year. Inspired by the play Delphine de Ville Saint-Laurent, it tells the story of Delphine, a Lebanese immigrant who arrives in Quebec at 10 years old. She starts going to a Montreal elementary school, very shy, not knowing a word of French. Her difficulties are told through the narration of Nicole, a classmate, who seems more at ease with her environment. The last scenes of Robichaud’s short, situate her characters years later, in high school, where Delphine appears as a changed girl, fearless, almost aggressive, as she begins to have to embrace her homosexuality.

“It is one of those films which are queer and feel queer, but don’t explicitly mention their characters’ sexuality, and rather let them be,” said Robichaud. 

As the director stood on the Phi Centre stage to talk about her film, she also talked to Zachary Ayotte, who is currently studying at Concordia, and also presented a film that evening.

The two generations of Concordia filmmakers presented very different pictures. Mon père travaille de nuit is Ayotte’s very first film. He made it two years ago in a film production class. While it was not made to be a comedy, it was the funniest film of the selection. Depicting a teenage boy’s strange relationship with a fellow student whom he meets in swim practice, it was awkward yet very entertaining. Ayotte showed skillful cinematography, considering that it was his first attempt at filmmaking.

“I learned so much in the process of making this film,” said the young director. “I am also very moved by the reaction of the audience tonight, I never would have thought such a personal story could have an impact.” Ayotte said his main character’s experience of sexual discovery had been inspired by his own, a few years back.

While this year’s selection didn’t always showcase the best quality films, compared to last year, for example, it still felt important. Not only did it represent the first film festival experience to many of the feature filmmakers, it also gave the Montreal public the chance to see how the young are portraying queer issues and relationships on screen


Image+Nation brings new voices of queer cinema to Montreal

The LGBTQ+ festival stands out with its quality Canadian and Latinx programming

Turning 32 this month, Image+Nation is the oldest still-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada. Every year, they aim to explore new themes and ways of filming queer stories.

This year’s edition marks a special turn. They brought back their animation film selection after 10 years of absence, added a selection of Canadian short films, and put forward nine Latinx feature films – the most they have ever had.

“These are all films that center on self-acceptance,” said Kat Setzer, the programming director.

In today’s context of diversity and inclusion in cinema, one could think that a queer film festival in Montreal would have lost its necessity, political power and relevance. Charlie Boudreau, the director of Image+Nation, defended her festival at the opening night on Thursday Nov. 21. She said that this year’s films bring to Montreal exclusive screenings that embody the constant evolution of queer cinema, putting forward new directors, new parts of the world and new issues.

In that regard, Image+Nation helps redefine queerness and its relationship to national cinemas and their political ramifications.

For its opening weekend, it brought to the forefront surprisingly high-quality filmmaking.

And then we danced marked the opening ceremony last Thursday.

“This film is my love letter to Georgia,” said director Levan Akin, in a video directed to the Montreal public prior to the screening. It was shown in a Montreal theatre for the second time after its Quebec premiere at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC).

The Swedish-Georgian film depicts the love affair of Merab, a dancer training in the National Georgian Ensemble, with a new rival in the team, Irakli. In a conservative Georgia and dancing ensemble, where masculinity is “the essence” of the dance, their relationship is fraught and forbidden. Their love is subtly and gently told, mostly unsaid but very much felt.

Filled with enticing Georgian music, warm golden lighting throughout the film, and dynamic choreography, it was a wise choice for the opening of Image+Nation.

And then we danced also very much connects with the political relevance of such a festival. When it premiered in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on Nov. 8, it was welcomed by hundreds of anti-LGBT protesters, blocking the entrance to the film. Despite the scandal forcing Georgian theatres to stop showing the film after three days, it still sold an estimated 6,000 tickets.

Proving the necessity of queer storytelling worldwide, And then we danced was well received by both the public and critics, and deserved the spotlight.

Adding to the films that kicked off the festival, This is not Berlin and José, presented one after the other at l’Impérial on Friday Nov. 22, were particularly good. They were both part of the Latinx programming of the festival.

“This is one is superb, one of my top five of this year,” said Setzer, when talking about the Mexican feature film This is not Berlin.


Directed by Hari Sama, it tells the story of two high-school students as they dive deep into the Mexican underground punk arts scene. Because, as the title says, this is not Berlin, things get complicated when they try to make art and fall in love the way they want.

José, by Li Cheng, was probably the best film of the entire weekend and the most underrated. It was the first Guatemaltecan movie in the history of Image+Nation and turned out to be a naturalistic and poetic gem. Unlike many movies that tackle the hookup culture among some modern gay men, this film avoids clichés and touches people with its beautiful yet believable and relatable love story. It has to have more screenings in Montreal, or at least be available to stream in Canada.

With even more events coming in the course of this week, including short film programs of Quebec and Canadian films, as well as documentaries about LGBTQ+ issues and award-winning feature films, Montreal has not seen the last of Image+Nation this year.

The Concordian will follow their activities and review some of their featured films next week.

For more information about the festival’s history and programming, visit


Miley, did Louanne take your place again?

There are times when people go through personal experiences, and an impulse takes them to share it with their entourage.

Private people like to keep it in their circles. Some seek professional help if the experience was traumatic. Writers bleed onto paper, journalists publish columns, and philosophers pass them on as social theories.

Public figures take it to their social platforms.

In some cases, the latter deems it fit to impart wisdom after a personal epiphany and claim to have life altogether figured out. Amongst those people is Miley Cyrus.

I grew up obsessively watching Hannah Montana. I remained a loyal fan when the media published stories of a Disney girl gone wild and borderline insane in 2013.

“She’s just doing her own thing after Disney screwed with her identity for a decade,” I would say. “Leave her alone.”

But the little self-revelatory moment she shared on her Instagram story a few weeks ago made me lose all respect for her.

“I was just being like, I don’t know, hardcore feminist vibes and just not allowing anyone in, but now I am,” she claimed in an Instagram live with her new boyfriend, Cody Simpson. “There are good men out there guys, don’t give up. You don’t have to be gay, there are good people with dicks out there, you just gotta find them. You gotta find a dick that’s not a dick, you know what I mean?”

For someone who has spent the last decade honing an image of herself as a queer woman, Cyrus sounds pretty damn ignorant. Using pure homophobic lingo that has been directed towards lesbians for years on end, she completely dismisses the fact that attraction to the same sex is not a choice and is completely natural. Moreover, she further feeds into this “man-hating” image feminists are still trying desperately to debunk, by using her innate hatred over her previous partner and projecting it everywhere.

(Kindly read this in a mocking tone, if you please.)

“I know, I always thought I had to be gay, because I just thought like, all guys were evil, but it’s not true. There are good people out there that happen to have dicks,” she said, “I only ever met one, and he’s on this live.”

Listen, Miley, honey.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had horrible experiences with men, and sworn them off for good, jokingly saying we should just “turn gay.” We’ve all projected and manifested anger because our past relationships have been unfulfilling, toxic, and terrible. Most of us have the luxury to not be public figures, and say them on a fun night out with close friends. But neither are right. Especially not from a person who has been so vocal about LGBTQ+ rights and identifies as queer. Especially not when people from this community are, to this day, being persecuted for who they love, or when queerness is still put into question. Especially not when so many outlets out there have the ability to educate you on this matter.

Part of me understands where she is coming from. Getting out of a tumultuous 10-year relationship with, I guess, “an evil guy” can be tough. And when you find someone who is able to fix those broken pieces, it takes all your might not to shout it to the world and show it off.

And all of that is allowed.

What isn’t allowed  is to further sexist and homophobic discourses that have always been targeted at queer women. Love who you want to love, but don’t claim to have found all the answers just because, to quote you, “there are good dicks out there.”


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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.


Delving into queer experiences

Dane Stewart debuts a self-written, directed and produced endeavour

While reflecting on the intent behind writing his newest theatrical piece, Dane Stewart expressed that he wanted “to combine Foucauldian, feminist, queer theorists and their texts with lived experiences of people in Montreal.”

As one of Concordia’s recent graduates of the individualized master’s program, Stewart is set to debut his play at the MainLine Theatre on Sept. 21. The production, titled The History of Sexuality, explores themes of power, sex and queerness in the context of student life in Montreal. The plot follows five graduate students who are enrolled in a seminar studying the philosophy of French intellectual Michel Foucault. Stewart said he had studied Foucault’s work at Concordia himself and became particularly inspired by the philosopher’s book, also titled The History of Sexuality.

Foucault’s philosophy, along with a number of theatrical pieces using a technique called verbatim theatre prompted Stewart to start writing his own play. Verbatim theatre involves the playwright conducting a series of interviews, transcribing the interviews and using the direct quotes to script the play. So, as Stewart explained, the actors in a verbatim theatre piece would speak the words of the interviewees.

Dane Stewart wrote the play as part of his thesis for his master’s degree. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Typically, this method is used in documentary-style plays so actors portray the real-life people whose words they are speaking. Stewart, however, decided to use the verbatim theatre technique in order to adapt real-life experiences into the lives of fictional characters. He conducted interviews with several people within Montreal’s queer community about their experiences. Then, Stewart extracted sections of these interviews to be spoken by the characters in his play. By doing so, the playwright added, he was able to include a variety of perspectives outside of his own without needing to speak for anyone.

Stewart called this technique “fictionalized verbatim theatre,” although he recognizes that he may not be the only playwright using it. He developed this method while working on his thesis for his master’s degree, and received a grant from CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) to further improve it himself. The grant allowed him and his team to hold workshops in order to explore and develop this writing technique. With this help, they were able to write several drafts and spend time perfecting Stewart’s work.

After finishing his thesis and graduating from the master’s program where he studied theatre, communications, and gender and sexuality studies through an interdisciplinary program, Stewart began working towards showing his play at the MainLine Theatre. He worked alongside Michelle Soicher, a fourth-year undergraduate theatre student who took on the role of assistant director and stage manager to gain experience as well as academic credits.

“Queerness, non-normative sexual identity and sexual practice have been a big part of my life. It’s also been a very challenging part at times,” Stewart said.

Although drawing upon his own experience as someone who identifies as queer was extremely useful, Stewart said he wanted to capture the realities of other people in Montreal’s queer community as well. Through conducting a number of interviews and refining his writing technique with the workshops funded by CALQ, Stewart is finally left with a piece that he said he believes tells the stories of the individuals featured “very well.”

The playwright also recognized that the stories explored in his play are just a small portion of the diverse experiences that make up the queer community as a whole. He added, “I also am a believer in intersectionality and striving—as someone who takes up a lot of space or has the capacity to take up a lot of space in life and in society—to subscribe to the mandate of ‘take space to make space.’”

According to Stewart, The History of Sexuality is very much based in reality. The setting is a replication of what attending graduate school in Montreal is like today. It was important to Stewart to not only acknowledge the diversity within the queer community in Montreal, but also to represent the characters in his play as real people living real lives.

“One of my goals with the piece,” he said, “is to present queerness—to present non-normative sexual practices, sexual identities and expressions of gender—as just intimate and honest and real.”

“A lot of media and a lot of art that’s surrounding queerness and queer sexualities and genders these days, I feel is quite sensational,” he added. “[The characters in the play] are just people going through their daily lives. I think it’s important for us to see that.”

The History of Sexuality will be playing at the MainLine Theatre, at 3997 Boul. St-Laurent, from Sept. 21 to 30. Showtime is at 8 p.m. with additional showings at 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 and 30. Tickets are available through the Facebook event and the MainLine Theatre’s website. Prices can vary depending on your financial situation.

Feature photo courtesy of Erika Rosenbaum Photography


If being queer is the punchline, then we’re not laughing

Firstly, I cannot believe we are still talking about this.

On Sept. 24, a teacher in British Columbia wrote “I’m gay, LOL” on a sticker and stuck it on a student’s back. A witness said that they “didn’t think anything of it” because “we always mess around with the teacher and he messes back … he’s friendly.” Thankfully, despite his supposedly friendly nature, he was suspended by his school board – only for another to pick him up, across the provincial line in Alberta.

How I wish this was the only incident, but this past summer, a teenager  working at a fast food restaurant in South Dakota was forced to wear a nametag that read “GAYTARD” in front of customers. The manager assured the media that the incident was blown out of proportion and that “they were all joking around” and that the boy “wanted a nickname. [Gaytard is] what he picked for a nickname,” according to CBC News.

It is so, so easy to hide behind the defense of ‘joking around.’ Starting in elementary school, playful camaraderie is the number one defense for poor behaviour. You were able to push someone down, grind their face into the dirt, do god knows what, and it was okay because you were “just playing.”

So, to those who think this is just a joke, I will explain to you a concept most five-year-olds are able to comprehend: it’s not playing if not everyone is having fun.

Tyler Brandt was forced to wear a nametag that read ‘gaytard’ while working at Taco John’s in Yankton, South Dakota. Brandt quit the day after, and has filed a discrimination charge with the South Dakota Department of Labor. (Source: ACLU)

According to witness accounts in the B.C. case, the student was not only visibly upset, but was being pointed at, laughed at, and had pictures taken of him until he finally left the room. In South Dakota, the teenager quit the very next day, and has filed a charge of discrimination with the South Dakota Department of Labor. Do those sound like the actions of people who were in on the joke?

This is simply bullying. Horrible, discriminatory bullying – and I cannot believe that we, as a society, still need articles written explaining why this isn’t okay.

I have seen comments online saying that these cases are not discriminatory at all, because the term gay isn’t an insult anymore. Of course, no one should be ashamed of being gay (or anywhere on the queer spectrum). But these kinds of “jokes” reinforce the idea that being gay is something to be ridiculed. You wouldn’t write “I’m left-handed, LOL” and slap it on someone’s back for a joke, because there is nothing abnormal or demeaning about being left-handed.

Behaviour like this is especially dehumanizing if the people in question are in some way queer. It reconfirms their darkest fears: that if they come out, they are different – something to be ostracized and ridiculed.

If they are queer, do they deserve to be outed by a teacher who needs validation from teenagers to show that he’s “cool?” Would you want the fact that you’re gay publicly announced every time you have to do your job? Of course not.

This goes out to the people who use derogatory language as “jokes,” too. If you say “that’s so gay,” or use a certain F-word to refer to someone who may or may not be queer, then you are part of the problem. I do not care if your one gay friend said it’s okay. Words carry meaning, and every time you use that language, you reaffirm being queer as negative trait. You validate those who truly do believe that being queer is something worthy of shame.

Simply put, you are no better than either of these men. Period.

And if you think the struggles of today’s queer community are a joke, then guess what:

No one’s laughing.

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