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Montréal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia

May 6, 2012

Walk into any gay village or neighbourhood, and you will probably have seen them all. At least in Montreal and Toronto, the formula is pretty consistent. There’s one street just off the downtown that is full of boring bars, clubs, clothing shops, saunas and sex boutiques. The last two are obvious essential services, sex being something queers do best. The different ways we have come up with negotiating sex and having it safely, not to mention our creativity when it comes to finding different ways of getting each other off, these are some of our greatest contributions to the rest of the world. Having at least a century and possible millennia of having to hide who and how we love, it would seem, has turned us into reluctant experts. And so we internalize this hyper-sexuality, making it the center piece of neighbourhoods that could otherwise reflect the cultural diversity, creativity, caring and everything else that we bring to the table.

Luckily in Toronto, we have the the 519 Church Street Community Centre. Located towards the northern tip of the village, it serves as a very accessible drop-in space and infodesk for queers seeking access to resources like counselling, immigration assistance, childcare and self-defence classes. While there might not be a comparable venue in Montreal, CJMLH/MYCAH (la Coalition jeunesse montréalaise de lutte à l’homophobie/ Montréal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia) is working on it. After years in the planning, MYCAH is poised to open a youth-focused community centre in le Village as soon as this summer. Along with sister-projects P10 and Jeunesse Lambda (possibly Ethnoculture as well), they hope to provide a “safer space” for young people to participate in the village life away from overzealous police, over-confident gay men and over-priced everything else.

At the same time, says Bruno Laprade, they are trying to work with business owners and patrons in the village so sensitize them to the needs and realities of queer youth. Between 25 and 40 percent of homeless youth are queer and/or trans, according to Alex Abramovich, meaning that any measures taken against people who spend time on the streets is largely going to hurt queer youth. The “not in my neighbourhood” mentality often involves business associations pushing for crackdowns on street-workers and panhandlers, According to Bruno, the typical response to poor kids hanging out is even prevalent in the village, where “people who own shops want police on every corner.” Keeping the “gay village” responsible to the “gay community” is important work, not only to the integrity of queer politics but also because of its potential for coalition building. Anti-gentrification, anti-police brutality and poverty activists should likewise see this an opportunity.

MYCAH’s past work includes a zine and corresponding DVD for queer and queerious students at the province’s universities and CEGEPs (post-secondary school between grade 11 and university). Called Plan Q, it includes sections on the fight against discrimination, sexual diversity, sexuality (the how-to on masturbation is not to be missed) and the essential strategy chapter. This chapter includes a very nuanced break-down of the “safer space” concept. It clearly distances the notion from statist security notions that complete safety is possible or desirable, while at the same time stressing the importance of creating spaces and cultures that are inclusive and accessible. This is especially relevant for communities with experiences of trauma and exclusion. Available in .pdf format (French-only) at www.sexualitesetudiantes.info.

Please check out the next issue of Filth for part 2 of my interview with Bruno about his work at P10!

To get involved:
This is for your handy homos out there. With MYCAH in the middle of their big move, they are mostly looking for people to help set up the new space. Know how to hammer a nail? Compare swatches? Organize a room to within an inch of its life? Drop them at president@coalitionjeunesse.org

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