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Debate over Montreal’s Gay Village name continues: is the word 'gay' inclusive enough?

Last Updated Mar 14, 2021 at 2:27 pm PDT

The art installation know as "18 Shades of Gay," is seen above Ste-Catherine street in Montreal's Gay Village in Montreal on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL (CityNews) — The ongoing conversation over the naming of Montreal’s Gay Village — and whether using the term “gay” is inclusive enough — is getting mixed reactions from the city’s community members.

For decades, Montreal’s Gay Village has been a gathering point for the city’s queer-identifying people.

But now the merchants’ group in the neighbourhood wants to remove the word “gay” from the name in order to be more inclusive.

“On the one hand, I understand why there’s a push not to call it the Gay Village because the word gay is now almost exclusively for gay men and it’s only one word in the LGBTQ acronym,” said journalist and activist Richard Burnett. “But on the flip side, I fear that there’s a de-queering of the gay movement.

“Spaces like the gay village are important and we need to maintain them and we need to support them. And by erasing its identity, it can be a very dangerous thing.”

In a statement to CityNews, the merchants’ group — the Société de développement commercial (SDC) — says it wants the neighbourhood to be known simply as the Village “so that all people in 2SLGBTQ+ communities feel welcome, accepted and respected.”

The group says the results of an ethnographic study revealed its merchants felt they wanted a stronger sense of belonging in the community for all.

“The intention of the SDC is in no way to forget or undermine the contribution of certain communities in the creation and history of the village,” continued the statement. “We are only opening our doors to all the other communities so that the village becomes a safer place for all.”

Many have taken to the group’s Facebook page to praise the motion, saying the term “gay” could discriminate against transgender and two-spirit people.

But some don’t agree with the proposed change at all.

“They aren’t the spokespeople of the community and they don’t have the legitimacy to speak for all the members of the community,” said Pierre-Luc Tremblay, a community member. “They speak for the merchants. And for me it’s a lack of respect towards all the gay and lesbian people who built this neighbourhood, developed it and allowed it to survive and thrive.

“I have seen this division in the past five years. Because what happens is there are new communities who are more marginalized and want to be heard and find their place, but I think the way it’s being done is not the right way.”

For others, changing the name isn’t completely out of the question.

“No one would dream to take China out of Chinatown and Italy out of Little Italy. And I understand the reservations on the word “gay.” So if it were up to me, I would change the name of the Gay Village to the Queer Village,” said Burnett.

“The Gay Village is a safe space. It is an important queer district. It is a safe zone. It is one of the few places where queer people in Montreal, queer Montrealers, can congregate and feel a part of a majority.