0. 2/20/2012 - Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 - Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
Photos by my former roommate Jessica Levy, who has great legs
I envision Montréal as some sexy androgyne character with a sweet moustache and a pair of lacy panties; its decidedly seedy underbelly is dressed up in a chichi couture suit, and it's wearing vintage brown lace-up boots.
Bienvenue à la belle ville, home to a diverse mélange of people who share French as the lingua franca** (with English used by a sizable minority). Full-contact strip clubs are nestled between office buildings and shopping centers. It's bitterly cold and snowy in the winter and savagely hot and humid in the summer (ever walked around under someone's tongue? Ever wanted to? Just visit Montréal in late July). The city on the surface is only part of the show – there's a whole ville souterraine to explore once the weather has kicked your ass.
The alternative crowd has a magnetic attraction to Québec's sin city and its sea of underground culture and cutting edge art. It's also one of the more tolerant and homo-friendly spots on earth, and its population is legendarily good-looking. (Coincidence? I think not) PS... Montrealers throw damn good parties. If you're invited, don't forget that beer o'clock is 11 PM (but most bars don't close until 3 AM).
**Some of the resources here are only available in French. Wherever possible, I've linked to a bilingual or English webpages. Although most Montrealers are at least functionally French-English bilingual (many are fluent in both, and many are trilingual), if you're in town, seriously try to use your French! It's the official language. Your accent is hot, I promise.
High Priority Information: The Lesbian/Queer Bars
Le Drugstore (1366, rue Ste-Catherine Est)
Drugstore is a giant gay pub-club-situation on a whole bunch of levels with various patios and occasional roof-top wrestling in a kiddie pool. It's known as a lesbian bar but it's really an all-encompassing "we're queer and we have nowhere better to go on a Saturday night" bar. It does cater to the ladies, however, and during Pride many of the big events for the girls will be held here. There are pool tables and video poker machines and they serve fries from a fancy new kitchen.
Club Unity (1171, rue Ste-Catherine Est)
Sky (1474, rue Ste-Catherine Est)
These are the two wooooooo-let's-do-shooters-of-something-neon!-gay clubs. Unity often has international DJs and special events. Sky has a downstairs pub and a few different rooms to dance to different drum machines and mingle with different crowds. Everyone is welcome: boys, girls, trans*, cis, queer, straight, and anybody in between. I think I like Sky more, but Unity follows me on Twitter, so it's a toss up.
Royal Phoenix (5788, boul St-Laurent)
The first officially queer bar outside of the Gay Village, it's a non-stop party with DJs, live bands, and special events. They've got a lot of potential (and gender neutral bathrooms) but the bar service is sometimes so slow that you leave or you get over yourself and just have to dance sober (and thirsty).
Queer-Friendly Bars That Aren't Necessarily Queer Bars
Bar Waverly (5550, boul St-Laurent). Waverly has a bustling, hipster-chic urban vibe. Impromptu dancing might spontaneously occur between female-bodied individuals with alternative lifestyle haircuts. Also, this is where people find themselves if they get impatient waiting for a drink at the Royal Phoenix.
Le Belmont (4483, boul St-Laurent) is often partying down with DJs spinning drum n bass or dubstep. I'm not going to pretend I like dubstep, but you go right ahead. The place itself has a good vibe.
Cabaret Playhouse (5656, av du Parc) is the home to queer dance parties called Faggity-Ass Fridays. You can't really host an event with this name without being faggitydyke friendly, can you?
Salon Officiel (351, rue Roy Est). This spicy little rock bar hosts a loud and sexy ladies night - Amène Ta Blonde. The crowd is tattooed and cooler-than-thou, the music is usually good, the service is normally fast.
Else's (156, rue Roy Est). With a cheap menu of decent bar snacks, a manageable drink list, a dimly lit kitschy interior, and good music all night, Else's is a gem barely off the beaten path between St-Laurent and St-Denis. Everybody "in the know" loves this sweet little pub (it's always bustling but never uncomfortably packed) and it's definitely a fun place to bring a girl for a brew and a bite. Chances of running into your ex girlfriend: slim to none.
Popular Restos and Cafés
Le Cagibi (5490, boul St-Laurent) is a super cute, crowded but cozy café in the Mile-End staffed by tattooed indie rockers. They host nifty events, serve good coffee and tea, and yes, you can totally get a beer (as long as you eat something). Great spot for reading a book or accidentally spilling something all over someone you wish you had an excuse to talk to.
Aux Vivres (4361, boul St-Laurent). This colourful vegan resto has great food and they're super allergy conscious. They deliver. YAY.
Shaika Café (5526, rue Sherbrooke Ouest). Way out (ha!) in NDG, this is where to find the queer Concordia students who live west-of-downtown. With good coffee, veg friendly grub, and – yes, again – beer, Shaika hosts lots of open mic nights (with some genuinely talented people) and some rad live music. Cue the fiddles.
Le Club Sandwich (1570, rue Ste-Catherine Est). After those late nights clubbing or drinking or a booty call in the Village, you probably need a poutine (look it up). Or a club sandwich. Or a Coca-Cola from a little glass bottle. This place is always open, the food doesn't suck, and the people watching is diviiiinnnnnee. 110% queer and trans* friendly.
Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa (4873 and 4848, boul St-Laurent). Casa does vegetarian food, lots of live music, and cool art/film/spoken-word stuff. Sala Rossa does Spanish food, live music, and Meow Mix!
Amène Ta Blonde at Salon Officiel.
Amène ta blonde means bring your girlfriend. It's probably best you don't bring your girlfriend to this monthly soirée for ladies who love ladies, because someone will definitely make a pass at you while you're waiting in the tiny bathroom, and the girls in attendance tend to be hot and... well. It's just not a girlfriend kind of night.
The website isn't always super updated but you can check out the event listings in the free alternative newsweekly, the Montréal Mirror. Meow Mix is a monthly party for queer chicks and those who like to go out on the town with them. They do drag shows, burlesque, dances-- you know. The good stuff. Normally at Sala Rossa.
Faggity-Ass Fridays at the Playhouse.
A queer/trans* dance your pants off party, sometimes literally.
Tease is a slick, ladies-only hip-hop & house dance party that takes over various clubs throughout the year. It's not cheap but they often have awesome deals for all-you-can-drink. It's mostly girls in their 20s, but there are always older lesbians and some of the young'uns too (the drinking age is 18 in Québec).
Fierté Montréal Pride
FACT: Montréal Pride = awesome.
The whole city gets even gayer, if you can imagine. Spend the weekend checking out queer-centered art exhibits, buying cool boxers from obscenely handsome gay men and collecting free condoms (safer strap-on sex FTW) on Ste-Catherine Street, and hitting up some of the zillions of dance parties that take place over the weekend. On Sunday, get a big drunch (drunkbrunch, in case this special word is unfamiliar) with your most homotastic pals, grab some plastic cups and pretend you're drinking apple juice, and find a spot to watch the really, really long parade while acting like you're not getting sunstroke. Afterward, the partying continues and swarms of your fellow semi-nude LGBTQueers screw up the heteronormative traffic flow en route to promiscuous, debaucherous Pride parties (AKA lunch, bars, and/or the T-dance).
Pervers-cité: "the underside of Pride." Enough said. Enjoy.
Divers/cité is outdoor music, cinema, performances, and drag: queers and trans* people are awesomely talented and creative and Pride isn't actually about how much sangria you can drink or your endless quest for not-tacky rainbow boxers.
Ok, so you are doing your hair/shining your boots/putting on your Rodeoh Harness under your skinny jeans, and getting ready to go out on the town since you now have a hot list of places to go! Thanks Autostraddle!
How do you go about asking a girl out? I'll give you a quick French lesson:
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi = not a good pick-up line
Je t'aime = the words you don't want to hear on your second date
Tabarnak = all purpose swear word (if she says this while cringing, she's not interested)
The girls in MTL really are great and have a reputation as being a little more sexually liberal than the rest of Canada (I'm not making this up, I totally read it in Chatelaine when I was at the eye doctor a couple years ago)... but these hot, awesome, possibly sexually liberal women may well have made out with your ex. Or you and you forgot. Case in point: my bestest lezbro (we don't use this word to refer to dudes that hang out with us, we use it for each other, whatever) had an ex who was the BFF of my ex and HOW DID WE NOT REALIZE THIS and my other buddy's ex-lady used to hit on me when she was still with my buddy before we were even buds and this is the same everywhere... this is the lesbian spit-chain and precisely why Alice made the Chart.
So. Uh. Relax and ask her out already.
Chances are good if you're considering relocating to Montréal you either A) will only stay until it snows, B) you are aspiring to a career in a call center and you can't speak French, C) you're some kind of artist/musician/professional balloon animal maker/circus person, D) or you're a student.
Let's go with option D, student. Montréal is a major university town. On the plus side, that equals student discounts, multi-cultural queerdom, and lots of barely used Ikea furniture being sold on craigslist for dirt cheap. On the less posi side, this means there are constant freshman events: scavenger hunts and face paint and chanting crap at when people nearby might still be sleeping because they stayed till the sun came up. YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN.
There's also Concordia University, my alma mater. With 40 billion students, some classrooms conveniently located underneath a mall-like food court, a complete lack of greenspace downtown, and really long lines for everything … it's everything you ever wanted in a uni. Oh, but Concordia boasts the Simone de Beauvoir College if you're into women's studies. I've heard it's amazing but I majored in French and occupied myself with debates about pronoun neutralization and reading poems that will really help me find a job some day.
Concordia has an LGBTQ+ student group that hosts all kinds of events; they're called Queer Concordia (go look for them on Facebook). The 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy is also associated with Concordia. They do a lot of advocacy and campaigning for social justice causes and better women's and trans* health services. They also have a program where you can donate minimal cash and get a binder (or even a swim binder!) if that's what you need to comfortably express your gender identity. Awesome place. (For more Concordia info, go to Autostraddle's fairly recent college guide.)
UQÀM, one of Montréal's French-language universities, is located downtown in the mish-mash of McGill, Concordia, and 19 year old bar tourists from The States. They don't seem to have a queer student group, but they do (did?) have a women's group. Although the blog hasn't been updated recently, the group may still be active. There's also the French only Centre des Femmes.
Up in the far-away land of the métro's blue line (does anyone actually live up there?) is the Université de Montréal. They have both a feminist group, Campus Feministe, and an LGBTQ+ student group, l'Alternative.
HEC Montréal is a big business school and they care about their queer biz majors! Check out their well-being linky-link on sexual orientation.
There is also a whole cluster of junior colleges/cégeps, polytéchniques, etc.
It's a Beautiful Day in the Gaybourhood
Le Village Gai (The Gay Village) is located mostly between métro Beaudry and métro Papineau on the south-east side of downtown, concentrated along Ste-Catherine and de Maisonneuve. It's a little more about the boys, but there's no shortage of lesbians and there is a sizeable trans* population as well. The majority of the gay clubs are here, as well as a ton of great restaurants and countless places to get coffee. The yellow dépanneur (aka bodega/convenience store/place to buy beer) at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Visitation is like a social experiment. Venture in. Buy dusty boxes of cookies and and fly swatters and bachelor food.
Some of the side streets and little parks feel a bit sketchy after dark and there is often a pretty heavy police presence. There is active and visible sex work in this area; if that makes you uncomfortable, avoid Ontario Street at night after the bars close.
Other (Slightly Less Gay)bourhoods
The Mile-End (métro Laurier)
Located north of St-Joseph Street and South of Bernard, centered around boulevard St-Laurent and avenue du Parc, the Mile-End is a super hip, über artsy area home to artists (did you guess that?), students, activists, and duh, lesbians. I'd venture to say this is where the heaviest concentration of queer chicks live. Total win. There is a wealth of cafés, cool bars, galleries, friperies, tiny markets, and yummy restos (the illusive taco truck takes over Le Nouveau Palais a few nights a week and the place FILLS with hipsters and queers getting cheap eats after midnight). The fun is endless. Try biking here at night!
Le Plateau Mont-Royal (métros Sherbrooke & Mont-Royal)
Said to be one of the most awesome places on the continent (another Montréal fact that may or not be invented), Le Plateau is a trendy area of clubs, bars, boutiques, and bistros. It is situated literally on a Plateau- walk from métro St-Laurent up to Sherbrooke to get a feel for it; skip it if you are wearing stilettos/it's icy/you don't like walking up really big hills. Le Plateau is heavily populated by working artists (this is not an oxymoron) and is full of pricy/adorable apartments with nice woodwork and spiral staircases, snazzy nightclubs, a couple divey spots to make you feel better about yourself, and futuristic furniture stores no one can actually afford to shop in. Head up to Parc Mont-Royal on a Sunday to enjoy the Tam-Tams, a city-wide gathering of drum circles and fencing and picnicking on the mountain.
St-Henri (métros Lionel-Groulx & Place-St-Henri)
This neighbourhood on the south-west end of the city is one of my favourites although it is rapidly being gentrified. It's a mix of brand new condos, beat up apartments painted funky colours by a series of residents who have transferred their leases to avoid rent increases, and a crazy complex of jamspaces and communal-living anarcho-lofts by the train tracks. The neighbourhood is populated by new immigrants, students, young families and long time resident Québecois families, and alternative folks of all stripes-- it's like a microcosmic snapshot of the city. There's still some cheap housing and an increasingly delicious collection of bars. Venture west to get tattooed at Glamort (4411, rue Notre-Dame Ouest), and try Le Caffé Mariani (4450, rue Notre-Dame Ouest) for a good coffee. Check out the Atwater Market to scope local veggies (and girls), go biking along the Lachine Canal, or RENT A BOAT! Yes, you CAN.
NDG, formally Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (métros Vendôme & Villa Maria)
Semi-affectionately called No Damn Good, this is a sprawling majority Anglophone neighbourhood on the west end of the city that houses Concordia University's Loyola campus. It is also home to a surprising number of lesbians-- consensus is that they are mostly coupled and they choose this neighb' because the housing is cheap and they like riding the 105 bus (this part is probably a lie because no one likes riding the 105 bus). The Monkland Village is a cute strip with tons of cupcake bakeries and moms in LuLu Lemon pants (I wasn't looking, I swear). Further south, on Sherbrooke, there is a pretty awesome chocolate store. The woman who runs it is amazingly adept at helping pick justttt the stuff to get your sorry ass out of the doghouse. Just don't tell your girlfriend you didn't pick out the chocolate yourself...
Little Italy (métro Jean Talon)
Another fun area of clustered side streets and great cafés, Little Italy is just far enough out to be affordable. It is home to the legendary Jean Talon Market which is awesome for all things delicious, and Il Motore, a cool, divey/indie show bar (it earned major queer points when Lucas Silveira, Hunter Valentine, and Sick of Sarah played there in 2011).
Of course, there's also Centre-Ville (downtown) and Old Montréal, both full of restaurants, bars, and shopping. Less queer-centric, but you can find loads of amazing museums, good theatres, and lots of clothes.
Safety and Places to Avoid
Like any big city, bad things happen here. However, in 5+ years living in Montréal, I never once discovered an area I didn't feel at least mostly safe-- and I have been to all the "bad" neighbourhoods, usually in the middle of the night and generally wearing things like fishnets and hotpants and neon wigs with like $400 cash tucked semi-visibly into my bra or boots. I wish I were making this up.
Ultimately, random violent crime is pretty uncommon and gun violence is significantly lower than many US cities. In very-central Montréal, just watch your pockets around métro Berri-UQÀM (muggings aren't so uncommon on the side streets) heading toward Beaudry. There are no areas in Montréal I would say you should absolutely avoid; use common sense if something/somewhere feels a little shady.
LGBT and Women's Health Services
À deux mains/ Head and Hands
According to their website, Head and Hands offers "medical, legal and social services." They are queers and trans* positive/inclusive and offer a drop-in clinic, counseling services, and a general safe space for youth.
Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition/Coalition santé arc-en-ciel Canada
A national resource with health information, resources for LGBTQ parents, and more. The link above brings you to their list of LGBTQ+ health coalitions and organizations with their locations.
For women and trans* people, the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy has many resources. See more info on them under Concordia University.
Montreal Gay and Lesbian Community Centre (
2075, rue Plessis). (
The community center has a library, offers legal information and all sorts of support resources, and is in a building shared with Jeunesse Lambda, Project 10, CSSQ (The AIDS coalition for deaf persons in Québec), Gris, and other LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS community services.
There is also an LGBTQ Youth Center at the Beaconsfield United Church on the West Island if you so happen to be out in the middle of nowhere.
ATQ: Aide aux transexuels et transexuelles du Québec (mostly in French) is an association to support the local trans* community and combat prejudice. They provide information about surgeries, the legal aspects of transitioning in Québec, current events, and more.
Centre de Solidarité Lesbienne (4126, rue St-Denis, Bureau 301)
Center for Lesbian Solidarity. Among other things, a solid support for those recovering from or dealing with conjugal violence. Site in French only.
McGill University Sexual Identity Centre (MUSIC) provides counseling services to those in need regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to their friends/partners/family. Covered by provincial healthcare or RAMQ.
Project 10 Help Line (514) 989-4585, a hotline for LGBTQ+ youth 14-25. Lines are open in the afternoons and early evenings or you can drop in on Thursday nights, 6:30pm to 8:30pm. They offer peer counseling, advocacy and accompaniment services, and fun stuff like camping retreats.
Gay Line and Gai Écoute (514)-866-5090.
These are suicide prevention and listening hotlines. Gai Écoute is French; Gay Line is English. Call the shared phone number and you'll be directed as needed. Both are anonymous and confidential. Gay-Line is open in the evenings between 7 and 11. If you have a Telus phone, you can dial "1010 and be connected right away.
Support for LGBT Families
The LGBT Family Coalition is an organization that offers workshops, informational seminars, and social activities to LGBT parents/families.
All Things Arts
The Ste-Emilie Skillshare (3942, rue Ste. Emilie) is a super queer and trans* posi place for community arts, learning new things (brewing? screen printing? DIY sex toy making?), or checking out the occasional vernissage. They have a solid calendar of upcoming workshops and events.
Image+Nation: Less party, more smart! Image+Nation is an international LGBT film fest.
Studio XX is a feminist art center that embraces both bilingualism (major plus in MTL) and technology.
Rough Diamond is a "queer hip hop triumvirate." All things... queer and hip-hop? Dig it!
Rae Spoon lives in Montréal. If they are performing, please go! So awesome.
Queer Tango. It's supposedly fun for people that maybe can act like grownups for 0.3 seconds.
LGBT or Feminist Bookstores
Concordia's Co-Op Bookstore (2150, rue Bishop) is cooperatively run and sells textbooks, regular books, zines, and they do consignment. They totally support local writers and artists.
Insoumise (2033, boul St-Laurent) is an anti-authoritarian bookstore and community space that houses lots of feminist lit.
Salons for Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts
Helmet (163, av du Mont-Royal Est)
Go see Dany. He's super queer and totally rocks the shears (that was like a hair haiku). He cut my hair and it was like an amazing therapy sesh and I walked out of there feeling like Wonder-Dyke who could totally pick up every girl I walked anywhere near. Thank YOUUU Dany for understanding the plight of the lesbian fashion mullet.
Coupe Bizarre (3770, boul St-Laurent)
The go-to for asymmetrical and all things colourful.
Formerly a queer bike shop and hair salon, JJ's Lesbian Haircuts for Everyone/Coupe Lesbienne pour N'Importe Qui recently moved to 824 Ontario East . The haircuts are only $15! How wrong can you go? Bikurious remains at 1757, rue Amherst.
Saving Grace Tattoo (5626, rue Sherbrooke Ouest )
This little shop, all tucked away on Sherbrooke Street in NDG, is male-run but lesbian friendly. Had you stopped in during the summer, you would have totally heard a chick dominated playlist on repeat and probably would have had your appointment scheduled by a tattooed lesbionic creature who would have loved to flex her biceps for you. Uh, seriously though, Alex K'eh tattoos a lot of lesbians, it's almost ridiculous. Although a custom shop with lots of appointments, you can sometimes nab a walk-in.
Other shops that put out solid and unique work and have good reputations but at which I have not worked:
These are all custom shops and many artists have significant wait times. There are other worthy shops in town too; please do your research and call in advance (even though you have to go find the phone numbers yourselves).
Counting Your Loonies & Toonies (aka Cost of Living)
Compared to other major cities:
Rent = affordable. You can probably live without 14 roommates. Depending on the area, you can definitely score solo digs for $500-600/month, and easily get a place with roommate for $800-1000 total (often less). It might even be a cute place with a big balcony and plenty of closet space and nice floors.
Food = not so cheap but way cheaper than in Vancouver.
Booze = significantly more expensive than in neighbouring NY but relatively cheap and accessible compared to some other Canadian provinces.
Public transport = an arm and a leg if you're just visiting. Check our your options for day passes, evening passes, or a pass for a week (hebdomadaire). You also get a better bang for your buck if you buy 2 tickets at once ($5.50) instead of 1 at a time (3 bucks a pop- ouch!).
Things that cost too much in Québec: shampoo, milk (some brands of rice milk are cheap), Tofurkey, taxis.
Things that are free-ish: healthcare, riding your bicycle, making out at Parc Lafontaine.
Montréal is extremely diverse... there's China Town, Little Italy, Little India, Little Maghreb, Little-almost-everywhere-else (no Little Nebraska or Little Antarctica, sorry, I looked). Queers are everywhere but highly concentrated in the Village and Mile-End.
Queer Friendliness of the City
This town has a pretty vivre et laisser vivre attitude. Like anywhere, there are less-than-awesome encounters with unpleasant people, but for the most part, your over the top PDA won't phase anyone. They'll either ignore you or tell you to get a room (but they don't care if it's a lesbian room).
Les Canadiens. Practice this: GO HABS GO!
Try to score some tickets to watch a match at the Bell Center. You will drink Molson and you won't even think about the Maple Leafs. Have I told you that hockey is life? Hockey.is.life.
Les Alouettes are Montréal's football team, also known as the Als. They play at Percival Molson Stadium.
The Stingers is the name for all of Concordia's sports teams. I bet McGill has sports teams too, but... whatever.
Team Montreal. Pretty much every sport you can imagine has a gay team in Montréal.
The Dukes of Drag
Yes, dragkings are athletes of gender-bending and making your panties/boxerbriefs wet. I think Autostraddle will probably move this link out from the sports section. I don't know where to put it.
Montréal Roller Derby. You love roller derby! Of course you do. And you might see Tegan and/or Sara in the stands, it's been known to happen. Tickets sell out fast-- buy in bulk, bring your friends.
Part of an ongoing series of Queer Girl City Guides.