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Bubble-bath for the queer soul: a materialist perspective on queer parties.

I HAVE TO SAY I used to think queer parties and marginal cultural extravaganzas were absolutely useless and, to be honest, just plain uninteresting. With my mostly materialistic inspired "great-frame-of-analysis-of-the-world to me, the potential to contribute to the social transformation and the raising of political consciousness of these parties was nill. I've always been reluctant to give real credit to cultural contributions to our political struggles, devaluing them as frivolous fun. "Real" activists were organizing demos, campaigns, direct actions, and were advocating ... not organizing parties!


It is with this skeptical bias on the transformative potential of cultural expressions that "pretend" to contribute to our collective struggle that I write this column. Don't get all worked up. I saw the light.

Entering a queer party might just shake newcomers preconceptions about the queer scene and fuel a reflection on the deeply interlocked connections between culture and politics. Surrounded by an eclectic and colourful crowd of cisgendered and transgendered folks, queer parties' attendees will be served--in season--burlesque shows with a feminist take on body representation, trashy drag king and queen performances, humour noir inspired sketch and comedy by notorious local queer performers, live music and overall subversive fun. As an example, pieces like Jordan Arseneault's "First World Problems" song confronts the crowd to our privileges as North American queers of various (and varying) gender expression.

Personally, I was astounded to realize how freeing the experience of hanging out at queer events and in queer spaces has been, literally "taking in" the queer [sub)culture of Montreal. Monthly radical queer parties such as Up Yours!, faggity Ass Friday (both benefiting local community groups or political collectives) and the new hit in town, Pompe! give us all a breather that we don't find in the mostly man-dominated, consumerist and sex-centered gay village. Other events such as Amene ta blonde. Meow Mix, Radical Queer Semaine, Perverscite and spaces like the St-Emilie Skillshare help us break out of suffocating conformity to cisgender heteronormativity.

Feeling the freedom of gender-expression is not useless. Experiencing different visions of intimacy, sexuality and seduction IS not futile. It is a transformative experience that we bring back to our daily lives filled with oppressions, bearing in mind the awareness that another world is possible and under construction at the margins of society.

Social change might mostly happen through the radical transformation of structures and institutions, but sometimes we can forget the role of representations, and self-representation. Queer spaces contribute to our individual and collective emancipation from heterosexism, letting us express and create who we are, progressively freeing ourselves of social normativity's strangling hold on everything that doesn't fit it.

Yet, I stay a materialist. I thank all my radical-queer comrades and party-goers for creating this plural, explosive sub-culture where we can experiment ourselves, and others, differently; where we can feel - for a few seconds--the beginning of what it would be like to evolve and grow as humans in a oppression-free(r), genderless or not-gender-based society.

Cultural events like the queer parties in Montre'al, do a lot more than add sparkle to a suffering-filled struggle against injustices. While they might not directly fight nor stop capitalism, heterosexism, patriarchy, and racism, I now realize they do a lot more than create safe(r) spaces to experience and flourish in our marginal, divergent, subversive, political, (un)gendered, and deviant identities. They permit us to create another materiality that shapes our capacity to explore other horizons of possibilities.

BARBARA LEGAULT is a Feminist antiauthoritarian community organizer, Co-founder of the RebElLEs movement, and consultant based in Montreal.
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Title Annotation:Quebec Street Politics
Author:Legault, Barbara
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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