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Pervers/Cité: bringing pride back to its origins of resistance

A collaboratively-organized summer festival, Pervers/Cité is like those resilient baby sea turtle hatchlings valiantly making it to the water, swimming against the growing tide of corporatized gay events that are slowly beginning to all hum the same white noise. Now in its fifth year, Pervers/Cité germinated in 2007 as a means of having a festival that would engage with, represent and bridge the variety of queer communities in Montreal. This mission stemmed from of a workshop facilitated by qteam Queers and Anarchism at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair in hopes of bringing pride back to its origins of resistance.

The festival’s program guide is emblematic of how Pervers/Cité is curated by and for a motley array of folks. It’s adorned with a fantastic collage of mainstream and subcultural gay icons, like Elizabeth Taylor and local luminary Miss Lady Swamp Pussy. Joshua Valentine, a member of the organizing committee, explains that some of the faces are topical (Taylor) while others are chosen out of a common love (Anne of Green Gables).

The result is an eclectic mix of events and parties, from queer wrestling to a drum trigger workshop via Tom Tom Magazine. In fact, Pervers/Cité’s schedule has so much to offer, it’s impossible to enumerate all of the events here. However, the definite do-not-miss of the festival is its final bash A Night at the Races: An Equeerie Fundraiser. This Big Freedia after-party features 17 DJs and takes place on Saturday, August 13th at Espace des Arts.

Photo: Michael Hawrysh


I sat down with Jordan Arseneault, former co-organizer of Pervers/Cité, and this year’s programmer and host of the cabaret fundraiser for Project 10. Waiting for the spin cycle to finish at the laundromat, we soke about the week of events ahead.


What are the historical and political implications of the festival? Pride has changed from a form of protest, to a demonstration, to a march, to a parade, to a corporate string of floats of gay-for-pay strippers. The parade had already come fairly far from its origins of a march to oppose police raids in gay bars and the harassment of queer people, when Divers/Cité severed its connection to the parade in 2007. Pervers/Cité was born from the alienation and revulsion that came from seeing the neoliberal contemporary apolitical industrial complex. Pride has become expensive out-of-town DJs, so divorced from its origins! 


How has the festival changed throughout its five years? There are more events, and a greater range of organizations who want to submit work. The root of it is still to prove how much you can do with very little money and a whole bunch of politically involved queer people who are interested in intersectional queer causes. It’s bigger, and there are more connections to the West Coast, New York, Berlin, centers of anti-capitalist queer art. The biggest difference is Pervers/Cité has been put on the map. Last year, there was a lesbian video collective from Germany. Right now one of our artists is hitching from Portland to get here. The festival is growing without becoming more expensive to run, and it has managed to keep functioning in spite of not having a board of directors, a registered charitable name or a telephone.


Any upcoming events that are personal highlights? Coral Short is screening a series of films from NYC’s MIX Festival. This is not the kind of thing you can see with a group of likeminded people, for free, very often. Ponni Arasu, one of the architects of the decriminalization of homosexuality in India is doing a presentation. Le1f is coming, he’s a rapper and producer who would probably make more money if he were closeted, but then you’re living a lie. A lot of the groups are banded together by a desire to stop lying. The beautiful aspect of Pervers/Cité is that it exposes you to people whose main concern is not legitimacy in neoliberal politics. They’re individuals who make lifelong commitments to authentically build movements and projects that don’t put profit over people.


A Night at the Races: An Equeerie Fundraiser
August 13 | Festival closing party
Espace des Arts | 9 Ste-Catherine E.