As one of the gateway cities to the New World, underground gay life has flourished in Montréal for centuries. Montréal’s legendary joie-de-vivre and queer-positive embrace has turned the city into a choice LGBT international tourism destination, and there is much to see and do in Montréal for LGBT travellers in 2016.
L’Opéra de Montréal presents the world-premiere of the opera adaptation of legendary gay Québec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s internationally-acclaimed 1987 play Les Feluettes which premiered in 1987 and was also made into the 1996 movie Lilies, directed by John Greyson. Les Feluettes, about a gay love triangle involving a Catholic bishop, runs from May 21 to 28 at the 3,000-seat Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts.
Summer kicks off with Montréal drag legend Mado Lamotte’s 16th annual Drag Race – the over-the-top two-hour outdoor live show predates RuPaul’s Drag Race – at the Montreal Fringe Festival, whose 2016 edition runs from June 9 to 19. Several professional Montréal drag queens team up with their amateur counterparts for a side-splitting outdoor afternoon competition in Parc des Amériques. Mado’s Drag Race is usually held on the final weekend of the Montreal Fringe Festival. Free admission.
Montréal’s Gay Village is home to the 16th edition of Mtl en Arts, an arts festival showcasing local and emerging artists in a one-kilometre-long outdoor art gallery, from June 29 to July 3.
Fierté Montréal Pride’s annual LGBT Pride celebrations run from August 8 to 14 and will feature a series of indoor and outdoor parties and concerts, plus Fierté Montréal’s annual LGBT Community Day, Dyke March and Pride parade. Also of note, Fierté Montréal is the biggest LGBT event in Québec and will host an expanded inaugural 10-day edition of Canada Pride (modelled on EuroPride and WorldPride) from August 11 to 20, 2017, the same year that Montréal will mark its 375th anniversary and Canada will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
Montréal’s Pervers/Cité festival dubs itself the “underside of Pride” and usually runs concurrently during Fierté Montréal. This radical queer summer happening organizes activities to “reanimate the radical underpinnings to the Pride movement.” Visit perverscite.org for their soon-to-be-released 2016 dates and program.
After drawing 800 revellers to their first party in 1991 – raising $3,500 for AIDS Community Care Montréal – Montréal’s famed Black & Blue gay circuit party quickly became the single most successful all-night dance party on the planet. Over 25 years the festival has generated over $300 million in local economic spin-offs, donated $1.2 million cash to various AIDS and LGBT organizations, plus an additional $800,000 in free tickets and services to help LGBT community groups. The Black & Blue main event is held on American Columbus Day Weekend (and Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend) each October. Visit bbcm.org for details about Black & Blue’s upcoming 26th annual edition.
Of all the blockbuster museum exhibitions in Montreal in 2016, the massive Rethinking Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is of particular interest to LGBT art lovers. The iconic and controversial gay American photographer is famous for his homoerotic male nudes and celebrity portraits. This exhibition features 250 works, mostly Mapplethorpe’s highly stylized black-and-white photographs, covering the artist’s entire career, from the early 1970s until his death from complications related to AIDS, at the age of 42 in 1989. Rethinking Robert Mapplethorpe opens in Fall 2016.
Image+Nation is Canada’s oldest LGBT film festival and will screen the best of queer cinema from around the world at its upcoming 29th annual edition. “Image+Nation stands as the premiere site to discover LGBT film in the city and plays a trendsetting role within the larger festival circuit in Canada, North America and internationally,” says festival director Charlie Boudreau. “Over three decades the festival has earned a reputation for itself as an event that brings together the best and brightest LGBT films from around the globe.” Visit image-nation.org for news on their 2016 edition which will take place at various Montréal venues over 10 days beginning in late November.
There are also many other activities and events year-round of interest to LGBT travelers: The Grévin Montréal wax museum features 120 life-like wax mannequins, including a large contingent of LGBT icons, such as bisexual entertainers Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga, gay pop stars Elton John and Mika, and the self-proclaimed biggest diva of them all, Montréal drag legend Mado Lamotte. There are also live drag shows most nights of the week at such nightclubs as Cabaret Mado and Bar Le Cocktail in the Gay Village.
Finally, Québec superstar diva Céline Dion headlines Montréal’s Bell Centre for 10 concerts, from July 31 to August 10. Then Adele will headline the Bell Centre on two nights, September 30 and October 1.
[Editor’s note, January 15, 2016: Céline Dion has cancelled her Las Vegas shows following the loss of her husband on January 14. Ticketholders for Montréal shows are advised to watch for further cancellations.]