Reflecting on Montréal's Gay District


North America

This post was contributed by Jackson Arold.

Coming from a semi-conservative setting, a lot of people that I grew up with treated “homosexuality” as a taboo topic. It was something that people didn’t really talk about unless they were either: 

Gossiping about speculation as to whether somebody was gay


Poking fun at somebody and using the term in a derogatory sense

As the years have gone by, people have changed their perspectives for the most part in the USA to be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, or at least “tolerate” them. I find it really cool that people are finally able to be themselves and not hide in the shadows because hiding yourself brings along a slew of other insecurities.

I’m going to be honest, when I decided to go to Montréal, I wasn’t really expecting very much. Throughout my high school years, I always wanted to go to France and get the opportunity to practice my language skills. Fortunately, I was able to go to Paris my junior year spring break on a trip lead by the school. I went back to France after my freshman year at Michigan State University and I lived in Tours, France for nearly 3 months. I think I had like 6 days left till the EU would have kicked me out without a visa, so at this point, my expectations were pretty damn high.

I’d been living a lavish life up to this point.

When I came home from France the second time, I decided I should do a bit more domestic travel and discover more of what North America has to offer. Within three months of me having returned back from France, I booked a trip to Montréal because I’d been told on more than one occasion that it’s a “mini Paris” and that I HAD to go.

So, naturally, I shut up and went. I watched all of Damon and Jo’s videos on Montréal probably like 10+ times each, and I also did a bunch of research of my own.

After I booked my Airbnb, the site was trying to suggest a bunch of “Airbnb experiences” to me. I had some Airbnb credit, so I thought “Eh, why the heck not?” and I went searching through the options in Montréal. They all seemed to be pretty generic until I reached one called “After Dark in The Village.” My first thought was:

“There’s a village inside of a city? How is this possible?”

… and my second one was:

“What do they do there after dark?”

After asking around, I found that “The Village” is what they call the Gay District in Montréal (and most cities actually). For $16, it was the cheapest thing they had on Airbnb and I had a $25 voucher, so you know your boy was headed to The Village.

When I got to The Village, I looked up and found that there was a crap ton of balls strung along Sainte Catherine street leading to what seemed like forever, in a complex arrangement of a rainbow. It was a beautiful piece of art commemorating the gay community in Montréal. In fact, the structure was put up in 2011 by the artist Claude Cormier. He only wanted this to be an 8-year project. They were supposed to take them down this past September, which means it would have been the end of the iconic gay structure. After a bit of coercion, Claude agreed to keep the balls for one more year, which means the summer of 2019 is the last time they will be seen.

For this day, the Airbnb tour became a college lecture, but a bit more fun! I also learned that on Sainte Catherine St. they have North America’s biggest EDM club called Stereo Night Club. I wish I could have gone but this club has wonky hours, so look out for that if that’s something you’re interested in.

I ended up going back to this strip most nights because that’s where Montréal’s amazing nightlife energy is, and it was unparalleled to anything I’d ever seen in a city before.

The Québécois have a specific energy that thrives in the summer (likely due to those brutal winters).

Opening myself up to this random opportunity to explore The Village is what really made my trip to Montréal so special.

When you travel, you shouldn’t be a risk averter, you should be a risk taker. Don’t be scared about what might happen, but instead, live in the now and get the most out of your time abroad! Open yourself up to new cultures, ideas, food, and people. You wouldn’t go to Paris and get chipotle!

Dive into the culture you’re exploring, you never know what you might find.

Meet Jackson: My name is Jackson Arold, I’m a student studying French and Business at Michigan State University.  I love to travel, learn French, and drink fancy coffee! Travel Pet-peeve: When people bring 3 checked bags on a week-long trip. Keep up with me on Youtube!

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