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The long battle against homophobia

In the early 1990s, 17 gay men were murdered in Montreal. The murders were committed over a period of approximately four years. Most frequented the bars in the Gay Village. While some were killed in parks, others died in their apartment or hotel room.

Posted at 6:00 am

The bodies were often mutilated. Thirty, forty or even fifty stab wounds or screwdrivers showed that the killers were ruthless and had committed what is called “excess”. These sadists obviously wanted to kill their victim, but also the shame they had deep down.

And then there were those who were killed for the sheer joy of “being a fag”. The murder of Joe Rose, in March 1989, struck the imagination. This gay activist was beaten and stabbed by four youths as he was boarding a STCUM night bus.

This sad period, which deeply marked the LGBTQ+ community, is the starting point of the podcast The town: murders, fights, pride offered by OHdio starting this Tuesday. I got drunk watching all seven episodes on a Sunday afternoon. This is very good radio!

image courtesy of Ohdio

The town: murders, fights, pride

We owe this exceptional document to the journalist Marie-Ève ​​​​Tremblay and the director Philippe Marois. I say exceptional, because they had the intelligence to build their series by combining the story of the 17 murders with that of the Gay Village and the fight for better recognition of gay and lesbian rights.

I’m telling you right away, starting from the fourth episode, you won’t want to take off your headphones.

The starting point for this series comes from the CBC, which to date has produced two podcasts titled The village. Toronto’s gay community is known to have suffered a terrible tragedy between 2010 and 2017 when serial killer Bruce McArthur, a landscape gardener, murdered eight gay men before burying their remains in clients’ gardens.

Marie-Ève ​​​​Tremblay has accepted the challenge of telling what happened in Montreal in her own way. Parts of her podcast will now be used by her CBC colleagues.

One of the strengths of the Quebec production is the high quality of the actors.

We listen to three of the four activists who alerted public opinion and shook the government of the time so that the police would finally do their job well and that the rights of gays, hard hit by the ravages of AIDS, would be recognized and protected. in various such as work or health.

These activists who deserve a public place in their honor are Roger LeClerc, Michael Hendricks, Claudine Metcalfe and Douglas Buckley-Couvrette. The latter is now missing.

It was Michael Hendricks who was the first to realize that the victims were homosexual and that the police and the media did not present them as such. They have also dedicated paragraphs to the first murders.

It took several deaths before things got a proper name: it was homophobia at its bloodiest horror.

The retrograde attitude of the police at that time occupies a lot of space in this series. It is about the numerous raids that were carried out, including those of the Sex Garage evening and the Kox bar. A police chief will change things, and that is Jacques Duchesneau. He is introduced to her in the last episode.

The episode in which the militants tell how they managed to get a meeting with the then Minister of Justice, Gil Rémillard, is amazing. During a press conference, they raised the specter of an “exit”. And for that they invited two young people who had had sex with an influential member of the government.

Result: three days later, the militants obtained an appointment with Minister Rémillard who, for months, had ignored their requests.

This led to the Human Rights Commission hearings in 1993 and, six months later, to a report that made activists happy. Its content has taken giant steps in the fight against prejudice and discrimination.

Marie-Ève ​​Tremblay had no trouble convincing the dozens of people we heard on the podcast to speak up. But with the families of the victims, it was something else. “It was very difficult for me to call them,” she said. Thirty years later, the wound is still there. And I understand them. »

You should know that most of the victims hid their homosexuality from their family. “Parents often found out their son was gay when he died of AIDS,” says Marie-Ève ​​Tremblay. Is incredible ! »

Gabriel Ethier, brother of Gaétan Ethier, one of the victims, nevertheless agreed to speak. “When I told him that his brother’s death had somehow moved things forward, he couldn’t believe it,” Marie-Ève ​​Tremblay told me.

In fact, when at the end of the series, the journalist recites the names of the 17 victims, it is in this terrible sacrifice that we think.

Thirty years later, some killers have been identified and punished. At least two victims perished under the sword of a serial killer. But several murders are still unsolved.

The Village is no longer what it was. It was a place of celebration, a refuge, an environment where everyone claimed the right to be who they really are. But it was also a coffin for some. It must not be forgotten.

The town: murders, fights, prideavailable in OHdio.

#long #battle #homophobia

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