This Is How Careening Down a Mountain Made Me Appreciate Gay Music

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Gay Voices

Hot Shirtless Guy on Mountain Road with Bike

I headed to to Montreal and ended up on a heart-stopping motorbike ride that left me with a new understanding of gay music.

Different Kinds of “Gay”

Gay can be a tricky word — and not just because the ignorant people use it like a schoolyard taunt. In college, when I finally started owning the term to describe myself, I would still primarily also use it to refer to stereotypes. For example, there were two types of “gay music”: showtunes and anything that inspired masses of shirtless men to gyrate in a club.

As a fan of the former, I envied enthusiasts of the latter. This is mostly because they seemed to have a lot more sex than me. But I also found that scene too intimidating during the few nights I spent wandering around mega-clubs. I found myself wondering why everyone else seemed to having so much more fun and wondering why I didn’t seem to be having any.

So when I was invited to visit Montreal to their LGBTQ music festival Divers/Cité, I was eager to attend. Part of me was determined to understand the portion of it that would be focused on the kind of thumping, electronic dance parties. And I was excited to see the promised other genres of “gay music” that would be on offer.

Welcome to Montreal

On the first night of the festival, those other genres were not in evidence. The gathering was certainly impressive in scale. Its grounds seemed to stretch to the size of several football fields. However, the thump thump thump of the music did not lure me to the dance floor. Instead, I chatted with performers and organizers backstage and did some very minor rump-shaking of my own in the safety of the press area.

Fortunately, on the festival’s second night, someone pointed me toward another stage. It was hidden at the end of a long, winding path. Here, the performance was much more attuned to my kind of gay. Drag kings and queens sang and lip synced. Contortionists displayed spicy senses of humor. Men in body stockings performed intricate choreography. I could have spent the rest of the festival there.

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He’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain…

That’s when fate stepped in — in the form of what felt like an extended, near-death experience. I signed up for a “bicycle tour” of Montreal. Though I’m not much behind the wheel of a car, I thought I could easily handle a nice, leisurely bike ride. I had not anticipated how very much like motorcycles the proffered electric bicycles would be. Nor had I realized the extreme angles at which we’d descend Mount Royal. And I had not foreseen how panic-inducing it would be to navigate city street traffic.

Afterwards, I returned to my hotel shaken. Then I told my boyfriend I needed a rest, and I settled into a nap. Blaring car horns and suddenly-opened doors that threatened to throw me from my bike haunted my dreams.

A Fresh Perspective

Despite these disturbing nightmares, I awoke feeling with a new feeling of fearlessness. And as we made our way back to the festival grounds, I resolved for one night to be that other kind of gay music lover.

As night fell, the crowd swelled, and the music rose to a fever pitch. I soon got caught in the crush of the shirtless rump-shakers — joining them in cheering the arrival of the night’s headliner, Celeda. The performer worked that stage with an intensity so spectacular I made a point of eventually learning how to prounounce and spell her actual name. (I had spent the previous several days referring to her as “Cicada”.)

Sadly, it seems likely the days of the Divers/Cité are behind us. But that does not diminish the value of the lesson I learned there. Though it is important to understand that there are many ways to be gay and to find one that’s right for you, it can also be valuable to try doing it someone else’s way once in a while.

You might find, like I did, that what seemed to be pushing you away was mostly in your head. You might gain new insight into what drives other parts of the LGBTQ community. And you just might have a fabulous time while you do it.

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Last modified: May 9, 2019