Village Montreal dresses up hateful language to fight bigotry and discrimination

Who: Village Montreal, with LG2 for strategy and creative.

What: A new campaign countering the anti-drag queen rhetoric and action that has become increasingly prevalent in recent months with a message of kindness, inclusion and acceptance.

When & Where: A dress consisting of “paper petals” made from signs featuring anti-drag queen sentiment is being displayed in the window of the Village Montreal office, while a video featuring Montreal drag artist Sasha Baga modelling the dress is running on the region’s social media channels.

Why: Village Montreal (formerly known as the “Gay Village) is comprised of approximately 255 businesses and is an internationally recognized LGBTQ+ destination, welcoming more than two million visitors each year. Its stated mission is to “contribute to the economic transformation and vitality of the Village by promoting diversity, inclusiveness and innovation.”

Recent months have seen anti drag-queen rhetoric and protests make headlines both internationally and here in Canada, much of it outright bigotry and intolerance conducted under the guise of “protecting” children. And while much of the focus has been on protests and policy decisions made in the U.S., Canada is not immune.

Earlier this month, for example, Quebec Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime launched a petition intended to “protect children from drag queens.” That followed a demonstration requiring a drag-queen story-time to be relocated to a secret location.

How: LG2 used the words that appeared on actual anti-drag signs and cut them into “paper petals” that were used to create a dress worn by Montreal drag artist and transgender woman Sasha Baga. The idea behind the campaign is to turn Baga into what LG2 described as a “living statement” against anti-drag queen sentiment.

A 40-second video shot at Bar le Cocktail, a well-known drag cabaret located in Village Montreal, shows Baga modelling the dress and being showered with confetti made from the same anti-drag messages that make up the dress.

“I firmly believe that beauty begets beauty,” said Baga. “Drag culture is more than just entertainment, it’s a community of people who value the differences that make each person unique. Seeing drag queens and drag kings in public spaces raises questions, and our job is to answer them by doing what we do best: celebrating diversity.”

And we quote: “At a time when hate speech towards 2SLGBTQ+ communities is escalating, especially against the trans community, we saw LG2’s powerful idea as a great opportunity to celebrate the art of drag—an art that until recently was confined to cabarets, bars and the Village. We wanted to pay tribute to drag queens and drag kings, artists with heart and courage who share our values of inclusion, innovation and respect.” — Gabrielle Rondy, executive director, Village Montreal

Chris Powell