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Allies in the Spotlight Against Homophobia


 By Bonnie Wurst — mtltimes.ca     

Some of Quebec’s finest celebrities and public figures have put themselves in front of the lens of renowned French photographer Olivier Ciappa – posing as same-sex ‘Imaginary Couples’ for the exhibition ‘Allies in the Spotlight’ (Les Alliés s’exposent) being presented by the Desjardins Group at both the Complexe Desjardins and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) until June 7th.

Ciappa began creating the black and white photography exhibition in 2012 as the debate over legalizing gay marriage in France was dividing the population. He looked for a way to bring a more positive image of gay love to a homophobic public. His concept was to show loving people – and to challenge others to see this love as anything other than the love of two people.

Quebec’s ‘Imaginary Couples’ signed on to the project as ‘allies in the fight against homophobia and transphobia’, part of last Sunday’s activities organized for ‘International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia’.

Marie-ThérèseFortin-GuylaineTremblay-Photograph Olivier Ciappa

We live in one of the most progressive countries in the world, especially when it comes to the rights and recognition of LGBTQ people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer and/or Questioning). On July 20th 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first country outside Europe to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.

In 1977, the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is both a charter of rights and a human rights act, was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the world ‘larger than a city or county’ to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the private and public sectors. Same-sex marriage in the province was legalized in 2004.

Yet homophobia still exists in its many forms today. It’s in the work place and in our schools, it’s in our institutions and in sports. It’s on our streets and in our neighborhoods. According to a report by Statistics Canada in 2012, the majority of all hate crimes reported were racially or ethnically motivated, followed by religious-related crimes and then hate crimes motivated by homophobia.

AndréRobitaille-Jean-MichelAnctil-Photograph Olivier Ciappa

Although hate crime incidents related to sexual orientation were the lowest of the three most reported hate crimes, they were the most violent – with 67% of the offences being violent.

In our schools LGBTQ youth face continued homophobic violence and abuse. According to Egale, a Canadian organization fighting for ‘Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere’ – 51% of LGBTQ students have been verbally harassed about their sexual orientation while 21% have been physically harassed, bullied or assaulted – and 9% of NON-LGBTQ students have been physically harassed simply on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ youth are at significantly greater risk of suicide than their heterosexual peers. Research results generally confirm that LGBTQ youth have much higher levels of suicidal ideation and attempts than heterosexual youth – with 4 to 7 times more attempts.

GilbertRozon-Jean-PaulDAoust-Photograph Olivier Ciappa

The ‘Allies’ have come together to help raise awareness and take a stand against homophobia – and they have done it in an artistically magnificent and beautiful way. ‘Allies’ also include family members, friends, colleagues, teachers and institutions who ‘value respect for sexual orientation diversity and are committed to defending it when it is threatened, discriminated against or attacked’.

The exhibition (which opened on May 12th) is open to the public free of charge to June 7th and is a production of the Fondation Émergence, in partnership with the MMFA, the Consulat général de France à Québec, Les Deux Mondes theatre company and Complexe Desjardins. The exhibition is composed of two parts:
Through the lens of French photographer Olivier Ciappa, public figures appear as imaginary same-sex couples, inviting visitors to cast a kinder eye on homosexuality. “When we love, it is the same experience for all of us, regardless of age, origin, religion or sexuality.” First presented in France, the exhibition was brought to Quebec thanks to the initiative of radio personality Monique Giroux and the Consulat général de France à Québec, and features local personalities including: Mitsou and Sophie Lorain, Claude Legault and Patrick Lagacé, Guy A. Lepage and Dany Turcotte (who is also the project’s spokesperson) and many others.


Mitsou Gélinas and Sophie Lorain, two multi-talented women who should need no introduction here, posed together as an ‘Imaginary Couple’ for the project. They were quoted on the La Fondation Émergence website as saying:

MitsouGélinas-SophieLorrain-Photograph Olivier Ciappa  “La liberté d’être soi est le plus grand privilège. J’ai invité ma complice Sophie à rendre hommage à ces hommes et femmes qui choisissent ou choisiront un jour de vivre en harmonie avec leur propre nature.” Mitsou Gélinas

“J’ai accepté car j’ai trouvé que l’idée de ces couples imaginaires était juste assez déstabilisante pour être à la fois intrigante et touchante. Sans compter que les photos sont magnifiques!” Sophie Lorain

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT/TOMBER DANS L’OEIL at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

With a tip of the hat to Olivier Ciappa’s creative process, the MMFA and Les Deux Mondes theatre company are presenting Love at First Sight/Tomber dans l’oeil, in which portraits from the Museum’s collection of Quebec and Canadian art are brought together as ‘couples’ that are as surprising as they are atypical. Dialogue created by playwright/director Sébastien Harrisson is heard by the voices of various actors through an audio device, ‘Defying a heteronormative installation that would presume the heterosexuality of the figures, the playwright’s fiction proposes a path less travelled, beyond stereotypes on couples and homosexuality.’

It is a wonderful initiative using art and artists in the fight against homophobia – a fight with the goal of putting an end to the abuse and violence against people whose sexual orientation should simply define them as free and loving people – people like me who deserve the same basic human rights as any other. Love covers the complete spectrum of the rainbow.

LGBTQ, HETEROSEXUAL or even ASEXUAL – the ‘Allies in the Spotlight’ Exposition (Les Alliés s’exposent) is worth the visit. If just for the beauty of the subject matter alone.


Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 1380 Sherbrooke St. West www.mbam.qc.ca/en/media/

Complexe Desjardins 150 Ste-Catherine St. West www.complexedesjardins.com/en/events

Fondation Émergence www.fondationemergence.org/les-allies-sexposent/



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