Online and offline festival frolics, plus the book club you need to join immediately

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning July 29

Hello, my happy little summer squashes, and welcome to Queer Culture Catch-Up, starring: me! I hope you are reading this in a moment of leisure, and that more leisure and pleasure dot your calendar in the days to come. Just in case you’re not as full of pleasures as you’d like to be (and really, who among us is?) please allow me, your very favourite queer culture nerd, to introduce you to a magnificent array of queer and clever options.


Sandy Duperval appears at Blocobana
Sandy Duperval, spokesperson for the Montreal Pride Festival, also performs at Blockobana.

Credit: David Fulde

Our endlessly creative friends at Blockorama/Blackness Yes!, famous for holding down Black space at queer Pride events in Toronto, also create vibrant queer and trans space at Black Pride events like the city’s Carribean Carnival, also known as Caribana. On Sunday, August 1, starting at 6 p.m., join a virtual Blockobana with local faves like DJ Nik Red and DJ Blackcat, along with performances from Montreal standout Sandy Duperval and hometown hero (and dragtastic performance poet) Luna DuBois. You can stream the entire show on Twitch (accessed through the event’s Facebook page) and celebrate Black queer and trans history, resilience and resistance—while shaking your ass the entire time.

Swallow This Skin at the Toronto Fringe Festival

Zoe Marin appears in “Swallow This Skin”
Zoe Marin appears in “Swallow This Skin” at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Credit: Ilkiz Liz Gurbuz

The Toronto Fringe Festival, happening all online this year, usually features many hidden queer gems. This year’s slate includes a completely engrossing audio play, Swallow This Skin, set backstage at a Toronto strip club. Amongst the play’s banter and confessions is one of the sweetest, most tentative how-do-I-know-if-I’m-queer scenes I’ve ever heard in a performance. It’s an immersive performance that’s pro-sex work, pro-feminist and pro-queer, with a production value that is truly superlative. You can catch it streaming at Fringe until Saturday, July 31. A content note: the performance contains discussions of suicide, rape, racism, eating disorders and harassment.


Montreal Pride—in person!

If you feel ready for a queer crowd, Montreal has confirmed that they’re going to have live, in-person Pride events this year, including a march. The 70+ hours of programming features Francophone Asexuals, Black Queer Mental Health hour, gay sex trivia, a Lebanese drag extravaganza and, as the kids say, so much more. It looks like a truly delectable assortment of thoughtfully chosen programming, including time taken to dig into issues and conversations rather than just skipping directly from sparkly part to sparkly part. While I love the sparkles (so much!), I’ll always be over here waving my teeny-tiny flag in the hopes that there’s a deeper and more magical moment available when you really get how much work people have done (and are doing) to make it safe to sparkle on.

Future Feeling and Red X

Red X by David Demchuk book cover

Credit: Strange Light

So last month I missed a wild book I really wanted to write about, Future Feeling by Joss Lake, which is queer, trans and so weird and full of magic and mishaps and other things that I like in a book. Also, next month Red X comes out, which is a straight-up brilliant queer horror novel from David Demchuk (winner of a list of literary prizes as long as my, uh, arm for his 2017 debut, The Bone Mother). The novel kneads in a lot of details about Toronto’s gay village, including some overlap with the real-life case of serial killer Bruce MacArthur. I’m queering the concept of time by deciding that late plus early equals just right, giving me the chance to recommend them both at once. Read them both for extraordinary dreams all September long.

Queer ASL

If you’re gay and dramatic and want to start learning a new language, maybe it’s time to try American Sign Language (ASL)? Let your eyebrows be a big plus when you start learning about facial grammar from their team of LGBTQ2S+ Deaf instructors during weekly classes priced on a sliding scale. Though classes are filling up fast, Queer ASL offers them quarterly and you can enjoy the company of queers while learning a new language and showing some allyship toward your Deaf friends—a win/win/win, really. Plus, if you turn out to be good at it, there are four levels of classes you can take. A new pandemic 2.0 hobby?

Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club

Queer literary powerhouse Roxane Gay has launched, among other things, The Audacious Book Club, which meets online monthly for book discussions and (usually) an author event. Our friends at Type Books have risen to the occasion with an Audacious Book Club page on their website designed to deliver Gay’s monthly selection to your doorstep. The selections skew heavily towards LGBTQ2S+ and BIPOC authors, showcasing some books that might otherwise not have gotten the love they deserve from publicity departments because their subjects are out of the “mainstream.” Gay has proven to be a superlative curator in addition to a great writer, so you can safely entrust your monthly book budget (or library queue) to her. 


I was telling a story at dinner last week about the first time I met femme powerhouse Amber L. Hollibaugh, and it made me reach for her 2000 book, My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home. I forgot how incredible it is. Hollibaugh isn’t just a writer, she’s also the cheerleader and bedrock of many queer literary careers, and you’ll find the threads of her influence everywhere once you read her first book (so go do that, it’s amazing).

That’s what I have for you for this week from among the wildflowers and honeybees,  my pretty little crickets. Until we meet again, I hope the next couple of weeks have the deep lassitude of summer; I hope there are breakfast popsicles and daytime cocktails and all type and manner of tiny joys. If you’re making something new and queer, email or DM me on Twitter with your news—I love to hear from you.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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