Sex and the City

Finding queer identities in Montreal and Toronto

In December 1967, Pierre Trudeau, who was then minister of justice, uttered a simple proposition that immediately became famous: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” By the time he said it, in the course of announcing the proposed decriminalization of homosexuality as part of sweeping changes to the country’s Criminal Code, awareness if not necessarily acceptance of gay sexuality had already been galvanized by the publication of Scott Symons’s Place d’Armes at the beginning of the same year. Canada’s first openly gay novel, Place d’Armes is a scathing, ribald, textual palimpsest of narrative, diary and field guide in which the (nominally heterosexual) protagonist’s homosexual explorations are meant as a metaphor for English Canada’s need to connect with its French partner in Confederation.

At the time of the book’s publication, critics were not kind to Symons. In a...