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Dr. Charles Silverstein, our Travel Editor, is a licensed psychologist in New York City. He is best known for having presented the case for the deletion of homosexuality as a mental disorder before the American Psychiatric Association. He is also the founding director of two gay counseling centers, and the founding editor of the Journal of Homosexuality.

He's author or co-author of six books about gay life, including the three editions of the popular Joy of Gay Sex, contributed chapters and articles in professional books and journals. He is considered an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of relationships between men and problems of sexual disorders. Further information about him and his practice may be found on his website:




If one would have to choose the premier gay city in Canada, it would unquestionably be Montreal. It's not that other Canadian cities don't have a vibrant gay life. It's just that in Montreal, gay people have staked out the perfect partnership with both the Province of Quebec and the Canadian government.

GoGo Boys at "Taboo"
Montreal is almost 400 miles north of New York City. There are three ways to get there. By plane it's just an hour and one-half, clearly the most efficient way to get there, if the dullest. If one wants to go by train, Amtrak has a train (once a day) from Penn Station that will get you there in 10 hours – if the train is on time. Unfortunately it never is, and if it takes an hour or two longer, it rewards by being the most scenic train ride on the east coast as it travels up the Hudson River. Just take some food and drink with you.

Driving the 400 miles takes six hours, not counting pit stops and whatever meals you want along the way. The drive itself isn't particularly scenic as it takes a straight as an arrow route up the New York State Thruway, and at Albany, onto the Northway which leads right into the city. But if you want to take in some of the sights along the way, as my friend Bill and I did on our recent trip, there are many places to soak up local and historical sights. We left by car Wednesday afternoon and spent the night in Lake George. After breakfast the next day, we continued our drive and arrived in Montreal before noon.

In all my travels around the world, I have never seen a more perfect relationship between a gay community and their local government. American cities such as New York and San Francisco think they have it good, but they can't hold a candle to gay Montreal's integration in the life of the city. Not only does the City of Montreal co-sponsor gay events, such as Gay Pride, but they contribute considerable sums of money to pay for them. They are also co-sponsoring the 2006 Gay Games. Unlike the United States where cities tolerate the presence of gay people, in Montreal, Quebec, the government encourages the gay community to successfully run their gay ghetto (self-imposed) and pays to advertise their activities. They want gay people from the United States to contribute to the economic health of the city. Every advertising brochure printed by the Montreal government has a section devoted to gay activities.

Bill and I spent some time with Louis–Alain Robitalle, the Director General of the Gay Chamber of Commerce. What was that? The Gay Chamber of Commerce? Where can one find such an organization in the United States? We learned that this organization has over 500 members, businesses of every kind (and not all of them gay) oriented toward gay people and services for them. And down the hall from the Gay Chamber of Commerce is the office of the Gay Pride organizers, also partially funded by the city.

Gay businesses have staked out part of the center city called "The Village." The Village is almost completely gay. The action is located on Saint Catherine East, a straight line of about 10 blocks

containing bars, saunas, strip clubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, book stores and clothing stores. It is simply an unbroken line that begins on the cross street of St. Hubert and ends at Maisonneuve Street. No doubt that as time goes on, more and more of St Catherine East will be gobbled up by gay businesses. Virtually every couple walks hand in hand. Even heterosexuals.

One of the advantages of traveling to Canada is the exchange rate. When we were there in July it was $1.36 Canadian for every American dollar. That's an exceptional advantage for us Americans. In addition, while you'll pay a tax on accommodations and other expenses, you get a substantial rebate (but not on meals) on the tax either instantly (in the case of hotel rooms), at the border or by mail. The rebate is for people leaving Canada – like Americans. That adds up to about another 8% advantage for us. Can you imagine asking for a rebate on your hotel tax in New York!

GoGo Boys at "Taboo"
There are some countries in the world noted for friendliness. Canada is one of them. There must be crime there, but one hardly thinks about that walking the streets or riding on their Metro (subway). Everyone is available to help you find an address, or just to chat with you for no other reason than friendliness. There is sometimes a slight problem with language. French is clearly the first language of the Province of Quebec, English the second language. While almost everyone speaks English, there are still some people who are insecure in the language, but the hostility toward English speakers from the period of Quebecoise is a thing of the past. Don't worry about how to tell whether someone speaks English or not. They'll spot you immediately and speak your language.

Another difference between the United States and Canada is the strip bars. Rarely is nudity acceptable in the United States. Exceptions are to be found in Washington, DC and one go-go bar in Baltimore (as far as I know). In Montreal, on the other hand, all the strip bars feature nude go-go boys. After only a few minutes in one of these bars, one can readily see that the dancers weren't chosen for the length of their stamina! The young men generally come out clothed, and within seconds begin taking them off. In a later set they come out fully nude, often sporting erections. One gets the impression that Viagra is the number one drug of these young men. Whether they just walk around the stage or actually dance depends upon which bar one enters.

(Toronto also has nude dancing in their gay strip bars. In fact, I'm told that at one time, the go-go boys not only walked out with erections, but actually masturbated to orgasm on the stage. Locals called it a "sperm attack!" But it was finally judged unsanitary and dangerous, and ejaculating on stage was prohibited – or so I'm told.)

Many people are curious about the sexual orientation of the nude go-go boys. In one bar we found that almost all of them were straight, and in another, almost all of them were gay. But these lines of desire are so often crossed over, that the question sometimes losses meaning. Hence, an old gay slogan, "This year's trade is next year's competition."

"Where do you put the money?" is a question often asked of Americans unused to the Canadian nude go-go boy system. This is usually followed by rude comments about where to place it. The go-go boys in Canadian bars are unpaid by the bar owners. That would be illegal in the United States, but perfectly acceptable there. The fact is that go-go boys in Canada do not make tips as they do in the United States. Seldom do they receive a tip like they do here. They make their money by getting men to hire them on the spot for a "lap dance." There is always a cordoned off section in the bar where the young man takes his admirer for a few minutes. A certain amount (not much) of touching is allowed, but rarely of the genitals. For $10 the curtain is left open; for $20 it is closed. In only one bar were we told that sex was on the agenda for a sufficient amount of money, but the details of this a la carte menu were never fully explained to us. And oddly, this was in the bar where almost all the dancers were straight. It was never clear to us whether the young men were available for "outside" performances. No one ever propositioned us.

GoGo Boys at "Taboo"
I asked for permission to photograph some of the young men who dance nude for this article. Only one bar, Taboo, on Maisonneuve East responded. A couple of the boys agreed to be photographed by me. Some of these pictures are reproduced here.

Even naked go-go boys with large penises become tedious after awhile, and fortunately Montreal has quite a few interesting cultural venues to feed the intellect. Olympic Stadium and the Botanical Gardens are adjacent to one another and a combined ticket is sold for them. The Museum of Fine Arts has a fabulous collection. When we were there, we saw the best Cocteau exhibit we ever saw, one that included some of his drawings of men having sex. There's also a casino for those who like losing money at slot machines.

Every tourist city has their noted shopping streets. In Montreal they are centered in two areas. The first is in the "old city" near the port. There, in cobble stoned streets, are a large collection of stores selling tourist wares. It was there that I went first in order to look for Inuit (Eskimo) sculpture. The better, and more reliable, shops for art work is on Rue Sherbrooke, near the Fine Arts Museum. It was in the Canadian Guild of Crafts, a non-profit outlet devoted toward selling the artwork of Canadian artists that I bought a beautiful and authentic Inuit sculpture, and a beautiful Salish copper box, that in old times would have been used in their "potlatch" ceremonies. These works of art don't come cheap, but they appreciate in value considerable over the years. There are many interesting shops on this avenue, and each of them will welcome you without pressure to buy.

Travel Hint

Returning to the United States by car can be troublesome Sunday afternoon. There's often a huge build-up of cars waiting to get through customs, and the wait can be as much as an hour. The only way of avoiding the rush is to leave either earlier in the day or stay until Monday.


Gay Chamber of Commerce (www.ccgq.ca)
Antoine from Taboo Bar (http://antoine.nudemaledancers.com)
Taboo Bar (www.taboointernational.com)

Want to ask a question about Gay travel or submit your own travel stories? Email your questions or submissions to Dr.Silverstein at: psychs@mindspring.com.

photos by Dr. Charles Silverstein


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