A group of local merchants have proposed changing the name of Montreal's historic Gay Village to simply "The Village" or "Montreal's Village" in an effort to be more inclusive of the entire 2SLGBTQ community.
The Montreal Village Business Development Corporation (SDC) is pushing for the change due to widespread use of the term "2SLGBTQ+" in the country (the 2S stands for two spirit). "We're not discriminating against anyone that associates themselves with gay. It's for sure part of the community," Lee-Anne Millaire Lafleur, a member of the SDC's board, said. "We're just trying to include the rest of the people that don't feel that the word is associated with them."
"Gender and gender inclusion and diversity are very important to me," the SDC posted on social media in an Instagram post about the change. "So here I am, Montreal Village, the largest 2SLGBTQ+ village in the world!"
The group commissioned an ethnographic study in July of last year that suggested businesses could bring in more customers if the population felt the neighborhood was more inclusive. "The word 'gay' represented a lot of people that today, may not still find themselves represented by that one term," Lafleur said.
Not all residents are on board with the proposed change, however. Kelly Zanth, a local nurse, said he was drawn to the community the moment he first arrived in Montreal, and now, he's afraid the space won't feel as specific to queer people.
"Having the Gay Village, we knew that it was the gay safe space," he said. "That's what I think we're losing if we change the name."
Chicago recently did a similar thing, renaming its historic Boystown to be more inclusive. The neighborhood is now officially known as Northalsted, although many locals still refer to it by its original name.
The change came after several Chicago LGBTQ+ community members brought up the idea of degendering the neighborhood's name. Activist Devlyn Camp created a Change.org petition asking the Northalsted Business Alliance to change the name of the area "to promote the inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, lesbian, and intersex individuals."
"Times change," city spokesperson Jen Gordon said about the new name. "We're all about inclusivity here. We want people to feel welcome."