Throughout October, the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism (IGSF) has organized a diverse spread of events, featuring famous LGBTQ+ speakers, professors, and authors, as part of McGill’s inaugural LGBTQ+ History Month. This achievement has initiated a conversation about LGBTQ+ culture and knowledge on campus, and the events have highlighted the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community. In celebration of this initiative, The McGill Tribune reflects on LGBTQ+ McGillians who have made history on campus and beyond.
Originally from the United States, Will Aitken is one of Canada’s most celebrated openly-gay film critics as well as a highly-regarded novelist and journalist. He graduated with an MA in English literature in 1975. In 1973, Aitken co-founded Montreal’s first LGBTQ-oriented bookstore, Librairie L’Androgyne, located on Crescent Street before its closure in 2002. He has worked as a film critic and journalist for various news outlets including the BBC, CBC, and National Public Radio. Additionally, Aitken taught briefly at Dawson College and continues to write in the Montreal area. His most recent book, Antigone Undone, was shortlisted for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
An alumna of McGill’s Physical Education program (BEd’12), and former Martlet, Charline Labonté enjoyed an impressively-decorated hockey career. Labonté played for the Canadian Women’s Hockey team in the 2006 Turin Olympics, and her impeccable goaltending helped Canada win the gold medal. Later, Labonté won ‘Top Goaltender’ at the IIHF Women’s World Championships in 2009. When she publicly came out as lesbian in 2014, Labonté thanked her Team Canada and Martlet teammates for their support, acceptance, and love. Labonté retired in 2017 with three Olympic gold medals, two world championships, and six world silver medals.
Born in Mumbai in 1941, Namjoshi is an internationally-acclaimed author, poet, and fabulist. In 1972, her thesis on the poetry of Ezra Pound earned her a PhD in English literature from McGill. Namjoshi has produced a dynamic body of literature, publishing novels, poetry collections, scholarly articles, and over a dozen children’s books. Her 1981 anthology, Feminist Fables, is critically acclaimed as a scintillating reframing of traditional fables that encourages female empowerment. Much of her work explores themes related to gender and sexuality and actively challenges sexism, racism, and homophobia. Between 1995 and 2001, Namjoshi held the position of Honourable Research Fellow at Exeter University’s Centre for Women’s Studies.
One of the founding fathers of the modern internet, Alan Emtage (BS’ 87, MS’91) earned two degrees in computer science from McGill. After graduation, Emtage went on to invent Archie, the world’s first internet search engine. Emtage was also a founding member of the Internet Society, a multi-national nonprofit committed to improving internet standards, policies, and access. Previously, Emtage has stated that he felt isolated as a child, due to his LGBTQ+ identity, which encouraged him to pursue solitary interests including computer science and technology. He is currently chief technical officer at web engineering company Mediapolis, which, among other projects, operates popular LGBTQ+ internet forums.
A professor with degrees from Harvard University and Oxford University, Brian Lewis currently teaches in McGill’s History and Classical studies department, specializing in British History and sexuality studies. In his History of Sexuality survey course, Lewis often ‘comes out’ to his students. He finds this practice liberating and an effective way to create a safe space for his students. An author of multiple books in his field, Lewis remains a notable LGBTQ+ scholar and teacher and is a favourite professor among history students.