Breaking the Chains of Homosexual Oppression: Girouard and Tremblay’s 1973 Gay Marriage Record Album
[Image Description: 1973 LP album art for Giourard and Tremblay, shows both men with their arms around each other’s waist and with their arms chained together with manacles, raising their arms into the foreground. They are both gazing directly into the camera.]
In 1972 Quebec entertainer Michel Girouard married his lover, Regeant Tremblay, in an unusual and unique ceremony. Girouard was a journalist for Tele-Radio Monde and the tabloid newspaper Le Grand Journal Illustré. He was also a singer and comedian who made occasional television appearances and had a hot-line talk show on radio station CKLM. When he publicly came out as a homosexual in 1972, he was already a well-known entertainer.
Réjeant Tremblay, an unknown pianist born in Chicoutimi in 1947, met Girouard in a Montreal bar. Ten months later, they decided to get married. It was a marriage with a clear political agenda: to advance the rights of homosexuals everywhere.
Tremblay and Girouard branded their marriage as a symbolic act that would end the enslavement of homosexuality to oppressive forces that kept them closeted, isolated, and repressed. During the ceremony, rather than exchange rings or vows, Girouard held in front of him a large, metal chain and declared “I break the chain that has become the symbol of homosexuality across the world.” He and Tremblay then pulled it apart, breaking it in two.
Local tabloid Flash! published a thirty-two page photo spread documenting the couple’s special day under the headline: “The End of the Oppression of Homosexuals.” The reporter championed them as leaders in the struggle for gay freedom. Michel Girouard “wants man to be free to act as he pleases and to love who he wants.” One photo caption read, “It is the homosexual’s mission to open the eyes of the world.” Regéant Tremblay was described as “a militant pioneer for Canadian homosexuals.”
Other media was much less kind. Journal de Montréal and Nouvelles Illustrées described the event in circus-like terms, mocked their political stand, and characterized Tremblay as a hyper-feminine queer.
The coverage was uneven, and not always positive, but it was covered, and in this respect the couple achieved one of their main goals: to challenge homosexual oppression by coming out and declaring that their love for each other, and their sexual practices, were as valid as anyone else’s. In the early 1970s these were radical claims.
Same-sex marriage was not recognized by the state, of course, but Quebec’s Civil Code gave Tremblay and Girouard a unique way to make their union legal. The Code allowed for the creation of a legal partnership very much like marriage, regardless of sex. Entertainment lawyer Claude F. Archambault drew up a contract that “provides for the merger of their business careers, pooling of their earnings, and division of property if they separate. It pledges them to give ‘mutual support’ to one another.” Archambault read the contract before the assembled guests and media, Girouard and Tremblay signed it, and Girouard triumphantly announced: “Our union will make society aware of the problems of the homosexual.”
Later the same year they released a record album titled “Le Couple.” On the cover is a photo of the two men with their arms around each other’s waist, each holding one end of a chain representing homosexual oppression, while gazing directly into the camera’s lens, defiant in their insistence on the right to love queerly. Songs covered on the album include Oscar Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Edith Piaf’s “L’Hymne à l’amour” (listen here to the LP here).
In my research I have discovered that an awful lot of same-sex couples married in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s but only one can say they produced a record album to celebrate it!
This blog entry is an excerpt from “Liberating Marriage: Gay Liberation and Same-Sex Marriage in Early 1970s Canada” a chapter in Activating Resistance: Remembering and Re-Thinking Sex/Gender Activism, forthcoming from UBC Press.