How Rimbaud Saved my Life (Part I)

For those who couldn’t be there, here is part of the text of a speech I made on September 1st, 2017, during a giant Kiss-In, part of the Fête Arc-en-ciel de Québec (Rainbow Québec festival) in front of the Palais Montcalm concert hall, Place d’Youville in Québec City.

By Pascale Cormier

Arthur Rimbaud, 19th century French poet

I was born in the Québec City suburb of Sainte-Foy, in another era, in another costume, in another world. I made a long detour to get to me.

A half-century later, I was born again in Québec City, on the stage of the Tam-Tam Café in the Saint-Roch neighborhood, a stone’s throw away from the famous Jos Dion tavern. I went up to the microphone, all made up, perfumed, padded, dressed in my prettiest dress, sporting my jewels, and I said: “I am here to kill shame.”

And shame died that night.

The first time I was born, I was a boy. At least, I looked like one. That’s what the doctor told my parents: “Congratulations, you have a beautiful boy.” They were happy! Think about it: their first child, and it turns out to be a boy.

It was during the first years of the Quiet Revolution. Ideas about education still had the whiff of church incense about them. God had said: “You’re going to be a man, my son.” It my case, He could have also said “my girl.” God sometimes makes mistakes.

Funny, I was born twice in Québec City, but I never lived there. I wasn’t yet 6 months old when my parents moved to Matane, in the Gaspé. I was 8 years of age when we pulled up stakes and moved to Yaoundé, in Cameroun. When I was 13, we came back to live in Montréal, where I spent the worst and the best years of my life.

The first 3 years back from Africa weren’t too bad. I went to Polyvalent Lucien-Pagé, an enormous bunker of a high school with 2,000 students. I had a funny accent, funny manners, and I was a good student, polite, well-raised, appreciated by teachers and administrators: in other words, all the qualities needed to make friends at that age…

First seen in: Reflet de Société, Vol. 27, no. 1, printemps (spring) 2019, pages 22-23

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