The discreet generation | The Press

Michel Louvain, Serge Laprade, Rose Ouellette. Why does the public learn about the love lives of homosexual personalities after their death? Deciphering a generation with a secret sexual orientation and the reasons for their discretion.

A few years ago, Serge Laprade and his long-time partner, Daniel Arsenault, spent New Year’s Eve with heterosexual friends with their children. At the stroke of midnight, everyone hugs and kisses under the mistletoe, except the host who shakes his friend’s hand. chum to wish him happy new year! “In general, gays are quite demonstrative, and that’s okay,” Daniel Arsenault tells The Press. But Serge and I never were. When I met Serge in 1973, he was already known. And he asked me to always be discreet in public. »

Like Michel Louvain, Serge Laprade led his career for more than half a century while carefully avoiding revealing his homosexuality. In the first case, the public learned about it on the day the singer died The lady in blue, on April 14, 2021, and for Laprade, who disappeared last January, during his wedding in 2023.

Oh yes, they were both… 83 years old.

Why hide your true nature all your life? “Because, if it had been known, these artists would never have had a career! The hatred of homosexuals was so strong at the time,” summarizes Janette Bertrand. The great communicator has spanned the century (she will be 99 years old on March 25). She still remembers the distress letters sent to her Courrier du coeur, to Little Journal, in the 1960s.


Janette Bertrand last December

I read moving accounts of married men who were in hiding and living double lives. They could not confide in their loved ones, nor in the priests, nor in anyone. I was their last resort. It was total hypocrisy, great darkness! Many young gay people committed suicide.

Janette Bertrand

Upon the release of his biography written by journalist Marc-André Lussier, in 2018, René Homier-Roy told the magazine Runaways that he was with the same man for 50 years (Pierre Morin, director at Radio-Canada). However, the host never felt the need to do his coming out before the death of her partner in 2012. “We lived together, we traveled together, it’s not possible that we were roommates. People around me knew. It never seemed necessary to me to specify it, given that I lived it openly. »


Host René Homier-Roy in June 2022

When the journalist remarks that there is “a difference between telling those around you and talking about it publicly when you are a well-known personality”, the host of ICI Première says that at the time he worked at The Press, in the 1970s, a journalist always spoke of him as feminine in the newsroom: “If someone can do very indelicate things like that, that means it was in the spirit of the times,” recalls -he.

Clandestinity and sin

For Dany Turcotte, this generation of gay men suffered enormously and suffered trauma. “It’s the generation in and out daily. The closet is in its DNA,” he illustrates. The host adds that seniors prefer to keep their sexual orientation private, even today, because they still fear the reaction and intimidation of straight people.

Moreover, for his documentary The last closet – Aging happily, Dany Turcotte wanted to interview homosexual personalities aged 75 and over. They all declined his invitation. [La Presse a aussi contacté des artistes connus de cette génération pour ce reportage. En vain.] “In their minds, these elders have the impression that morals have not really changed,” he believes. I finally called Janette. And she said yes straight away. »

It must be said that these homosexuals grew up in secrecy and sin in Catholic Quebec. It should also be remembered that homosexuality was a crime in Canada until 1969 and an illness listed by the World Mental Health Association… until 1990. And laws change faster than mentalities.

“When you grow up in constant fear and stress of minorities, it’s normal that you want to protect your privacy,” says Michel Dorais, sociologist, author and former professor at Laval University.


Michael Dorais

We’re talking about a generation that lived through a time when doctors gave electroshocks to homosexuals! I knew a gay man who suffered such treatment during his teenage years. He lived in fear his entire life.

Michel Dorais, sociologist, author and former professor at Laval University

According to him, young people, with the current identity revolution, are propelling homosexual elders to move forward. “I saw it in my classes at university. Children push their parents to do their coming out. Today, LGBTQ communities are reclaiming their past, to break the silence about their experiences. It’s History with a capital H that’s moving forward,” believes the author, who is also preparing a book on the subject.

Out of the shadows

According to host Danielle Ouimet, living your love in the shadow of a star is a convention that sets in at the start of a relationship. “Serge’s partner and Michel’s partner have chosen to remain discreet so as not to harm their lover’s career. By revealing their love stories late in life, it’s their way of telling the public: I gave you everything, and the last thing I have in store for you is my truth,” says Ouimet, who attended the wedding of Serge Laprade in October 2023.


Danielle Ouimet

“Honestly, we never talked about coming out before Michel’s cancer”, says Mario Théberge, spouse of Michel Louvain.

For Michel, his career was essential, his breath of life. It went without saying that I had to remain discreet on the red carpets, out of respect for the audience.

Mario Théberge, spouse of Michel Louvain

“I spotted a group of friends on the sidelines and talked with them while Michel had his photo taken. It wasn’t a sacrifice. And there are not red carpets every day,” confides Mr. Théberge.


Michèle Richard and Serge Laprade, for The Idol Tour 2in 2016

Ditto for Daniel Arsenault. “When we started dating, 50 years ago, Serge told me that out of respect for his female audience, he was not comfortable with the fact that we appeared publicly. And I have always been fine with this choice because I was in love with Serge head over heels, and until the last day. »

source site-52