Hélène Montreuil et Michèle Morgan
in the newspaper The Gazette

Sunday, September 14, 2003, page B-1

The brides wore white (and red)

By Mark Cardwell, Freelance

The Gazette, Montreal

The bizarre nuptials yesterday of Micheline Montreuil and Michèle Morgan
show in this day and age absolutely anything goes at the altar

The old capital's most anticipated wedding of the year came to a close yesterday with the traditional exchange of vows.

But there was nothing old-fashioned about a marriage with two brides and no groom.

"This is a day of joy," said Micheline Montreuil, one of Canada's best-known transgenders, who tied the knot with fellow lawyer Michèle Morgan in a decommissioned church on Quebec City's chic Grande Allée.

"Society is always evolving and it took a big step today."

For Montreuil, a transvestite who has undergone hormone therapy to grow breasts and laser treatments to remove facial hair (she has stopped short - so far - of a complete sex or gender change), it was definitely a day to remember.

Renowned for a slew of highly publicized court battles over her efforts to be legally recognized as a woman, the 51-year-old wore a traditional white wedding gown for the afternoon civil ceremony.

Montreuil's father, Louis, gave this bride away.

Morgan, a government lawyer and best-selling author of psychological self-help books, wore a red dress.

She was given away by her brother, also named Louis.

It was the first trip to the altar for both brides.

Bertrand Cantin, a retired Oblate priest and a pastor at the Centre Nouveau Pensée in Montreal, performed the service.

The event was a high point in two lives marked by many difficult moments.

Montreuil, who's name at birth was Pierre, is a great-great grandson of Patriote leader Louis-Joseph Papineau. He began wearing women's undergarments as a teenager.

Youthful curiosity, however, gave way to an adult man's desire to dress like a woman, first privately, then publicly during trips abroad.

In 1986, he came up with a name for his alter-ego - Micheline. The name, he said, "is easy to spell and sounds soft to my ears."

Micheline first appeared publically in Quebec City when Montreuil was 40. His common-law wife of 17 years left him soon after.

Montreuil's legal battles began in the late 1990s, when he tried to have the name Micheline added to his birth certificate.

After three costly court battles, the Quebec Appeals Court finally ruled in his favour on Nov. 7, 2002.

Those fights made Micheline a poster-girl for transsexuals across Canada and around the world. Fame, however, has come at a price.

"I'm a pariah in legal circles," said Montreuil, who moonlights as a tax collector for Revenue-Québec and a law professor at Université du Québec à Rimouski. "I'm an excellent lawyer, but no firm wants to hire a transgender."

For her part, Morgan, a lawyer with the Régie des rentes du Québec and the author of a half-dozen books, including the 1979 tome, Pourquoi pas le bonheur, which sold more than 100,000 copies, defines her childhood and early adult life as "unhappy."

After a failed relationship, she said in an interview last week, she was ready to spend the rest of her life alone. However, she changed her mind in early 2000, when she met Montreuil in a restaurant after chatting with him on the Internet.

Montreuil, a former army reserve officer with an imposing 6-foot frame, showed up wearing knee-high black leather boots, a fur coat and shoulder wrap, a Russian-style fur hat and breast-length blond hair.

"When I first saw Pierre, I called him mon beau grand Viking," remembered Morgan, who still refers tenderly to Montreuil as 'mon BGV.'

The couple have lived together for the past few years in Montreuil's home in a Quebec City suburb, from which he runs a private law practice.

Morgan, a petite woman who yesterday was radiant, said she's attracted by the man in Montreuil.

"I'm heterosexual, and Pierre has never renounced his masculine side," explained Morgan. "When I met him, I never saw a woman, only an eccentricity.

"To me, Micheline is like a character in a movie. It's when we're home relaxing that I see the man I love."

Both say they wanted to get married "for all the right reasons - namely love and commitment."

Though Morgan wanted a small private wedding, she said she gave in to Montreuil's desire for a big, fun-filled affair.

Micheline arrived at the church alone in a horse and carriage on a lovely, sunny afternoon, wearing a sparkling tiara and collar with a dress that plunged front and back.

Long blond hair draped her broad shoulders and a nosegay of colourful flowers was clutched in her white-gloved hands.

Michèle arrived in a white stretch limousine with two escorts dressed as if they had stepped straight from Arabian nights.

They were welcomed by a phalanx of local media and perhaps 300 onlookers and guests. A few of the approximately 200 guests who actually attended the service heeded the newlywed's pre-nuptial call to set aside traditional wedding decorum and dress, according to Montreuil, "the way you feel, to show who you are - and to have some fun."

The couple had also encouraged people to wear everything from feathers, beads and silk, to frilly feminine garments. "And colour," Montreuil said softly in a telephone interview last week. "I love lots of colour."

Tara, Quebec City's best-known female impersonator, and Marie-Dorette Desjardins, a well-known transvestite and transgender from Chicago, headed a list of notable guests that also included Pointe Claire residents Roger Thibeault and Theo Whouthers, who last year became the first gay couple to be legally married in Quebec.

During the simple, religious-style ceremony, both Micheline and Michèle spoke to the assembled guests at length.

First, Micheline gave Michèle an engagement ring at the altar under the dome of the old church which provided an almost Romanesque atmosphere for the nuptials.

The church, now called the Palais des Arts, has no pews. Guests sat in rows of chairs. Apart from the traditional recessional - in this case, Here Come the Brides - there was no music.

Micheline cited the Bible at length, referring to passages that dealt with concepts of tolerance.

The service was followed by a banquet and dance.

At one point in the evening, Montreuil left and reappeared dressed as Henry VIII.

"Michelle always said that she wanted to marry her Prince Charming," Montreuil said.

The nuptials also asked guests for Christmas tree decorations as gifts.

"That way, we can relive the joy of our marriage every year," Montreuil said. "We're hopeless romantics."