Donald L. Boisvert, ground-breaking queer theologian and priest, was born in December 1951 to Gilles Boisvert and Lucienne Boisvert. Boisvert was raised in a strong Catholic tradition and drawn to a vocation in the priesthood from a young age. He began seminary at age 13 leading to undergraduate studies at Loyola College in Montreal. Loyola merged with Sir George Williams University to become Concordia University in August 1974—from which Boisvert received his B.A. degree in 1975 and M.A. in 1979. Having come out as a gay man, Boisvert put aside priestly intentions and took a position on the staff of Concordia’s Dean of Students’ Office. He thrived in various teaching and administrative roles there and earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa in 1990. It was during this time that he began his pioneering and courageous research and writing on sexuality, masculinity, gender and religion.
Boisvert served as Concordia's Dean of Students from 1996 to 2003 where he helped build a welcoming and comprehensive Student Services program. In 2002, he endowed the Donald L. Boisvert Scholarship for Gay and Lesbian Studies. Beginning in 2003, he was a Senior Lecturer for Concordia's Department of Religion where he taught a diverse range of religious studies courses and supervised and mentored graduate students. In 2011, he received tenure and served as chair of the department from 2014 to 2015.
One of his students observed: “As an openly gay man, Donald created a queer-friendly and feminist space that allowed students, particularly queer students, to share their stories and feel seen, heard and valued.”
He published his first book, Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Spirituality, in 2000. Herein he portrayed gay spirituality as a serious cultural expression and posited that spirituality was a pivotal factor in the development of a gay consciousness. His second book, Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints (2004) was a finalist in the Spirituality/Religion Category at the 2005 Lambda Literary Awards. This work presented the lives of 12 saints and how devotion to them could be a confirmation and celebration of homoerotic desire.
Boisvert served as co-chair of the Gay Men’s Issues in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion from 2000-2007. In this role he collaborated with other leading gay theologians to push the boundaries of thinking on sexuality, gender and religion. In 2005, he co-edited with Robert Shore-Goss Gay Catholic Priests and Clerical Sexual Misconduct: Breaking the Silence. The contributors were an eclectic mix of scholars and clerics who were inspired by Mark Jordan’s The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism and probingly questioned whether the church could survive centuries of secrets and scandals. Boisvert and Jay Johnson co-edited the massive Queer Religion in 2011. This two-volume collection of eclectic essays investigated the experiences of queer people and religion and provided a broad, unique, and invaluable analysis of this emerging cultural and theological intersection.
His final publication, The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Sexuality, and Gender (2017) was a textbook co-authored with Carly Daniel-Hughes, associate professor and chair of Concordia’s Department of Religions and Cultures. Daniel-Hughes offered this observation of Boisvert: “He never reduced Christianity or other religious traditions to homophobic discourse or repressive sexuality. Instead, he invited students and readers to question the problematic ways in which religious communities have and continue to treat sexuality and gender with real implications for queer people and vulnerable others.”
Boisvert saw teaching as a kind of ministry and did not totally abandoned his dream of being a priest. He left the Catholic Church to be ordained a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada in 2013. In 2016, he retired from Concordia to become a full-time member of the clergy of the Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal and of the St. Matthias Church in Westmount.
Boisvert served as a board member of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre as well. There he volunteered as a docent and led high school and college students through the museum. He also inaugurated public lectures on the gay and lesbian experience during World War II.
Boisvert died after a long illness on June 19, 2019 at the age of 67. He was cared for and survived by his beloved spouse Gaston Lamontagne.
Steve Lapidus, who was a protégé and friend of Boisvert’s, wrote about him in the Gay and Lesbian Review: “Donald’s personal and academic trinity were religion, spirituality and sexuality. He wore a Star of David, a crescent, and a cross around his neck, embodying the syncretism and reciprocity in which he believed. Donald was also a brave scholar, sharing intimate, personal, and sensitive reflections with his readers. By eroticizing saint veneration, he took on (and pissed off) multiple Christian denominations with one book alone (Sanctity and Male Desire), whose original version was censored by a relatively liberal press… Donald was a true mentor; he taught me how to teach. I learned from his patience, erudition, and the uncanny forcefulness of his lectures how to address a class. His ability to connect with and encourage students was inspiring. Donald was the most gifted pedagogue I ever met. He engaged, challenged, guided, and delighted his students.”
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from the sources given below.)
Biography Date: March 2021
Concordia University published this obituary:
This obituary appeared in the Montreal Gazette:
The Gay and Lesbian Review published this remembrance in August 2019:
Q-Spirit published this tribute to Boisvert in February 2021:
Catholic (Roman) | Anglican Church of Canada | Theology | Author/editor | Montreal | Canada
“Rev. Dr. Donald Boisvert | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed August 01, 2021, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/donald-boisvert.