Being Queer In France: A Short Summer Story

Ever wondered what it feels like to be queer in France, the country often portrayed as the most romantic one? Well, the reality might be a little less idyllic and a little more down to earth.

By Oriane Bao
August 2, 2020.

France, begining of summer. 
My friends and I were going for a short trip on Ardèche, a region where grass is bright green, rivers are singing and flowers are everywhere. Five in one car, we were melting under the sun, but the heat could not stop us from being happy to reunite. The only shadow above us was the recent nomination of Gérald Darmanin -an openly same sexe marriage opponent- as the new Minister of the Interior.  On five pals, we were four queer people, and the subject came quickly into our discussion. As many french people, we were angry, and we felt attacked. The day after this nomination, protests were florishing all accross the country, against this old school minister wich is above all accused of rape and sexual harrassment, and against the governement wich protect rapists but promised us to make feminism « the great cause of the five year-term ». 

At the day when I’m writing this article, almost one month after, nothing has changed, and Darmanin is still our Minister. In our car, few weeks ago, we were far from imagining this disappoinment, and under the sudden downpour, we decided to change our plan -which was to plant a tent- to end in a house loaned by O’s family, which lives in Ardeche, two hours away from our initial location plan. Lucky us, after almost 10 hours of driving under the sun, then hail and finally rain, we were now under a roof and enjoying this sudden program change. We could guess a breathtaking view through the misty night, and the stars above us were shining in a beautiful way. The weekend could officialy start. Our luggages unpacked, we ended up talking about our love situations before going to sleep. O, like me, is a girl who loves girls, even if we both do not exclude the possibiilty to date guys. She was then seing a girl and she hoped that it will soon become official. It already seemed pretty serious, and her smile when she talked about that made us smile too under the starry night sky. S is a guy which usually date girls, but he is bi and in relationship with another guy for now almost three months. He explained us that the lockdown, which has been two months long in France, helped him to settle down in an exclusive relashionship, even if he refers himself as a polyamourous person. M is single. We learned that she has a crush on a girl she met few days ago in a bar with some friends. M is also bi. L is here the only straight person, and like M and me, she is single too. Maybe at this point you wonder if being queer is more accepetd in France as in other country. The truth is, I don’t know. Like me, we are a lot to have not came out to our family yet. Nowadays, our generation is pretty open when it comes to accept everyone’s love, no matter the gender, but it is not the case for older people that easily freak out in front of two guys tenderly kissing. Society surely change, but slowly, and not everywhere the same. My friends and I met few years ago during our studies after high school, and we never really had struggle with homophobia in our scolarship, but I have been thinking lately that this privilege maybe comes with the education one.

Photo: Oriane Bao

Day 1 

We wake up late, but soon enough to be invited to share breakfast with O’s grandparents, few steps away from the house. As expected, the view was breathtaking. Between two cups of coffee and some slice of fresh bread, we learned that O’s cousin planned to throw a birthday party by the river nearby, and after a day spent bathing, hanging out and complaining about the heat, we finally found ourselves in the middle of thirties enjoying their picnic around a firecamp. O warned us: everyone here was nice, but few were used to rubbing shoulders with people who were not straight. “You have to tell them twice before they really understand” she told us. Indeed, O’s uncle immediately assumed that S was straight: the only guy among 4 girls, his girlfriend must have been jealous! We were laughting silently, amused and not angry at all. We were aware that heterosexuality is a norm for the majority, despite the fact that things are changing. Her uncle was also unaware of his niece homosexuality, and eventually O confessed to him, later in the night, that she was « like her father », which is gay, and her uncle actually had to hear it twice before really understanding what it meant. He was visibly confuse, but said « If you’re happy, I’m happy. And my niece is the best. » I thought I saw happy tears in O’s eyes, but the fire’s light wasn’t strong enough for me to be sure. 

Photo: Oriane Bao

Day 2 

For the last day of the weekend, we decided to visit Vals-les-bains, a beautiful commune where we had the most delicious lunch, then we went to Aubenas, a picturesque village. Surprisely, the first thing that caught our attention once arrived in the city was the omnipresence of political tags all  over the walls, despite its aging population. O explained to us that the Yellow Jackets movement  «Les Gilets Jaunes » in french, has been an opportunity for young people to express themselves here. The « ni patron ni mari » tag (« neither master nor husband») was particularly exciting : in front of us, we had the proof that society evolves in a better way for us, and that the codes are no longer the patriarcal ones. Later on the small and colorfull streets, we saw to girls holding hands, and this image was undoubtedly as beautiful as the view we had on top of the city. 

Photo: Oriane Bao