The 10th Gay Games begin in Paris tomorrow. To celebrate let’s have a look at some of the city’s lgbt heritage. If you’re in the city for the games, or even plan to visit in the future, these glimpses into Gay Paris present just a small selection of its vast lgbt history. I’ll not cover the most obvious tourist attractions and sites but those that are less noticeable.
The map below gives a very
simplified lay-out of the city. With a proper city map you’ll be able to home
in more precisely on the sites I’ve chosen. I’ll give the current address of
sites to make things a little easier. You don’t have to visit each site in
First of all, there is the
Parisian “gay quarter”, Le Marais
(in orange on the map). This district has been a gathering place for many
diverse and bohemian communities over the last century. From the 1980s the lgbt
community has been making a more visible presence, and today it is claimed that
40% of lgbt businesses in Paris are based in Le Marais. It is also one of the
most untouched areas of the city and still contains many historical buildings
1) No. 102, The Champs Élysées : This is the site of the terror attack
of 20th April 2017. Three policemen were shot, one of whom, Xavier Jugelé,
died. He was an active member of the French police lgbt group, Flag! Xavier’s
civil partner, Étienne Cardiles, gave a moving eulogy at the national ceremony
to honour him. Xavier was awarded a posthumous Legion d’Honneur, and he and
Étienne were allowed to marry posthumously, France being a country where this
is possible in special circumstances.
2) The Hôtel Regina : On 26th March 1903 the British war hero Sir Hector
Macdonald was staying at this hotel. He went down into the hotel lounge after
breakfast to read the newspapers. The New York Herald ran a front page story of
him being charged with homosexual offences. Sir Hector then returned to his
room and shot himself. Sir Hector was a massive hero in the UK and his suicide
came as a shock to the nation, partly because they were unaware of the charges
against him. It is believed that he is the army officer who still depicted on
the label of Camp Coffee in the UK.
3) The Gay Memorial Stone : The intersection of Rue Montorgueil
and Rue Bachaumont was the site of the arrest in 1750 of Bruno Lenoir and Jean
Diot, the last men to be executed in France for homosexuality. They were
strangled and burnt to death in front of the Hôtel de Ville (see no. 6).
4) The Museum of the Legion d’Honneur : Many lgbt people have been awarded
the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour. Among them are Xavier Jugelé
(see no.1), artist Louise Abbéma and tennis player Amélie Mauresmo.
International lgbt recipients have included Giorgio Armani, Lawrence of Arabia,
Eleanor Roosevelt and Father Mychal Judge (9/11 victim, awarded posthumously).
5) Natalie Barney’s Salon : 20 Rue Jacob. US writer Natalie Barney (1876-1972) lived at this address for over 60 years. Many famous writers
and artists flooded to her home every week to socialise and exchange views.
6) Hôtel de Ville : This will be the main social point for athletes at the
Gay Games – the “athlete’s village”. Many events are planned to be held in the
main square, including the start and finish of the International Rainbow
Memorial Run (see below). This is also the site of the last execution of gay
men in France (see no.3). The building is Paris’s city hall and the offices of
its mayor. Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris 2001-14, was one of the few openly
gay mayors of a national capital.
7) Convent of the Abbaye-aux-Bois : On the junction of Rue de Four and
Boulevard Raspail the now-demolished convent was the home of a “lady boarder”,
the enigmatic Henriette Jenny Savalette de Langes (d.1858). She claimed to be
the illegitimate daughter of a Marquis and received favours from the French
royal family. She also lived at several addresses in Le Marais (see above).
After she died it was discovered that she was a man.
8) The Condé Cluster : This is my name for several locations on or near the
site of the old Condé Palace which was split up into lots in 1779. The Condé Palace, or Hôtel Condé, was
named after members of the French royal Family. It was the city residence of
Prince Louis II de Bourbon, Duke of Condé, (1621-1686), the owner of the Condé Diamond,
and I’ll write more about him later in the year.
Among the servants of the
Condé family was the mother of the infamous Marquis de Sade, who was born in
The Théâtre de l’Odéon was
built in 1782. Many lgbt singers, musicians, actors and performers have
(1782-1861), geologist, lived and died at 2 Rue Crébillon. He discovered the
mineral bauxite (the main source of aluminium) and invented stainless steel. He
was put on the list of homosexuals kept by the police. For his scientific work
Pierre was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, and is the only gay man of the 72 who
are commemorated on the Eiffel Tower. Berthier’s home is currently the location
of the publishers Bartillat.
The original Shakespeare
and Company bookstore (see no. 9) was located at 12 Rue de l’Odéon and is
commemorated with a wall plaque. It lasted until the Nazi occupation of Paris
9) Shakespeare and Company : No. 37 Rue de la Bûcherie. The
original bookshop was created by Sylvia Beach in the Rue de l’Odeon (see no.
8). This present bookshop was named in honour of the original in 1964. Both
bookshops have been meeting places for many lgbt and bohemian writer and
artists, including Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein and Allen Ginsberg.
Paris Pride Marches (Marche des Fiertés)
: The first official Paris Pride march took place on 25th June 1977. Lgbt
groups had taken part in previous annual marches organised by trade unions, but
in 1977 they organised their own independent march. Around 400 people took
: The route of the most recent march on 30th June 2018 was highlighted in
rainbow colours on Google maps for several weeks beforehand. You may like to
pause in the area around the Louvre. Much of what you see is the work of
architects Pierre Fontaine (1762-1853) and Charles Percier (1764-1838), who
were very probably a gay couple. They invented the distinctive Imperial style for
Napoleon (I’ll mention Fontaine again in a couple of days).
International Rainbow Memorial Run – 4 August 2018
The Memorial Run was
created in 1984 in memory of AIDS victims and, in more recent years, breast
cancer victims. More information is in my 2014 article here. The 2018 Run takes
places tomorrow (Saturday 4th August). It begins outside the Hôtel de Ville at
about 10.40 a.m.
UPDATE : Less than a week after I
wrote this article in which I mention the plaque commemorating the last two men
executed for homosexuality in France, and this happens. There’s some very
stupid people out there.