Friday, 3 August 2018

City Pride : Gay Paris

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 numerical order.

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 and streets.

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 palace.

The Théâtre de l’Odéon was built in 1782. Many lgbt singers, musicians, actors and performers have appeared here.

Pierre Berthier (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 in 1941.

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)
1977 : 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 part.

2018 : 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.

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