Sebastien, in his own words: “(Being gay) means waking up when a gay clock rings, having a gay breakfast (including a kiwi), riding a gay bike (and running all the red lights) to go to work, sending gay emails, leaving my office, going to the supermarket to buy a gay bottle of (organic) wine and a gay frozen dish, and going back home. And fucking with the random guy I’ve texted 3 hours earlier. So being gay basically means fucking with men, and I’m happy with that. For some of my friends it means listening to Madonna or Beyonce night and day, or spending 1000€ a year at a gym club or at a psychoanalyst’s. But I listen to Klaus Schulze’s music, I roller-skate and hike, which is not gay, but at least it is free. But I might consider consulting a psychoanalyst because Schulze’s music is insane and hiking in Mauritania too.
Seriously, being gay also means that you should know what happens to your fellow gay men over the world and in your neighborhood. You cannot ignore that thousands of gay people are hung, killed, tortured or raped every day and that homophobic violence is one of the worst problems we are facing and most of the time we cannot rely on anyone to help us. This means that you cannot live your own life without being proud of what you are, without fighting to be respected as a gay man, and fighting for gay people’s rights. You have to be informed about gay history and the struggles of gay activists: gay people should know who Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard, Edie Windsor or Mikael Sam are, to name but a few, and shouldn’t give a shit about those so-called gay icons such as Britney Spears, Rihanna, Lady Gaga or Liza Minelli for the older of us.
One of my biggest challenges as a traveler was to visit North Korea before this country disappears. I sincerely regret that East-Germany doesn’t exist anymore, so I didn’t want to miss that. I also would like to visit some other countries before they disappear, but not for political reasons, such as Maldives or Kiribati. This means, after going to all the places I want to, I will have very little time left to visit gay spots such as Mykonos, Tel-Aviv, Cologne or Ibiza.
My next challenges are: a) to bald and put on weight as late as possible (because, as you know, gay people are good-looking even when they get old) and b) to get a license in scuba diving.
Oh, I forgot: my biggest challenge would be to meet someone, to fall in love with him and to stay with him a significant amount of time to be selected for a Kooples commercial.
I have no coming out story. My straight brother doesn’t have a straight coming out story. If someone asks me if I’m straight, I answer “no”. If someone asks me if I’m gay, I answer “yes”. If nobody asks me anything, I shut the fuck up… and I go to the gay pride.
However, I have an anecdote to tell you. A few years ago I was invited to my company’s annual party. Family members were invited too. I told my colleagues that I would come with my cousin. The guy supposed to be my cousin couldn’t be my cousin, genetically and visually speaking. When we arrived at the party, two of my colleagues asked me: “Is he really your cousin?” I answered: “Obviously, no!” That could be my coming out story.
Like many other communities, the gay community (in Paris) can be defined as such from an economic and social point of view. And like many other gay communities in Western Europe, we have a so-called gay district called Le Marais, in the center of Paris. But le Marais is different from Stonewall: it is an area where homosexual people shop, go clubbing, eat and drink. To a lesser degree, it is also a district in which they organize demonstrations or other political events. But gay people don’t live in le Marais. It has never been a gay ghetto, or a refuge. However, housing has become so expensive that, eventually, very few people can actually afford to buy or rent an apartment there.
Moreover, the very few gay shops are being gradually replaced with mainstream clothes shops while the regular customers of the gay bars and restaurants are aging. New trendy gay places are outside the Marais: a sauna near the North Station, tea dances in Pigalle or Buttes Chaumont, etc. This is the way I see it, but I might be wrong. For younger gay people, dating or cruising are no longer connected with actually going somewhere. No matter where you are, you can use Grindr or shop online on your iphone. So that shopping and hooking up with someone have become virtually the same thing. However if you are not into shopping or online dating, there are many other gay associations, from gay rugby men clubs to gay entrepreneurs or policemen organizations. As far as I’m concerned I’m not a member of any gay union or association but I’m a member of the Green Party, which is the gay friendliest party in France. Today I’m saddened to see that many gay people no longer respect themselves and are members of the Front National, which is the most intolerant, rightwing (xenophobic, homophobic) party in our country. Others feel comfortable going to church or to the mosque as if there were nothing wrong with the message these religious institutions disseminate.
This makes me say that most people within the gay community are not more tolerant than straight people. Most of the time, they get involved in causes that are linked to the gay issue but do not care about other “minorities” or persecuted people. But things are changing and improving, most notably among far left and ecologists activists.
Now the question is: what is my relation to the gay community in Paris? I must confess that many of my Parisian friends are gay, and many of them are ex-lovers. What a scoop! Being gay determined the biggest part of my social life in Paris, but had no influence on my studies or my job. I have studied geography and urban planning; now I work in construction as an operation manager, which is not the most “faggot job”, except for a YMCA singer.
(With regards to advice to my younger self) It might seem harsh but first I would say: “don’t overestimate the tolerance or the solidarity of gay people”. Over the last years I have been shocked to hear my gay friends asking silly questions such as: “why do you only date coloured people?” or “how can you be turned on by this Chinese man?” or “why do you travel in this or that country? People are poor and homophobic”…etc.
The second piece of advice I would give is: “stop hesitating”. If you like someone, tell him. If you miss someone, tell him. If you want to go somewhere, go. Go to the sauna, go to the cruising bar, go to an orgy. We are almost totally free to go anywhere and to do whatever we want, so there is no place for hesitation.
Finally I would say: “don’t stay alone and don’t let people be alone”. We need more solidarity and more authentic friendship.”