The pope recently announced his resignation. Some days start that way. I make coffee. I didn't sleep well. I open my inbox. There's a strange message. The text of the email reads as follows: "Dear Sir, Lord, please forgive this man who blasphemes. I stumbled across your blog, which gives me the opportunity to pray for you. Marriage for all? And why not with a goat? Signed, the shepherd to a lost sheep." I feel better now; someone's praying for me, even if anonymously. There really are days that start that way. In an effort to fully wake myself up, I put on Daho's "Ouverture."
I take a shower, make more coffee, come back to my computer. I log in to Facebook, and it's the same news: Pope Benedict resigns! I find out that the last pope to abdicate was Gregory XII, in 1415, in an effort to put an end to the Western Schism. I'm looking out the window: a ray of sunlight in a white sky. Totally clear.
I get a text from a friend asking me to get an HIV test as soon as possible, because he wants a condom-free three-way with his new boyfriend, and it sounds urgent. I don't answer; I can't think about it right now. I send a message to my lover. I want to know how he's doing. He answers right away: Things are good, he misses me as much as I miss him, and we decide to see each other tonight. I'll go to his place; I love sleeping pressed against his soft skin.
I settle back in bed, fully clothed, under the sheets, and get ready for what I love most in the world: writing. When I'm writing, I have the impression of being nothing and everything, a man and a woman, a boy and a girl, young and old, gay and straight, totally free. A form of freedom. When I write, I feel like an "address unknown," like I have no fixed identity anymore. It's a feeling of happiness.
François calls. I'm in the middle of a sentence that is giving me trouble, so I don't answer. He leaves a message asking if I plan on attending the sit-in to protest homophobia at 2 p.m. in front of the National Assembly. I tell him I'm not sure, that I hadn't heard about it, that I'm not really an activist, that I'm working, etc. His texts are insistent. It's important, he says.
I live in Paris, in a nice neighborhood. I'm 37. I live a sheltered existence. Honestly, I hardly know what homophobia is anymore. Even my parents have worked through it and accepted my sexual orientation. Everyone around me knows, and I live in a bubble of kindly indifference to homosexuality where it is no more an issue than the color of my hair. But I do remember. I was somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15 and still living in my small provincial hometown when they followed me one night around 6 p.m., finally cornering me and assaulting me in a public park. There were four or five of them. I remember the feeling of that first punch, which knocked me to the ground, and the ringing in my ears. I can still hear the shouts: "Dirty faggot! We're gonna kill you! You know we're gonna kill you, you queer?!" I can still feel the kicks to the stomach, the insults, the spitting. I felt like I was experiencing something that was both surreal and primordial. I split myself in two that day. When I regained consciousness, they were gone, and I was soaking wet; they had pissed on me.
I call François. "OK, I'll go to the sit-in... OK, 2 p.m.... Yes, I'll be there."
Blows and insults can make you stronger. Of course, they can also kill you (physically and psychologically), but you can grow from it, live again, reinvent yourself. The wound is there, and it never heals, and innocence may be gone forever, but you can come back to life. At least that's what I want to believe. Exclusion can be a seminal experience, and being hated a wet nurse. Homophobia is a world of insults, of fear, of stigmatization, of every type of abuse, from daily ribbing, the kind that seems harmless, all the way to violent assaults and even murder.
It's 2 p.m., and I've arrived. I'm glad to see that there's a crowd in front of the National Assembly. The ambiance is friendly, good-natured. We are all very different, we often don't get along, we don't speak the same language, and we don't have the same viewpoints, but in spite of all that, there is a camaraderie that I find moving. Another gay man, even if he is a personal enemy of mine, will always be a brother to me, perhaps more of a brother than my best straight friend. That's how it is. The brotherhood of the minority, the brotherhood standing against a world of insults. We silently share a common culture and a sexuality that is both expressed and hidden: Grinder, hookups, parks, woods, saunas, public bathrooms, but also Proust, Genet, Gide, Guibert, Koltès, etc.
François introduces me to Hugo, who works for an organization. Hugo is quite attractive. He has soft eyes and long eyelashes. We talk about the marriage law. He asks me if I want to get married. I tell him no, and he looks surprised. I elaborate: I don't want to get married, but I want to live in a society where I could, you know? That's why I am resolutely in favor of marriage and adoption, for others to have the right. He nods in agreement. We smile. I ask him questions. Hugo wants to get married, have kids, the whole deal. I consider the chasm between us, but I tell myself that he'll be a good father, I can tell. It seems silly to say it, but you can sense these types of things. A girl is holding up a sign that reads: "When you are deprived of rights, it makes you want to affirm the right to have rights."
I return home. It's 5 p.m. The protest is over. I should get back to work. It's already getting dark; it's winter. I'm overcome with a vague sense of melancholy, and I'm not sure why. I feel like sleeping, forgetting. Relaxation? I'm meeting my lover tonight. I can't wait. Maybe I'll tell him about my day, after he's told me about his, and we'll listen to Étienne Daho, in bed, warm beneath the covers, before going to sleep.
Translated from the original French.
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- Peter Tatchell (UK): "Being Peter Tatchell"