This website is an interactive academic
tool for CEA-UNH course:
Gay Paris:
Culture, Society, & Urban Sexual Identity

CEA GlobalCampus | Spring 2009
UNH Course Code: GEN230
Credits: 3 | Location: Paris, France

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter 3: French Articulations of the Closet and Coming Out

excerpts from: Queer French: Globalization, Language, and Sexual Citizenship in France
_Denis M. Provencher

Oscar reacts to the term "coming out":
'Faire le coming-out,' it bothers me this American cliche, you know, these kinds of theatrical things, at the same time, I really do not know the US very well, but I have this impression that it's there where everything is dramatized, right, we have the impression that people are always playing roles. (p. 86)

It's an expression that means...but for me's an would be easier to say 'declare one's homosexuality,' it's easier. It's a bit idiotic, by the way. No...for be 'out,' it's someone who...a homosexual...who openly accepts homosexuality. (p. 86)

In many coming out narratives, 'protagonists exhibit a period of suffering before coming out...self-acceptance is preceded by a sometimes lengthy internal struggle with their gay feelings. The struggle, or inner conflict, is transformed into words using metaphor, inner speech, expressive phonology, repetition, and detailed imagery...evoking the image of 'the closet' to express these experiences of isolation.' (p. 87)

Some contend that the closet plays a less significant role in late 20th century America and other societies that function around the norm of heterosexuality than it did during earlier decades...They contend that today's American gay and lesbian youth discuss same-sex desire more openly and integrate it more readily into their everyday conversations. (p. 88)

Do you agree? How do you/people you have known talk about this experience? How is it articulated?

For this study, I recruited 40 French gays and lesbians who came from various regional and socio-economic backgrounds and who ranged from 21 to 46 years of age to discuss their coming-out experiences.

French notions of the 'authentic' and 'inauthentic self' and 'bad faith' play evident roles in many articulations. Nadine speaks of an 'inauthentic' individual that stays closed in; Pierre speaks of the shameful, inauthentic self who lives in bad faith; and Gabriel speaks of the hidden or 'unaccepting' self. When prompted, these French gay and lesbian speakers can recognize and make use of the English-based terms 'in' and 'out' that are related to the closet. However, they do not utilize the image of the closet nor do they associate concealment with a specific place. (p. 95)

Jean-Louis's story (p. 96) is strikingly different from the US narratives as this speaker does not consider this moment to be his coming out of 'the closet.' Of course, he clearly associates the statement 'Je suis pédé' with his 'coming out' and he experiences a sense of relief after telling others about his sexual orientation. However, Jean-Louis does not speak about coming out as a period of self-discovery in terms of shame or isolation but in terms of uncovering his 'vraie personnalité' and his need to stop distorting or 'travestir la vérité' ('dressing up the truth'). (p. 97) *read from p. 98

*'Desert of Nothing' (p. 101)

Unlike many of the US-based experiences, Francois's story foregrounds the importance of living a full life and being actively involved in a larger and often non gay-specific social network (friends) throughout the coming-out period. French coming-out narratives involve a feeling of living as a relatively whole person before making any type of declarative statement. Instead of foregrounding themes of the closet, the desert or isolation, speakers like Francois highlight a sense of fulfillment and include desserts and other satisfying experiences. (p. 103)

* Francois again on 104

"An American 'gay' or 'queer' stepped in the sexual identity politics of the United States can be quite perplexed, or even infuriated, by the large number of men cruising in Parisian gay bars who are not gay-identified...Indeed, while in the United States the homosexual/heterosexual binarism has become a primary ontological dichotomy, in France sexual orientation continues to be placed low down on the hierarchy of ontological identifiers, well below nationality, class, gender or profession." (p. 115)

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