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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chapter 11: The History of a Social Movement

The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France Since 1968
_Frederic Martel

In 1984, Foucault died of AIDS at the Hôpital Pitié Salpêtrière in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. Foucault's death can be seen as the founding act in the birth of Aides (the organization). (p. 216)

What organization were both Foucault and his lover Defert active participants in? On whose behalf?

"In the Libération the day after Foucault's death an article ran: 'Foucault is said to have died of AIDS. As if an exceptional intellectual, because he was homosexual - though extremely discreet about it - represented an ideal target for the disease currently in fashion...We are embarrassed by the virulence of this rumor. It is as if Foucault had to die in shame.' This extraordinarily unseemly article shows how difficult it still was to speak of AIDS in 1984: Connotations of 'shame' were still attached to the disease...We will never know whether Foucault was aware of the nature of his illness..." (p. 218)

..."in his journal, seven months before his death, wrote in his journal. 'I know I have AIDS, but I forget, thanks to my hysteria.'" (p. 218)

"In 1984 in France, the diagnosis of AIDS was not being communicated to the patients who were affected by it." (p. 219)

Defert wrote and dispatched the founding letter of Aides, the organization:
"AIDS is a crisis of sexual behavior for the gay community; the majority of the victims it has struck are from this population, whose culture has recently been built around gymnasium values, perpetual youth and health. We have to face and institutionalize our relation to illness, infirmity, and death. Gays have not addressed the moral, social and legal consequences for themselves. Sexual liberation is not the be-all and end-all of our identity. It is urgent to conceptualize our ways of loving until death, something straights institutionalized long ago. I will not go home to Mama to die." (p. 220)

"Despite the foresight, Defert's letter outlining his platform did not inspire enthusiasm. Most of the doctors and lawyers who were contacted did not reply. As a result, only homosexual militants attended the first informal meeting of Aides, which took place in Defert's apartment on October 4, 1984." (p. 221)

"In many respects, the organization represented a group of mourners...What linked these pioneers in the struggle against AIDS in France was their awareness of a state of emergency...The organization immediately chose to move in several directions: it formed a telephone hotline with a recording, distributed brochures and pamphlets, staged debates and public lectures, but also, already, provided a service destined, unfortunately, for a long future: 'aid to the sick.' Everything was set in place in early 1985, with no financial means except gifts from the first volunteers. They juggled their personal telephone lines for the first hotlines. Edelmann offered his apartment on rue Michel-le-Comte, in the Marais, and it virtually became the office of Aides." (p. 223)

..."AIDS specialists were immediately contacted and were relieved to learn of the creation off Aides...: 'We finally had people ready to bring up matters of importance, people who were not hobbled by homosexual militancy...The founders of Aides had the incredible courage to tell their little home truths to their homosexual brothers.'" (p. 223)

In 1985 a bath owner in Paris expressed: "I don't really want to put up condom dispensers or information boards about AIDS. People come to the baths to relax, not to get all upset.

And Aides was met with considerable resistance: ..."We were perceived as a new Protestant moral league, as if we were preventing those who were making money on the backs of gays from continuing to operate their businesses." (p. 224)

..."It was the history, in short, of a disconcerting, never-ending denial." (p. 224)

"Given the context of 1985 and the urgency of the situation, the pioneers in the fight against AIDS in France decided to venture into gay bars, beginning with those whose owners were more receptive...Of a total of more than a hundred gay spots in Paris, however, fewer than ten establishments accepted the Aides prevention information in 1985-87." (p. 225)

BROCHURE, printed by Aides in February 1985: "The vase majority of people infected with AIDS, over 80 percent, are male homosexuals. Caution: AIDS is contagious. AIDS is sexually transmitted." (p. 225)

Resistance in the gay community continued: In Gai Pied, September 1985: "Tobacco causes cancer, we all know that. Have we stopped smoking? Sex causes illness. Must we stop making love? Modern life causes cancer. Should we retire to Ardeche...How can we believe in a medical establishment that discourages us, that announces nothing but catastrophes of contagion, that marches only to the tune of fear and despair?" (p. 227)

"What is the best way to fight an epidemic? Should the model of an American-style coalition be adopted, one based on identity and multiculturalism? Or should it be the universalist and, as necessary, republican model?" (p. 228)

"In France during the 1980's, then, the "AIDS movement" was not established by homosexual militants but rather by homosexuals who were not involved in identity politics. That made all the difference. On the one hand, such an observation allows us to explain the specifically French delay in mobilizing organizations, a delay that, despite the arrival of Aides in 1985, puts France in the next-to-last position on the list of European countries." (p. 231)

"In an atmosphere often marked by the violence of illness and grief, activist from Aides, often HIV-positive themselves, took care of a family of Haitians, then a Zairean drug dealer, a sixty-year-old female prostitute, and a transvestite without identity papers. They passed out condoms in the Verrières woods, an outdoor cruising spot on the outskirts of Paris, or in the Tuileries. Defert's and Edelmann's apartments again served as the organization's offices (later moved to rue de l'Abbé-Groult in Cité Paradis, then to rue de Belleville, and finally to rue du Château-Landon, where the office is today)...Gradually, the Aides hotline was set up, twice a week at first, in one home or another and then in Edelmann's apartment on rue Michel-le-Comte." (p. 233)

"In France, there was probably a history of AIDS before Rock Hudson's death and another after it. The year 1985 seems to have been the time when the illness appeared in the media..." (p. 235)

What was the reaction of the French government to AIDS? In relation to other nations? (p. 235, 236, 237)

During this whole struggle..."homosexuals felt they were being accused, not for their practices, but as homosexuals, for what they were. Thus they could only react by denying and denouncing such a situation...The degree to which homosexuality is socially acceptable is very important in understanding the fear of AIDS." (p. 241)

"Should an AIDS organization turn to professionals, especially the medical establishment, and acquire information...Or should it be 'communitarian' in nature, a mass movement or infected or exposed individuals, a kind of family where one fought for others as much as one for oneself?" (p. 243)

AIDES initiatives today:

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