‘Less talk, more rights’: Paris Pride clamours for change as Macron term nears end

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The last pride march before France’s 2022 presidential election took place in Paris on Saturday. Organisations and marchers took to the streets to both celebrate diversity and decry anger over French President Emmanuel Macron’s “inaction” for their rights.

Aside from its habitual celebratory spirit, this year’s Paris Pride was tinged with a sense of political urgency. Marchers, volunteers, performers and a handful of LGBTQI+ associations gathered on June 26 under the slogan: “Less talk, more rights! Too many promises, we’re going backwards!” They were referring to the political promises made to improve LGBTQI+ rights during President Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term, which will soon come to an end.

The march is the last of its kind to take place before the country heads to the polls to vote in the April 2022 presidential election. Rainbow flags and glitter swarmed Pantin, a suburb of Paris, while marchers headed towards the city centre under grey skies.

The organisers of the event, Inter-LGBT, published a call to action outlining their specific political demands regarding LGBTQI+ rights. Often citing the “inaction” of the French government, the text focused on issues such as medically assisted procreation (MAP) and transphobia in schools.

MAP: a long road ahead?

As it stands, MAP is still illegal for single women and lesbian couples under French law. Those who wish to conceive are forced to go abroad or wait for years to start the process, and all transgender men are excluded. Making MAP available to single women and lesbian couples was one of Macron’s campaign promises in 2017.

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Legislation was initially approved by the lower house of parliament but rejected by the Senate, where the right-wing opposition has a majority. It has made its way to the Senate yet again, however, and will be returned to the Assembly on June 29 where it could finally be adopted.

Virginie, 40, is a board member of Inter-LGBT and has been a MAP activist since 2010. Working at the Paris Pride, she spoke to FRANCE 24 about her experiences as a single woman. “I went to the meeting with ex-President François Hollande when we asked why he never passed the law at the end of his mandate,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t believe it would happen and to be honest I still feel the same. As long as the law hasn’t been adopted, I won’t believe it will.”

After being in a relationship with a man but not having children, Virginie decided she would put some money aside in case she would one day want to have a child. She went through several intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures over the years, importing sperm from foreign sperm banks and working with gynaecologists who risk their jobs to help women like her. “Unfortunately I ended up spending all of my savings and it never worked out,” she said.

Hopeful that the law may pass in the Assembly next week, Virginie has been in touch with a fertility centre that has agreed to put in a MAP request without a paternal figure. Just in case.

Blue, pink and white inclusivity

Blue, pink and white transgender flags were waved all throughout the march, condemning transphobia as one of the core issues to be resolved. Inter-LGBT’s call to action referred to a document by the French Ministry of Education that was supposed to be published on May 17, aimed at improving the lives of trans students. “We are still waiting for the full text to come out of the Ministry of Education,” they wrote, “and for concrete measures to be put in place.”

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Shortly after a transgender pupil took her own life in northern France in December 2020, associations and researchers went through many hearings to ensure that this document would be published. The goal was to provide schools with educational resources on transgender identity in the hopes of curtailing transphobia.

“Many trans youth are trying to assert themselves in their educational settings, and this document could teach staff how to create safe spaces in which they can do so,” said Alix, a 21-year-old member of MAG Jeunes LGBT, an organisation aimed at helping LGBTQI+ youth present at the pride march.

“I only realised I was trans coming out of high school, thanks to YouTube videos,” he said. “I realised that I was quite lucky because I had never been faced with harsh transphobia then, despite being in a Catholic high school.”

Alix had, however, been harassed during his Bachelor’s degree in sports event management, a “pretty masculine” domain.

He believes that, if the document passes and school staff are sensitised to the issue, a lot could change. “It really has to do with knowledge and education, in the end,” he said. “That’s why MAG intervenes in schools, because educating people is the first step in combatting transphobia.”

New horizons

For the first time since its creation in 1977, Paris Pride moved east of the city to Pantin, a working-class and more diverse commune. The aim was for “the march to reflect its volunteers and organisers, who don’t all live in duplexes in the Marais but in the suburbs,” said Matthieu Gatipon, a spokesperson of Inter-LGBT, in a tweet.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, no floats were present and organisers were unable to place a podium near the march’s finish line at Place de la République in Paris. But this didn’t stop the crowds from marching in large numbers from the rainy periphery to inner-city Paris, in high spirits.

“Discriminations still exist in France and that’s why pride still exists! There are so many important issues to address,” said Alix, waving his hand at the marchers surrounding MAG’s stand.

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