Paris has been at the forefront of LGBT equality, with powerful legislation and a cohesive LGBT community centered in the Le Marais district. Very telling of this is the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, an openly gay male, now in his second term of service. While the language and cuisine may be a challenge, being comfortable as an openly LGBT person will certainly not be as difficult in this French metropolis!
• France since 1985 has had anti-discrimination laws protecting homosexual persons in both the private and public spheres.
• Crimes against homosexuals have been documented as hate crimes, meaning greater consequences and penalties for offenders. Do not hesitate to ever contact the police if you feel you have been discriminated against.
• France also maintains Civil Solidarity Pacts, a system much like civil unions, except that same-sex couples cannot adopt. This is still being fought for in the legislature.
For more on Civil Solidarity Pacts, check out this article: (http://www.ambafrance-us.org/atoz/pacs.asp)
• Within Paris, homosexuality is an accepted concept, and it is not uncommon to see male couples holding hands or being affectionate in public; however it is not as common with lesbian couples. Keep in mind that some parts of the city are more conservative and do not appreciate public displays of affection. It’s almost always safe to be affectionate in the Marais, but use common sense and judgment if you and your partner are promenading around an area like the 20e arrondisemont.
• Transsexuality remains an issue of some contention in France. Groups such as CARITIG (http://www.caritig.org/index.php), a French transgender rights group, persist in working with other LGBT organizations to achieve equal treatment for the trans community.
• “Paris, Paris…Paris. There is a lot of love going around in Paris. Public displays of affection are rampant and when not busy frowning and being gloomy, the French are a passionate bunch. This extends to the colorful LGBT community, and that’s a great thing!” – Ilan
Love in Paris
The LGBT community in Paris is much like that in NY. My boyfriend and I were out all the time holding hands and never once did we get a grumble or a lingering stare. There was something about the city that was truly magical. I don’t know if it was the environment, the language, or just the general air surrounding it, but Paris really was the city of love. Derek and I had the best six months of our lives there, and there is nothing I would change about our time there together. Try being on top of the Eiffel when it lights up, try being on Pont Neuf (the New Bridge), the most beautiful bridge in Paris, try being lost in the garden of Versailles and not wanting to turn around to hug and kiss the one you love. – Gary
Getting Involved and Informed
Le Centre Lesbien Gai Bi & Trans – http://www.cglparis.org/
• 63 Rue Beaubourg
• This Paris LGBT center is a three-story building offering numerous services to the public including, HIV/AIDS testing, support groups, sponsored events, and hotlines.
Le Mots á lá Bouche – http://www.motsbouche.com/
• 6 Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie
• This LGBT bookstore carries nearly all the materials mentioned above and is a great place to meet locals and become comfortable with the city.
• One of the best publications to take advantage of is the booklet, Genres, distributed by the Paris LGBT Center. This booklet of nearly two-hundred pages provides information on focus groups, clubs, events, nightlife, and many other areas of interest.
• Other magazines like Tetu and Je Paris are more trendy magazines, reviewing the latest in clubs, films, books, and fashion.
Paris has TONS of gay-friendly hot-spots. Don’t limit yourself to going out to the same place every week, although Queen is tempting. Instead, just head out to the Marais and find some place new. The café, clubs and bars all generally cater the LGBT community in this area. Unfortunately some of the clubs are not as hetero friendly as you think they would be. It is not uncommon to not let women into many of the gay bars AND some clubs reject you if you appear to be hetero. But don’t worry, the club next door is probably just as exciting and a little less constricting.
Le 3W Café
• 8 rue des Ecouffes 75004
• Metro: Saint-Paul
• One of the few lesbian venues in Le Marais. It offers numerous DJ events in a trendy underground room. Boys can only come when accompanied by a lady.
Madame Arthur – http://www.madamearthur.com/
• 75, bis Rue des Martyrs 75018
• Metro: Pigalle
• A cabaret known for its spunky and highly entertaining female impersonators. An interesting spot for good song and dance, and something a little different.
Le Central – http://hotelcentralmarais.monsite.wanadoo.fr/page8.html
• 11, rue Vielle du Temple 75004
• Metro: Hotel-de-Ville; Saint-Paul
• The oldest gay bar in Paris and home to the only official gay hotel too. A comfortable place to relax and to see a little bit of history.
Queen – http://www.queen.fr/
• 102 Avenue des Champs-Elysées75008
• Metro: George V
The largest and most well-known gay disco in Paris. Hosts some of the most famous DJ’s in Europe with numerous theme nights too.
Nice – This Southern France getaway is a beautiful location away from the hustle and bustle of Paris and offers a friendly LGBT atmosphere. (http://www.edirp.com/espots/Gay_Nice_Gay_Cannes_France.php)
Lyon – The LGBT community of Lyon is a strong and condensed community, located primarily in and around the Vieux Lyon district. You will find all different bars, restaurants, and clubs in mere walking distance from each other. (http://www.guidemag.com/travel/invoketravelarticle.cfm?ID=0C770168-3BD4-44F1- 9D6D62F00DA972A6)
Marseilles – Besides being one of the largest and most historic cities in France, Marseilles is a developing mecca of the LGBT community. It also holds the largest LGBT Pride Parade in Southern France. (http://www.marseillepride.org/)
The Culture and Nightlife Le Marais
The Marais is at the same time the Jewish, medieval and rainbow district of Paris. It could best be compared to the East Village in terms of the night life and vibrant, youthful atmosphere it offers, blended with some Chelsea and West Village as it is predominantly LGBT. That is not to say, however, that you would encounter mostly LGBT’s around the Marais, and it is perhaps this interesting blend of lifestyles (or rather nightlife) that renders the Marais with its special allure.
From my own experience, both the Carre Bar and the Open Café right across from it are amicable, non-ostentatious places that cater mostly to gay males but are frequented by men and women alike. There is no cover charge and there is NO BOUNCER, so you can go there and relax with your friends even if you’re not LGBT. In fact, I encourage everyone to go there and simply enjoy the view. Beauty is universal.
The Open Café is slightly more aggressive in flirting terms. This will hopefully be an exciting prospect for most! It is not uncommon if someone from the neighboring table approaches you and tries to strike up a conversation. Chances of this happening are even higher if your “Americanism” is revealed. However, do not fear as people are very respectful of private space and if you wish to be left alone, a simple goodbye would suffice. – Ilan