ABSTRACT

As we have seen in Chapter 3, the French process of coming out-as it relates to the expression “s’assumer” [“to accept oneself” or “to take on one’s role”]—is a social contract that involves the disclosure of sexuality to one’s social others, which includes friends and family. At the same time, French gays and lesbians practice “sexual self-management,” a ritual that involves selectively disclosing their sexuality at staggered moments throughout their process of same-sex discovery and identity formation. For example, Jean-Louis speaks of coming out to all of the friends listed in his address book as well as his “favorite sister,” however he decides to postpone telling his parents because of his father’s unstable health (page 96-99). Other interviewees echo him when they decide to come out to close siblings and friends before telling their parents. Pierre states: “…j’ai attendu l’âge de 30 ans pour en faire part à mes parents alors que le reste de ma famille et tout le monde autour de moi le savait” [“…I waited until I was thirty to tell my parents whereas the rest of my family and everyone around me already knew it”].1 French gay and lesbian interviewees appear more comfortable initially talking with peers (friends and close siblings) instead of parents about sex and sexuality. As Dominique states: “Avec la famille, on n’en parle pas. Avec les amis, on parle de sexe beaucoup et de politique un peu” [“With family, we do not talk about it. With friends, we talk about sex a lot and politics a little”]. Moreover, French gays and lesbians often speak frankly about their sexuality with peers by using unambiguous terms-“gai” [“gay”], “pédé” [“gay/queer”], “lesbienne” [“lesbian”], “gouine” [“dyke”], “goudou” [“dyke”], and “homo” [“gay/queer”]—and thereby in these contexts follow a global gay (AngloAmerican) model that links the subject pronoun “I” to a reified homosexual identity (Bacon 1998). Jean-Louis’s unequivocal announcement “je suis pédé, voilà” [“I’m gay, there you have it”] (page 96) best exemplifies this particular practice in which the speaker “hereby comes out” (Chirrey 2003).