Historically, France has been at the forefront of equal right movements ever since the country decriminalized homosexuality during the French revolution. Later in the Belle Époque, Paris gained the reputation of being the bohemian and erotic capital of the world, leading to the rise of several underground LGBTQ salons, bars and bathhouses. Following the civil unrests of May 1968, the French police destroyed several files related to gay and lesbian crimes and many anti-LGBTQ laws were repealed, ensuing a greater sense of freedom amongst the Parisians. And recently, in 2013, after decades of relentless protests and pursuits, the country finally legalized same-sex marriage.
At the end of June every year, Paris is inevitable lively, festive and colourful, hardly reflecting the sombre events of the past. The parade starts either at Montparnasse or Place de la Concorde and ends at Place de la République, traversing some of the iconic places like Tuileries Gardens, Panthéon, Louvre Museum and Notre Dame. Between 5 pm to 10 pm, the march brings together organisations fighting homophobia, associations preventing and combating HIV/AIDS, political parties, human rights groups, large corporations, hundreds of volunteers and more than half a million citizens from around the world.
In and around elaborate floats, you will come across attendees dressed in ostentatious attire, basking in the energy of the city. In the spirit of this ultimate freedom, you could also spruce up with beads, feather boas, wings and glitter. And if these accessories are not your thing, then you can buy a giant pride flag and drape it over your shoulder. If you wish to share a thought or an opinion, then you could paint a poster or create a statement t-shirt. If you are feeling adventurous and want to blend in with the crowd, then this is your chance to dress up as a drag. Finally, don’t forget to take some pictures with the one of the Chers, Freddie Mercurys or Elton Johns and upload it on your Instagram.
If you manage to reach the end, you could join the Pride party and listen to live DJs and concerts at the Grand Podium. The crowd usually spills out on the neighbouring street, where the majority head to gay bars, cafés or clubs. If you are looking for a cool hip club to interact with young gays and lesbians, then I would recommend Les Souffleurs. If you are looking for some themed soirées starring Go-Go dancers and drag queens, then go to Banana Café. If you are looking for some quiet time and want to experience a gay-friendly restaurant, then head to Le Gai Moulin or Ze Restoo. If you wish to party right into the night, when most of the bars and clubs start to close, then proceed to Le CUD bar.
The next day if you are still intrigued by queer art, then visit the “Greek and Roman Collection” at the Louvre to admire the artworks featuring Antinous, Emperor Hadrian’s boyfriend. You could also drop by Rodin Museum or the Musée national Gustave Moreau, where the paintings, drawings and sculptures emanate homoeroticism. If you want more information about the queer culture, then go to one of these bookshops- “Les mots à la bouche ” or “Violette and Co”. Lastly, you could pay homage to literary gay and lesbian icons by visiting tombs of Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Colette at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.