Frigide Barjot: The French anti-gay marriage leader under attack

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The 'moderate' face of the French anti-gay marriage movement now finds herself under attack from former allies on the far right


Frigide Barjot’s name literally translates as “Frigid Bonkers”.

But the French humourist is not laughing. She’s scared. “No,” she corrects herself. “I’m not scared. I’m very scared. Look at this…”

From somewhere in the indescribable chaos of her apartment in central Paris, Barjot, the unconventional leader of the French movement against gay marriage, produces an envelope. Inside, there is a paper handkerchief stained with what she believes is blood.

“I’m being bombarded with threatening letters, email, telephone calls,” she says. “Before the law on homosexual marriage was passed, the threats came from the gay militants or the far left. Now they are coming from the homophobes of the far right…”

Since December, Barjot (her real name is Virginie Tellenne), a right-wing stage satirist turned political activist, has been the most visible face of protests against France’s gay marriage law. But now, extremists from the wild fringes of her own movement are threatening to attack her during a demonstration in Paris tomorrow.

She has asked for police protection, and is even seriously considering a boycott of her own demonstration. She may yet take part, but says she will walk away if threatened or insulted.

The threats against the 50-year-old Barjot are thought to come mostly from an ultra-right racist and homophobic group called Printemps Français (“French Spring”) which has gained prominence alongside the anti-gay marriage protests. The ultra-nationalist and xenophobic writer Dominique Venner, 78, who shot himself on the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday, was closely associated with Printemps Francais.

Barjot says she has become a hate figure for this disturbingly resurgent, violent ultra-right in France because she dismissed Venner’s action as “deranged” and “un-Catholic” and because she is “anti-gay marriage but not anti-gay”.

Yesterday, the French interior minister, Manuel Valls, said he was considering steps to ban Printemps Francais, which has also called this week for attacks on ministers, gay lobbyists and the media.

Is Barjot not simply reaping the whirlwind she has sown? Has she not, predictably, lost control of a movement that was never, at its core, as moderate, democratic or gay-friendly as she had insisted?

 “No, these are people who want to divide France and to promote hatred,” she says. “They have a narrow conception of identity and aggressive beliefs which are not the same as our own values, which are based on the importance of the family and the needs of the child and common-sense.”

 “I entered this fight because I knew that, otherwise, the protests would be dominated by people like them: the far right and the Catholic extremists. I wanted to give a voice to the thousands of ordinary people, not all of them people of the right, who believe that gay marriage, in the way that it has been imposed in France, is an attack on the family and foundations on which our society is built.”

Barjot, once known for her raunchy, satirical stage act, now describes herself as “press officer to Jesus”. For this interview she was wearing jeans and a leather jacket and, beneath that, a pink sheepskin jacket emblazoned with the logo of her movement. For Barjot, this was remarkably conservative. Her usual style of dress is that of an ageing Barbie doll.

Her unconventional look, her previous career, and her past friendships with gay men and women, have long made Barjot a figure of suspicion on the far right. Paradoxically, her flaky, witty, cheerful presence also gave the movement a kind of respectability which has seen tens of thousands of ordinary, conservative, middle class people, young and old, to flock to the mass demonstrations against gay marriage since December.

Since the “marriage for all” law was approved by parliament last month, and signed by President François Hollande two weeks ago, the savage antagonisms within the movement have been laid bare. In their threatening messages, the extremists accuse Barjot of being a government “stooge” and a “fifth-columnist” for gays.

“This man who killed himself at Notre Dame, I had never heard of him,” Barjot said. “He obviously wanted to become a martyr, to inspire other people to do violent things. How can a man who claims to represent traditional values, and Christian values, commit suicide in a cathedral?

 “I am worried about what may happen at the demonstration on Sunday… I want guarantees, for my own safety first of all. I entered this movement to rescue the family, not to lose my own skin and have my own family torn apart.”

Barjot is separated from her husband. They have two teenage children. Her apartment and campaign headquarters, not far from the Eiffel Tower, is a jumble of flags, leaflets, clothes, documents, newspaper cuttings, books, flowers, a crucifix.

Barjot has argued for five months that people can oppose gay marriage without being anti-gay. She argues that the newly enacted law should be amended by a future right-wing government to give gays an improved right to civil union, but not adoption rights. The radicals  are opposed to any form of recognised same-sex partnership.

Despite Barjot’s self-proclaimed moderation, her own pronouncements often veer towards the Christian fundamentalist and anti-democratic. She says same-sex marriage is not just a change in the law but a “change in civilisation”.

By giving sanction to the “unnatural” notion of two parents of the same sex, she says the law will undermine the foundations of the family, but also society and “human civilisation itself”. Her movement’s logo shows a mother and a father holding hands with a boy and girl. The slogan is: “All born from a man and a woman”.

Does Barjot believe, as some of her co-leaders do, that there are laws superior to the laws passed by parliament?

“Yes, I do believe that. I believe there are fundamental beliefs, and even the common sense and conscience of ordinary people, which are superior to laws passed by politicians. That is why I believe that this battle is not over. Parliaments cannot go indefinitely against nature and common sense.”

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil