On 15 December 2014, Sébastian Chenu – a French gay rights activist – took to a press conference podium in Paris. Standing shoulder to shoulder with far right Front National leader Marine Le Pen, he announced to the assembled press pack his plans for the year to come.
“I am joining Marine Le Pen because of her consistent views on Europe and social issues,” he giddily told the crowd of reporters. He claimed to be alarmed at how quickly the then President – Nicholas Sarkozy – had become out of touch with the LGBT issues of the day.
It seemed a strange decision from one of the founders of the French GayLib to join a far right political party brimming with homophobia and hate.
But as both France and the United Kingdom head into volatile general elections – Marine Le Pen’s place confirmed on the Presidential ballot after the first round of voting – it seems that Chenu is anything but an exception. On both sides of the Channel gay men are lining up to throw their support behind right wing party leaders; a fabulous army of far-right warriors is preparing for battle. You’d be right in thinking this seems odd.
Take Theresa May – until 8 June our country’s unelected leader – who now happily states she’s an ally of anyone defining as LGBT.
Just a quick search through her voting record shows this is anything but. It wasn’t long ago that she passed through the lobby to say no to same-sex adoption and she refused to support the equalising of the age of consent. It was in 2003 – in most of our lifetimes – that she voted against repealing Section 28, legislation that banned local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality too.
Across the Channel, things aren’t much better. The Front National is a party steeped in vile prejudice and hate. Just check what the party’s founder Jean-Marie back in 1984 said on national TV – he argued that homosexuality was a “biological and social anomaly” and just two years later he argued for “AIDs-atoriums” for those living with HIV.
These may well have just been the views of the current Le Pen’s father, but the party’s current manifesto speaks for itself. It pledges to bring to an end the rights of same sex couples to marry and state support for gay couples to have children would also come to an end.
Le Pen remained silent as her partner – and a fellow FN leader – argued against the Paris Pride march taking place in the city, labelling it an “exhibitionist and anti-FN symbol of militant communitarianism” to boot. The country’s youngest MP – another in the Le Pen clan – also jumping in on the gay-bashing fun.
One hopes that all their gay voters come from a place of ignorance; that those men now lining up to support these two hate-fuelling parties have no idea what their leaders have done, voted for or intend on doing. But frankly that’s just not what’s happening – these gay men know exactly what’s going on. Both May and Le Pen have redirected their rhetoric, and now Muslims and immigrants have become the focus of hate.
In both France and in Britain the right have long attempted to pit white gay men against these other marginalised identities; “those Muslims want to kill you” they’ll gleefully and wrongly say.
One doesn’t need to scratch far beneath the surface to see this in action. It’s the “no Blacks, no Asians” profiles that adorn Grindr daily and those who wave their rainbow flags as part of the LGBT division of the EDL.
And so gay men take up this position, supporting the homophobic and xenophobic far-right. In Britain some throw those with less status under the bus to cling onto their new found privilege – in France it seems rampant Islamophobia trumps gay men wanting to keep their own civil rights.
Of course it’s vital not to tarnish the entire queer community with this brush of selfish prejudice, as for so many the time to support these bigoted parties will of course never come. Transpeople, younger queers and people of colour still have dignity – the statistics quite clearly show the right take the votes of often married, older white gay men.
When it comes to the centre, I’m no fan of Tim Farron’s dangerous rhetoric when it comes to same sex relationships; it’s the subtle yet prescient homophobia that’s been so damaging for generations. But Farron’s voting record at the very least has been supportive of civil liberties and freedoms – he’s supported progressive legislation time after time.
Le Pen and Theresa May on the other hand don’t use Jesus for protection – and their homophobic voting records don’t suggest they’ll be changing their minds anytime soon.
The French hopeful might well clam this election is about “whether France can still be a free nation,” but it’s only freedom for those she dictates.
The white gay men now turning to support her are nothing short of cowardly; desperate to cling on to new found freedom that for so long we as an oppressed minority fought for – or simply obsessed with their Muslim-bashing ways. Either way, it’s an utter disgrace.
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