Three Reasons Paris is Great for LGBTQ Students
Talking about the LGBTQ community can be controversial and sparks strong opinions. LGBTQ individuals may feel unsafe and uncomfortable with expressing their sexual or gender identity, especially in environments unfriendly to the LGBTQ community or in unfamiliar territories. Being part of the LGBTQ community myself, I have experienced both positive and negative reactions. However, out of all the cities I have been to all over the world, Paris has been the most LGBTQ friendly thus far. Here’s why:
France is Recognized as one of the most Gay-Friendly Countries
Liberté (freedom), Égalité (equality), Fraternité (brotherhood): the three core values of France. The French law has recognized LGBTQ rights since 1791. Although there has been public disapproval of LGBTQ rights until recently, France found ways around restrictions of same-sex marriage (which is now legal) through PACS, giving any individual, no matter the gender, tax breaks, such as presented in a marriage. There are many LGBTQ friendly areas around Paris, including Le Marais, which is close to the CEA Paris center, Quartier Pigalle, and Bois de Boulogne. Paris has demonstrated its support for the LGBTQ community, especially after the Pulse shootings, where France paid tribute to the fallen by hanging LGBTQ flags along Hotel de Ville and lighting the Eiffel Tower with Pride colors and the hashtag #lovewins displayed on its base. While there will always be people who do not support controversial and previously ostracized communities, there have been minimal protests against laws protecting LGBTQ rights in Paris. It is an overall inclusive city that LGBTQ individuals will be safe in. Don’t just take my word for it; experience the city for yourself!
Parisians Keep to Themselves
From my experience in Paris, the citizens here keep to themselves. They have this gift of looking straight ahead of them without much more than a sideways glance. In the U.S., I often receive sideways glances because my hair is short, and people are trying to figure me out. It is natural to feel uncomfortable with things we do not understand. While individuals here do stare, just as they do everywhere else I have either lived or visited, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. I felt and still feel today, that Paris is more accustomed to LGBTQ individuals. I am sure the liberal vibe of the city plays a part in the rate of gender and sexuality acceptance. Paris was the perfect place to visit while I was in the process of coming out to friends and family because it normalized LGBTQ communities, which drastically increased my confidence in myself and who I am. My confidence also increased when I learned that France received recognition as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world.
CEA Paris Staff
The CEA Paris staff have been incredible supporters of everything LGBTQ. While I was studying abroad for the first time in 2016, I was not out to anyone accept for two friends. I felt the need to hide who I was. Living in the conservative state of Nebraska did not exactly encourage me to live authentically. However, the day I arrived in Paris, CEA held an orientation where they explained cultural differences and how to stay safe within unfamiliar settings. They gave everyone a pamphlet and the first thing that stuck out to me was a full page of LGBTQ resources and numbers for support. I never had the need to use any of these resources, but it was the first time I felt validation. As I was leaving the orientation, I overheard two individuals, one a student and the other a CEA staff, discussing LBGTQ matters and so I joined the conversation. The staff member explained that Paris is a more liberal city and the CEA Paris Center itself was located near many LGBTQ themed areas. The staff member also gave advice that I have lived by ever since: not everyone in this world will accept you for who you are but hiding who you are prevents anyone from accepting you. Studying abroad in Paris changed my perspective on living authentically and allowed me to gain the confidence I needed to live a better life for myself. My experience abroad also gave me the resources to practice cultural sensitivity to manage misunderstandings, so rather than getting frustrated with intolerance, I listen to understand why intolerance occurs.
If you are part of the LGBTQ community, I would highly recommend seeing what CEA Study Abroad and Paris has to offer.
Mika Richards is a CEA On-Site Ambassador in Paris. They currently study Intercultural Communication at Illinois State University and studied abroad in Paris, France with CEA in Spring 2016. If you’d like to learn more about the ambassador program, here is more information.