I remember people wanted me to burn at the stake

I was 15 and I lived in the countryside. The Internet was stammering and cellphones did not exist. The first guys I met were through Minitel. “3615 I’m afraid my parents will catch me on the itemized bill”. In the nearest big city, there was only one gay bar that I never dared to enter. The windows were all closed with black opaque curtains.

In high school, no representation of homosexuality. Neither in the lessons, nor among the teachers, nor among the students. I didn’t quite understand what I was feeling, and I thought that I was the only one feeling it and that I had to hide it. And no one, ever, to talk to me about love …

College arrived, vaguely liberating. I fell in love for the first time. Him not. But at least I managed to put a name on what I was going through and with my closest friends, not to pretend anymore. A few bars have opened. I went there from time to time. I didn’t feel very comfortable there. I heard about saunas, I never wanted to go. I wanted to be in love


I didn’t have a lot of time in those years. I was busy elsewhere, living a family drama that would take me 5 years. 5 years that take us to 1999, when the PACS was finally voted under the Jospin government. From this moment which should have been a joy, I especially remember the violence of the opponents. I remember the demonstrations where elected representatives of the “moderate” right marched surrounded by signs “the queers at the stake”, Christine Boutin and Christian Vanneste in the lead.

I remember people wanting me to burn at the stake, for something I didn’t choose. For me who have Jewish origins, it sounded like some disgusting old tune. Can we imagine today, in France, signs “Au bûcher les trisomiques!” or “At the stake the Arabs!” or “At the stake, the redheads!”

A PACS, unlike a marriage, it dissolves on the death of one of the PACSes. So the second her boyfriend died, my friend no longer had a single claim on what was to follow …

From PACS, I also remember the story of one of my best friends, whose companion died 5 years ago, at an age when we are not supposed to die. A PACS, unlike a marriage, it dissolves on the death of one of the PACSes. So the second her boyfriend died, my friend no longer had a single right to what was to follow … Her boyfriend’s family, who had rejected him for years, because of his homosexuality, became the one who would decide everything: the funeral, the ceremony, the succession and even the choice of the photo that would be placed on the grave. My friend no longer had a say. Yet it was he who had accompanied him, for 7 years, in joy and death.

At that point I was reminded of those stories I was told by older friends of the early AIDS years: two men had been living in an apartment for years, on behalf of the one who had just died. And the one who remained was summoned by his family (who had obviously completely rejected him in the past) to leave immediately. No more companions, no more love, no more shelter, nothing … As if the pain of losing your love was not strong enough, you were being dispossessed of what remained of humanity between you, of your tangible memories of this love, of the place where you had built and lived it, together … And no law was there to counter that. No right. No recourse. Entire lives rolled into a few seconds.

I am fortunate to live in Paris. I am also lucky to be an artist and to be surrounded by tolerant, open, intelligent people. I’m lucky, because I’m a little older now, that I don’t have much to give a damn about embarrassed glances, and no longer hear insults. Because there are always insults.

But I am also afraid, sometimes. Afraid of not being able to do such simple things as kissing the man I love on the street, because it’s not the right neighborhood, city or time.

A few years ago I went on vacation for the first time with my dad and my then friend. My father, very tolerant and intelligent, was very surprised: “But then, you do the same things as us, you run your hand through your hair, you kiss each other, you hug each other”. Yes, we do the same as the others.

Today, I am happy to have the right to marry. And to have children, who will be children of love and not of shame.

We will continue to live, to sing, to fight for the rights that we do not yet have.

Saint-Just said: “no freedom for the enemies of freedom”, so when I see the violence generated by the marriage for all project, it is this slogan that I think of. We do not negotiate with extremes, with madmen, with fundamentalists. We ignore it and fuck them.

They are believed to have disappeared, but they always come back. They are like cancer. Let them continue their ridiculous masquerades and their speeches from another century built on ignorance, fear and stupidity. We know very well that they will not be able to win … they already lost more than 3 years ago, when the law was passed. But it must seem to them that the world is going so well that the only priority is to identify people who love each other and who have acquired new rights that are so precious and obvious …

In this world where obscurantism is no longer hiding and trying to buy respectability, we will continue to live, to sing, to fight for the rights that we do not yet have.

So that one day these words of 1789 – “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” – will become a reality.

Stéphane Corbin created in 2013 the collective Tightrope walkers, which brings together more than 200 artists in reaction to the violent protests against marriage for all. Their album is available, they perform in concert every Monday evening at 8 p.m. at the Studio Hébertot until December 26. All profits will go to associations fighting against homophobia.

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I remember people wanted me to burn at the stake

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