Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Last Saturday June 27 was Paris Gay Pride - Marche des Fiertes - in a city where if the poeple own anything, it is the streets.

It is a daytime parade, or street march, or rather something in between (and bigger than either), which starts around 2pm at Montparnasse, moves along the famous left bank boulevards (Montparnasse, St Michel, St Germain) across the river at Pont de Sully and on up to Bastille. And it happens with a minimum of fuss, no obvious police or controlling presence except at major intersections, and considerable french flair. And no barricades, not one.

                                       minutes before, it is business as usual

It is essentially a series of what we would call floats, basically trucks or buses, tricked up with a basic theme, pumping dance music around and behind them, each with a tail of dancers and marchers extending up to 100 m behind, dancing away to whatever they are hearing from the front. As the music fades, the crowd thins a little, till the next 'float' immediately behind repeats the process. The crowd moves freely from the street to the current of marchers, and vice versa, the whole thing a giant organic snake, gradually swelling in size as it picks up more than it loses, till by the time Bastille is in sight, it is dense and seething, in front and behind. And to repeat it, this seems absolutely effortless.

                                             Bastille up ahead

                                             looking behind

This is people, lesbian, gay, family, friends, whoever wants to be there. This is not entrants, not registrants, not authoritarian. This is bottom up (so to speak), not top down. There is mercifully no patronage and no politicians. This is freedom of movement. The comparisons with Sydney are pretty obvious.

Much of the structered content was similar in theme to home , although there was more accent on global issues (death penalty, the middle east) and much less dressing up and drag. 

The crowd was estimated at 700,000. Truly. We thought it about 3 times as big as Sydney, 3 times less complicated, and 3 times more fun. It took all afternoon, dancing, walking, waving, pumping its way to Bastille, from where the crowd slowly released itself into the surrounding streets, with most of the gays heading towards the Marais, the focus of gay life in Paris, and of course the old, and present Jewish quarter.

The night came slowly, but when it did, about 16 (4x4) blocks of the Marais were closed, the proud partying on till daylight, and then some. You were literally shoulder to shoulder wherever you went, no police, no beer cans, no attitude, no trouble, no worries. 


WANDERER said...

I have been reminded that the mayor of Paris is gay (2001,2008) and that Pride was neither as easy nor as accepted by the city in the past.

Smorg said...

Ah! There is no place as gay as Paris in the summer! :o) Wish I could have been there.