I'd like to direct your attention to something that needs directing to. A lot of people talk about dining in and eating out. I guess that's what this song's about. Madonna moaned this in our ears back in 1992 and though the subtle meaning is very different from what I want to talk about, somehow it feels quiet relevant. In 1992 we were fighting for LGBT equality, just as we still do today, in 2016. It was only in 1992 the World Heath Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental illness so I’d say we did come a long way. I’m all for equality. No more discrimination. The right to marry, to walk on the streets holding hands without being stared at, laughed at or pointed at. But for some reason it seems that with winning on equality we are also loosing on identity. The lines between heterosexuals and homosexuals are becoming more and more blurred, but no matter how much equal right we have, we will never be completely the same in behaviour, will we?
Something is happening in Paris. This might be a local thing, and I certainly hope so, but I don’t really think it is. For those who have visited the glorious French capital over the years and did so in order to visit the lively gay scene in Le Marais, my travel advise would now be negative. Do you know Le Marais? This old typical Parisian neighbourhood in the centre of the city with its many gay bars and restaurants? Let me name a few. Le Central, Amnesia, Open Café, Spyce, Freedj, Feeling Bar, Raidd bar, Quetzal, Cox... Sounds familiar? Well hold your breath, it might not be so familiar in a few months time. Le Central, Paris’ oldest gay hotel and bar, closed its door some time ago, as did Amnesia. It happens, of course. Usually to make place for other establishments that answer to a similar need. But at this very moment Le Marais is changing in rapid speed. Spyce closed its doors permanently a few weeks ago. Le Feeling Bar this week. Raidd Bar is next on the list. Open Café, the only one that offers both day and night entertainment will soon be gone and so will Cox, just having celebrated its 20th anniversary. The future of Quetzal is yet to be determined and Freedj – well - it simply is too small to carry the torch. It’s not because the bars are empty. Because no one goes there anymore. The iconic gay and lesbian bookstore Agora, once opposite of Open Café made place for The Kooples. A whole city block next to Cox Bar and opposite a series of gay and gay friendly restaurants has transformed into a line up of luxury boutiques: Fendi, Gucci, Valentino, Givenchy, Moncler… And if the bars are gone, how long before the restaurants will close their doors. The gay boutiques. The cruising bars.
Le Marais churns. It always has. Shops with signs in Hebrew bolster its image as the Jewish quarter of Paris, but that only dates from the 19th century and is now fading fast. Before that, this was a rundown stew of once-chic 17th-century townhouses converted to storage, and before that it was the French nobility's favorite place of residence, and before that the swamp from which it gets its name. Today Le Marais is churning once more, rapidly transforming itself into a luxury shopping area where no Parisian goes to spend their well-earned money. A historical district where the long standing “hôtels particuliers” now housing musea, offices and apartments for expats, are becoming the backdrop for a Disneyland-kind of neighbourhood where wealthy tourists can go on a shopping bender for a few hours. And the gay men and women, for who Le Marais has been a haven for many years, where they could be amongst themselves and do what gay men and women do when they go out, where will they go? Shattered over the other 19 Parisian districts? Staying home glued to their dating applications? Or trying to find amusement in gay friendly bars where – equality or not – people still frown when one man grabs the buttocks of another. I’m all for equality. Equality is good. But does it mean we need to loose completely our identity? Or, to quote Madonna from that same song, do we have to learn a different kind of kiss? –BM-
Cover photography by Mateo Armand
Cover model: Jordan Astié
BEAUTIFULMAG | Everything That Is