In general, the French consider sexuality to be a private matter and homophobic assaults are very rare. On the whole, gays tend to be discreet outside specific gay venues, parades and the prime gay areas of Paris and the coastal resorts. Lesbians tend to be extremely discreet. In Corsica attitudes remain much more conservative than on the mainland and gay and lesbian islanders keep a low profile. Women can get away with holding hands and walking with arms around each other, but gay men can expect hostile comments if they do the same. At the same time, Corsica has long been a popular destination for discreet gay couples and no one is likely to raise much more than an eyebrow when checking in to a hotel.
The advent of AIDS (SIDA in French) had a big impact in France, which has one of the highest rates of infection in Europe The Pasteur Institute in Paris is at the forefront of research into the virus, though its gay patients have complained of being treated like cattle. A group of gay doctors and the association AIDES (Association pour l'Entraide et l'Information SIDA), however, have consistently provided sympathetic counselling and treatment, and the gay press has done a great deal to disseminate the facts about AIDS and to provide hope and encouragement. Lesbian organizations fight alongside gays on the general issue of anti-homosexuality, while also lobbying for women's rights.
A useful guidebook, though in French only, is dykeGuide (€12), published annually and available at FNAC stores and major booksellers or direct from the publisher Atprod, dykeGuide, BP 145, 94208 Ivry Cedex; www.dykeplanet.com. The English-language Spartacus International Gay Guide (published by Bruno Gmünder Verlag) has an extensive section on France and contains some info for lesbians.
Têtu (www.tetu.com) is a highly rated gay/lesbian magazine (€5) with events Listings and contact addresses; you can buy it in bookshops or through their website, which is also an excellent source of information. Other useful websites include Gay Friendly France (www.francetourism.com/gayguide/index.asp) maintained by Maison de la France in the US, and the French-language sites Gay.com (fr.gay.com) and DykeplaNET (www.dykeplanet.com).
Pages in section ‘Gay’: Contacts.
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