Book chapter

Europe's LGBT Movement: France (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Four moments can be identified in the development of LGBT activism in France: the tensions between private actions and acting publicly (1954–1974), the movement as an activist project (1974–1989), the first attempts of institutionalization (1989–1994), and the emergence of a space of LGBT activism (1994–2013). These moments are identified based on the nature of the collective action, the internal structure of the movement, the representativeness of national collectives, and the political plurality of the community of the LGBT movement. They show the nonlinear trajectory of the LGBT movement in France and confirm that the project of an LGBT movement, a structured and representative national organization, has never been fully achieved in the country.Two characteristics of the French political and social system contribute to explain this situation: a strong and inaccessible state that transcends civil society, and the impact of Republicanism. The closure of the French state, which restricts the opportunities available to activists, has had a significant impact on activism. It not only contributes to the individualization of protest, but also leads to a radicalization of activism, a limited duration of groups over time, and a lack of centralization, institutionalization, and NGOization of social movement organizations. This closure partly results from the Republicanist ideology, which requires the state to transcend civil society groups and the particular interests they would defend in favor of so-called general will. If the development of Republican ideas has historically facilitated the development of LGBT rights, Republicanism has more recently prevented LGBT activists from articulating a specific political identity.