From the famous pantalooned-promenades of Georges Sand to the scandalous Marquis de Sade and the politically-engaged artists of our time such as Angèle and Christine and the Queens, queerness has always been, and remains, an identity rooted in revolution. Learn more about a few of these influential French & Francophone artists and writers this Pride Month.
Well-known in from the runways of haute couture to the "Ball" scene of 1980s NYC, Saint-Laurent has been an inspiration on the global scale. His legacy beginning at the House of Dior in Paris inspired the namesake biopic starring Pierre Niney (2014). In the American documentary Paris Is Burning (1991) by Jennie Livingston, his last name, Saint-Laurent, would be adopted as the name of a "House" within the drag/trans scene, known as "Ball Culture"--a place where young, marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community could gather and celebrate one another. The importance of the name "Saint-Laurent", along with others named for renowned designers such as "House of Balenciaga" and "House of Gucci", being that such a name evokes a sense of luxury and dignity as much as a sense of belonging within these "chosen families".
Christine and the Queens
Known for the huge success of his songs "Christine" and "Damn, dis-moi / Girlfriend" (Time "Song of the Year" 2018), Chris is a trans-masc singer, dancer and poet from France whose 80s-inspired mix and Michael Jackson moves make you want to get up and learn the choreography! As for the name of the group, Chris said in a 2015 interview "Christine, before it was a musical endeavor, was my solution for existing correctly", which is to say: a solution for conforming to typical ideas of his gender at the time. In addition, "the Queens" is in reference to the drag queens of 2010 in London who inspired him to assume the alias of "Christine" as a manner of artistic self-expression.
Angèle, who announced herself as pansexual in March of this year, has been on the musical scene since her first clips posted on social media in 2015. A Belgian artist, she has dedicated much of her career in honor of her hometown and to causes she believes in deeply such as "Bruxelles je t'aime" (2021) and "Balance ton quoi" (2018)--the Francophone equivalent of the American "Me Too" movement. She is actively involved in an association called "NousToutes", bringing awareness to violence against women, and distributes profits of merchandise purchased on her website to the two associations Centre 320 rue Haute in Beligum and La Maison des Femmes x Saint-Denis in France.
Marquis de Sade
The namesake to whom we can attribute the words Sadism and Sadomasochism, the author of La Philosophie dans le boudoir ("Philosophy In The Bedroom"), the Marquis de Sade was detained under every different French political regime; his œuvre represents the transgression of all things commonplace at the time of the French revolution. His critiques of religion, political institutions, and the strict moral codes of the time read as much as a political manifesto as they do a salacious airport novel that, when understood in the context of an Absolute Monarchy, demonstrate an Evel Knievel-esque feat of daring to defy the norm. He was, by all measures, the epitome of queerness as a political act.
By Ian McKenzie:
Ian is a French teacher at Learn French Brooklyn with a passion for language, culture and pedagogy. He has studied and lived in Normandy, France and his students of all ages benefit from his range of teaching experiences at colleges and middle school. He enjoys the arts, phonology and hanging with his cat, Seymour.