Last weekend Paris played host to Loud & Proud, a festival dedicated to queer music, culture and fighting homophobia.
At a time of a frightening homophobic backlash in France, centred on the recent legalisation of gay marriage, but also seeing the transphobia and sexism in everyday media, Loud & Proud, more than just another Gay Pride festival, celebrates all identities at the margins of a heteronormative discourse, questioning the representation of sexual minorities in French culture, and giving visibility to bodies usually made invisible by the French music industry.
Founded by Fany Coral, manager of ultra-cool Parisian record label Kill The DJ, journalist Anne Pauly and communications consultant Alexandre Gaulmin, Benoît Rousseau, artistic advisor of La Gaité Lyrique, the arts space and music venue that hosted the event. Loud & Proud, like Afropunk, is more politically engaged than your average three daypop-festival. Featuring Zebra Katz, Le1f, Big Freedia, Christeene (a singer Rick Owens has described as "his Beyonce") alongside drag king workshops, meetings, and discussion groups.
We met up with the gang and talked queer pride, music and the power of a stage.
What exactly is a queer festival and why is it relevant?
The French don't tend to know what queer means - the term, like our festival, seeks to addresses and celebrate anyone who falls out a heterosexual 'norm'. We wanted to give centre stage to all those who feel at the margins of dominant gender and sexual stereotypes in society; we fight for a militant, feminist, non-exclusive sense of expressions and we're open to all.
Fashion and pop culture has often toyed with gender boundaries - what is new about this festival?
Queer culture has often been picked up by singers who don't quote (or don't even realise) what they're referencing. Whether that's Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or androgynous fashion styles that are so in at the moment. This festival is a way of re-appropriating the re-appropriation and rooting these expressions in a long, hard and eventually liberating history of identity.
To what extent is this tied to a French context?
France is still very behind; in the States and the UK, gender and queer discourse are intertwined with pop and cultural celebrities and magazines. Here, seeing the recent, enormous protests around gay marriage made everyone realise we are very far from equality. Everyday homophobia, sexism, transphobia are very real, daily struggles for French queers. So a queer festival is a highly politicised one, and is inevitably tied to both local and global contexts.
How does the stage allow one to untangle gender norms?
Take someone like Zebra Katz or Mykki Blanco; they play with garment and makeup to break down gender, sexual and racial stereotypes - and put forward the idea of the body as a constant stage of transformation and re-appropriation. Also, our Bounce and Drag King workshops allow the participants to reclaim their bodies in a very physical, immediate, and urgent way.
Text Alice Pfeiffer
Photography Gaëlle MaTaTa