One of the books out this past week is by author Didier Lestrade which tries to provide an explanation of why French gays increasingly prefer the right. He boils it down to a very few factors. For one, there is a shared antagonism and xenophobia targeted toward muslims who threaten the rights of gays to live freely and the right wing, who simply hold a visceral xenophobia. Ergo, the anti-muslim rhetoric of the extreme right is a comfort to the gays and a basis for a political alliance, so he argues.
Some of the critics I have come across seem to suggest that maybe Lestrade ought to have maybe made it clear that he is speaking of gays of decades past – angry, militant ones, who had every right to be. However, given that these have been subsequently been replaced by a less antagonistic, less militant generation of gays- therefore, the suggestions seem to say that perhaps what Lestrade needs to have articulated is that the hateful language of the Right will go down well with an older, militant, gay demographic who would be at ease with the xenophobic rhetoric of the far right.
The experience in other places like Switzerland and Holland would, however make some of Lestrade’s intuition about the right wing being a lucrative option for the LGBT community an attractive electoral choice slightly understandable. In both cases, the LGBT community tended to vote right in part due to what they perceived to be an encroachment of homophobic immigrants upon heir rights and ability to fully be themselves. Some of the right wing leaders have been openly, or have been exposed to be, gay themselves. So, it would appear to not be a far fetched idea to visualise a similar scenario unfloding in France. I personally am not sure if this logic completely holds up to scrutiny as fully credible . For one, Holland and France are far from identical societies in terms of demographic make up, size, political mores and culture: whether France would necessarily produce same results – while not impossible – is at least worth questioning.
Anyhow, Lestrade then proceeds to delve into a few other factors that account for his perceived right-leaning radicalisation of the gays. These include a disillusionment with the left. In so arguing, however however, he apparently does not come up with a clear explanation of the methodology he uses to arrive at this conclusion.
The book has received some of its sharpest criticisms from within the gay community and readership itself – who contend that at the least, the author failed to do his homework. The evidence he uses to point to a shift to the right is accused of being feeble and sometimes false. For example, some of the critiques that I have come across suggest that Lestrade’s book basically only sites the existence of a facebook group as evidence of a whole scale shift to the right among the gays.
Other critics also argue that he airbrushes out some of the facts – especially about the left. The Socialist Party (PS), they contend, has long fought for a greater set of rights for LGBT folk including marriage and adoption. This, Lestrade overlooks in his new book “Pourqoui les gays sont passés à droite”.
With about 100 days to go, I guess it is only a matter of time before it becomes apparent where the voters loyalties will ultimately lie – homosexual, hetereosexual or for those who go both ways, or otherwise. It might also become clear that maybe sexuality is not necessarily a deciding factor in itself in determining where the vote goes – especially in times of such economic hardship. Bread and butter issues may as well dominate over issues of liberal laws on marriage and adoption, who knows?
There is a clear choice in the upcoming election between Sarkozy (well, he has not quite declared his candidacy yet) who is pushing for greater austerity through a German-esque approach to Public Financial Management – and Hollande who appears to be intent on taxing the rich to create thousands of jobs for teachers and many more for an indeterminate catch all group of ‘the people’. He also vows to reverse the Sarkozy government’s decision to raise the retirement age to 62 – well, not completely: but simply for those who are deemed to have worked long enough by age 60. These may turn out to be the defining issues I would imagine. Or, it may turn out that these economic issues may only serve to strengthen the case for the Left (or right) to the LGBT communities and others. SOme may choose to make hybrid decisions – Vote for a party that will give rights to marriage, to adoption,yes but also those that will create jobs and help one to retire early. It could be a case of making complex decisions. Or, Lestrade may be correct, voting for those who protect ones’ rights may be both an economic and political benefit in the long run – a sort of a ganging up against homophobic immigrants and ultimately making France a place where it is easier to both live and do business. I’m loving this election – quite interesting to see!