French minister comes out as gay in a tweet to combat homophobia
Posted On July 23, 2020
France’s digital minister Mounir Mahjoubi has come out as gay on the International Day Against Homophobia, saying it was important to speak out as a public figure himself subjected to prejudice in the past.
Mr Mahjoubi, 34, a rising star in President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, tweeted late on Thursday that homophobia "sometimes forces us to adapt ourselves and lie just to avoid hate and to survive”.
France has seen a rise in homophobic physical attacks for the second consecutive year, a recent report suggests, with a gay rights charity saying it shows prejudice against the LGBT community is becoming "anchored" in French society.
"Homophobia is an ill that eats away at society, invades high schools, and poisons families and lost friends," wrote the former tech entrepreneur.
While Mr Mahjoubi said he did not want to "make a big deal" of coming out publicly, "if that might help to fight homophobia, I’ll do it".
"I think it’s important to offer visibility to gay people, but I think everyone should take this step only when they’re ready for it," he told the Franceinfo news website.
French gay rights group SOS Homophobie lauded his "strong and courageous decision".
"He is contributing to the visibility of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in society and is a positive example for all young gay, bi and trans people in his country," the group tweeted. "Congratulations."
Mr Mahjoubi has been in a civil partnership with his partner since 2015.
"It’s 2018, I live my life – even in public – in peace," the minister said.
But he intimated that he had suffered from homophobic attitudes in the past. "We have to remember the consequences of homophobia in daily life, notably for the young. It has also had consequences for me," he said.
France legalised civil partnerships for gay couples in 1999 and then same-sex marriage in 2013.
Mr Macron’s government includes a few junior ministers who opposed gay marriage before it passed into law.
Mr Mahjoubi said he had broached the subject with them, telling Franceinfo: "I spoke to them about my husband, who is a wonderful man, as soon as I met each of them.
"It was important because we were part of a new movement and we had to set out how we were going to do this together," he said.
"But I can assure you that for each of them, including comments that might have been awkward at the time, there’s no issue. They are totally committed to fighting homophobia and today they totally support equality."
Very few ministers in previous French governments have come out as gay or bisexual. The most recent was Frederic Mitterand, nephew of former president Francois Mitterand, in Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration.
Bertrand Delanoe, former mayor of Paris, has also done so.
In a high-profile trial this month, a French court handed a seven-and-a-half-year prison term to a man who critically injured a French student after the student defended a gay couple kissing in the street in the French city of Lyon in 2016.