French minister comes out as gay on Twitter to fight homophobia

The French minister Mounir Mahjoubi declared that he was gay on Twitter to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17th and to speak up as a public figure who has himself suffered prejudice in the past.

French minister comes out as gay on Twitter to fight homophobia
Mounir Mahjoubi behind President Emmanuel Macron. AFP

In a message, the 34-year-old minister for digital affairs identified himself as gay by using 'us' to speak out about how difficult it can still be to be gay and live openly.

“Homophobia is an evil that eats away at society, it seeps into schools, contaminates families and lost friends,” he wrote. “Worse, it haunts the minds of gay people and forces us sometimes to adapt and to lie to prevent hatred and to live.”

In a interview with FranceInfo, Mahjoubi who 'married' his partner through a civil partnership(called PACS in France) in 2015, said it was important to keep talking about the consequences of homophobia, especially among younger people.

“What was important was to keep talking about the subject: yesterday was the International day against Homophobia. It was important to keep reminding people of the consequences of homophobia on everyday life, particularly the younger generation. And it also had consequences for me,” he said

“This is 2018, and I live a quiet life even in public. But if, on that day, I could talk about it through my personal experience, then I just thought it had to be done,” he added.

French gay rights group SOS Homophobie hailed 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.”

Five years ago, France ushered in a new law (called 'la loi du mariage pour tous') legalising same-sex marriage. 40,000 gay couples have tied the knot since then. At the time, the issue proved to be divisive and the law sparked months of debates and criticism – including from members of the present government – and a number of protests across France.

According to the French gay rights charity SOS Homophobie, prejudice against the LGBT community is still alive in France and risks becoming 'anchored' in French society. Earlier this week, the charity released its annual report showing that the number of physical attacks due to homophobia jumped 15% from 2016 to 2017, with victims being most often men and young people.

READ ALSO: France sees jump in violent homophobic attacks

France sees jump in violent homophobic attacks

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‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”