Category Archives: Children and adults – Enfants et adultes

Education. Education. Education.

I am being asked, as a “Liberal” – whatever that means, what we should do to protect our values against the ones of the people who don’t think like we do. Especially, when these values are of openness, tolerance and freedom for all.

The answer to just block the ones who don’t believe the same as we do is very “in” these days but I do believe in education and empathy, first. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand where they come from so to fathom their thinking and eventually modify it.

I grant you that such a feat is easier for me as a gay man living in a Western society where the religious, no matter how much we order it to shut up, still condemns and calls for the ban of everything they disagree with.

I also lived in many countries where I have experience in shutting up, looking at local beliefs and culture, and try to position myself within it as well as I could without imposing my view.

I would say that’s the first we need to do when immigration is concerned: a French immigrant like me needs to understand that our rejection of monarchy doesn’t mean the rest of the world must behave their monarchs. I disagree with monarchy. It’s everything I stand against: privileges given at birth, social immobility, laziness and the epitome of people who believe they are entitled to living off the state sucking millions up just to look presentable. And they can’t even manage that for some of them.

However, unless specifically asked, I don’t go around Spain, nor did I in England, with a soap box calling Spaniards and Britons idiots and serfs for having a king or a queen and demanding their head on a platter. How Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the whole of Scandinavia and the UK understand their own state is their own choice and I must respect it or leave it.

Do I mean immigrants who don’t want to abide by our rules should leave or be deported? No and yes. For me, it all depends on the idea of choice and open-mindness. I would say to a Westerner riling against a country they have just moved in that if they are not happy to see two men kissing or women wearing bikinis that they are free to go back to where they come from. With an immigrant from most Middle-Eastern or African countries, I wouldn’t do as such. I would educate first. The double standard is justifiable by the difference in education and environment that leads to two words I used before “choice” and “free”.

Why would I tell off a Westerner? Because I know they had access to a differentiated educational system that has taught them about the freedom of choice. A system that has laid out all the possibilities, has explained the world at great lengths, that has creates endless opportunities and freedoms within a wider democratic system where the key is for citizens to take their destiny in their own hands as much as possible and learn to be responsible.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but after seeing, like I did, an American, born-again Christian in the streets of Paris calling for homosexuals to be banned from getting married, I would, as I did, confront them and tell them to fuck off home.School has taught them many ways and they have willingly chosen one. If it’s incompatible with the ones of a country they also chose to live in, why are they here?

To Westerners, yes but to Muslims for instance, no (-ish). Why? Political correctness? For fear of being labelled racist?

No just because I understand where they come from and the need for reeducation. First-generation immigrants in our Western countries are coming from countries where education is not about choice and opportunities, it’s about repeating and maintaining. Their schools don’t teach critical thinking but dos and don’ts in an overall political environment that is violent and intrinsically unfair and unjust.

These people are coming to our countries fleeing hardship, wanting a better life but with mindsets carved deep into themselves, sometimes literally. The answer to this, I often hear, is deculturation. Especially for the first generation so their children can be fully assimilated.

Parents are asked to leave their culture behind, for their own good too, and take on the new one but what is culture? Your language? Your religion? Your dress code? Your eating habits? As a French atheist living in Spain, should I convert to Catholicism and go to church? When I lived in England, should have I become a Anglican and bow to the Queen? Am I refuse to integrate and assimilate by rejecting Catholicism or my subjecting to the Windors? No. It’s more than that, I am said, but no one can define it.

That’s the point of culture: it’s all the untold rules that we grow up with and make us behave a certain way. In Spain, people think it’s weird when I address them using the second person plural but in France, it’s borderline insulting to address someone you don’t know using the second person singular. Yet we are all share the same Latin roots with just a small mountain range between us.

How do we fix the problem? Education. Education. Education. Let’s consider some key questions I heard from good-willing people thinking some immigrants are a danger to our values: How do we make sure Muslims are not antisemitic? How do we ensure Asians are not forcing their girls into marrying older strangers? How do we ensure African girls are not excised? How do we ensure religious immigrants are not homophobic?

We do what they do in Norway, for instance, we educate them. We listen to their thinking, debate with them, show them something different, teach them critical thinking and acceptance for it doesn’t come naturally, it’s always nurtured. And sometimes, often, we play into their weaknesses of bowing to diktats and say: “Because that’s the way things are done here. So think for you have two choices: You stay and accept it or you go back to where you came from.” A hard choice for most of them but it’s a choice at the end, one that will put them in control of their own destiny, often for the first time.

Cynics from the Right will come me a utopist for thinking we can ever reverse mindsets. Why would they think otherwise? They, themselves, think the solution is to go back to a past they have fantasised.

Cynics from the Left will tell me that we can’t even get Western Christians to be gay-friendly and our own society to accept full men/women equality so immigrants…I get where they come from but all the more reasons to keep trying. We cannot stop human progress and we will learn from ourselves.

Some will point out that I’m being very optimistic when talking about our educational system, that, in more and more countries, it’s being privatised so critical thinking is now a danger to the blind acceptance of a evermore unequal, neo-capitalist society in the name of making money.

I agree and I also see that countries resulting in blanket bans and camps are the ones where education is anything but a priority.

 

How to reach the Millennials?

Last week, I was at the regional assembly for Amnesty International and a decision was made to target the 18-35 year-olds, especially on the campaign regarding the treatment of the most vulnerable refuges. Cue the debate on how to reach us with all the usual clichés about us, the so-called Millennials. It is true to say that I was the only 30-something in a room full of late Baby-boomers and people in their early 50s.

First and foremost, no. We are not apathetic, uncaring and careless, heartless and utterly materialistic. We are a generation that has been told to shut up about our problems because “no one had ever had it so good”: the big bedroom with a queen’s bed just for us when our parents had to share, the game consoles, the mobile phones, the clothes, the shoes, the things, the more things, the even more things. We have choice and education.  We can make anything and achieving everything. We do not have a path to follow like our elders rather a path we can make for ourselves. We are just too lazy and accustomed to comfort to do it.

But rather than fight and work hard, we find excuses in ridiculous “diseases” like anxiety, depression…Fake ills that we pretend to be paralysed with when we should just strap-on a pair and get on with it. We are told we’re just good at shouting loud enough to get what we want. A generation raised to be more attuned with its emotions, our deepest turmoil have yet been deemed childish and irrelevant. “What are you complaining about again? We gave you the last Playstation, haven’t we? We bought you a car, haven’t you? Isn’t it what you wanted?”

Is it? Yes, it is but not because we truly believe it would make us happy but because we grew up and was raised by a generation that was in fact the one who genuinely had it good. Millennials are not the ones who think ownership is the key to happiness and true freedom because we don’t owe anything and yet manage to be happy in a way. Nothing I have is mine except for my two cheap laptops, my phone and a couple of plants.

I live at my mother’s, I drive one of her cars, I eat the cheese she buys, I tend to the house and garden she owns, have Sunday naps on her couch. I only managed to buy my very first bed last year. I was 31, what an achievement! And yet, the mattress was the one my mother bought years ago.

I am 32 and like many of peers, I haven’t got anything. Nor have my cousins. Our parents do. My grand-parents do. Hence the double standard of constantly showering your children and grand-children with things they do really want or actually need, to jump on your wallet at their every whim and then label them spoilt and ungrateful. Maybe because we have discovered that there was more to life than counting your blessings. The older generations raised us in their world of endless plenty, we abode by their model of endless consumption until the day we became “too old for this” and suddenly the world fell on our shoulder.

There is a sense of betrayal. Not because I don’t have as many gifts as I used to but because I did everything I was told and yet, I still don’t fit in and I am not the only. I studied, got two Masters, went abroad for ten years, worked terrible jobs, made myself completely exploitable to managers and shop-owners because I was told it was the way it has to be to gain experience. Now, I am 32, stuck in an endless roller-coaster of temporary contracts, never knowing what I will earn the next three months or if I will actually still have a job that helps me scrap a little of money to put aside to leave doomed France again.

We work like dogs for jobs that don’t pay, for managers in their 50s who use and abuse their power to get the best out of us for the least money, all the while telling us that they would be forced to let us go if we went all the way with our claim for better working conditions.

No, we are not unreachable, lazy and expecting everything to be given to us. We just don’t belong to the world as the Baby Boomers and the 1960s-born people have built and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the way they want. We don’t recognise ourselves in the box they have put us in, in the path they have still managed to back might for us. We are rebelling as we refuse to abide by their definition of what we are and what we should be. This is not tantrum, this is just doing what they did in the late 1960s and the 1970s: becoming our own self as a generation.

And it takes time. It took time for women to realise they were not alone in their misery, to organise, to talk about it and finally to claim.  It will take time for us all to realise what we are all experiencing: living under the rules of States that were built to only cater for the needs of our elders and policed to protect their privileges.

In this black picture, there is positivity in that we are all looking for alternatives we can call our own, for something to do in this world so despite the ignorant jibes, we are actually way more accessible than the previous generation. It just takes a bit of finding out how to communicate with a generation that highly flexible, skilled and adaptable.

First, stop with the labelling of ‘right’ and ‘left’ or any extremes when it comes to politics. It’s not that we are not interested in politics as such. Look the French youths besieging the squares of Paris, fighting for their future. We are interested in politics, we do talk about it but there is nothing out there that offers the flexibility we need. How can you interest young, educated, informed people with an  ever-increasing Manichean message from people who are constantly condescending towards us?

I mean, just consider the people we have to choose from: our parliaments plagued with a majority of men wearing black suits, even in blistering summer, using big words to hide the tree in the forest, and bluntly telling us we are “fools for believing their promises” and we should have known better – Thank you, Nick Clegg! Why can it never be straightforward? Why I am “childish” for asking? That’s the problem: not only have we been deceived too many times but mostly these people don’t speak to us and when they do it’s from their ivory tower.

When the President or the Premier blabber endless speeches on the age of retirement and the security in old age, they don’t speak to us who can’t even find a job to begin with. Politicians have become like the adverts we have grown with: it’s noise in the background for things we are given by our parents but do not actually need. They are akin to commercials selling us insurance when we have no house, no car, no job, no children…

Secondly, stop trying to use traditional media. TV is for little kids who have no control over what they watch, and our parents and grand-parents. I don’t watch TV and actually don’t understand the point of it. It is anything but flexible and open for a generation that multi-tasks easily and like the pick-and-mix of everything, from food to sources of information. TV and radio are nothing but tight-scheduling of things one can never double-check, having to sit there doing nothing, not having any control over what we are fed. You have to be at one place at one time or you’ll miss it. What on Earth is that in a world with Internet on the tip of your fingers and its everyday pick and mix? You read, watch, play, listen to any time, any place.

Instead of labelling us as scattered, undecided, disorganised and not knowing what we want, use our flexibility, our desire to see more, our craving for change for the great and good because it makes us open-minded, more tolerant and willing to find our place in the world. A place that has not been pre-determined by anything: place of birth, money, skin complexion, gender…We have been raised to believe it is possible and the way forward, and we still believe it. We want to believe it.

The move from Amnesty International is the right one because they are not right or left, Christian or Muslims, high or low, men or women. They are all of it and much more. They are everything and anything we, the Millennials, want them to be: a place to find and fight our way. As political parties rot under their own contradictions and need to please the ones with money and power (anyone but us), Amnesty International is the opportunity for us to be someone, beyond our name and our job.

All they have to understand is that we are not children, but adults. Adults who need be addressed like adults, not irresponsible tantrum-throwing brats.  Adults who want to build the future they were promised but that has never materialised because it turns out we have become a threat to the privileges of older generations. Adults who are looking for new ways to exist, have a voice and express it. Adults willing to be something and do something for the world. Adults who are just one click or one finger-tap away from them.

Poor bigots!

As the US Supreme Court (with or without capital letters) declared same-sex marriage legal under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, the people who thought their outdated views of the world were still dominant in the US have decided to turn themselves into victims.

Their aim is to not focus on the fact that the US have finally entered the 21st century, to just talk about the fact that those who chose to remain in the 19th century are now to become “victims”.

In this article (x), we learn that these 19th century-anchored Americans are facing being called ‘bigots’ for opposing the Court’s decision or believing it is wrong.

“Bigots”…this vile word that is demeaning above all insults, isn’t it?

Well, they might be seen and called that very unmentionable word by ” the government, employers and schools”. They might not even dare speak out for fear of retaliation.

How terrible! I suggest we take a moment to reflect on the dreadful fate that is awaiting them at the corner.

Do I really have to point out how ridiculous that is?

The problem with such privileged people is that they have no idea what it is to be actual victims so their attempt is not just ridiculous but frankly insulting, as per usual, to the real victims: the ones who have been suffering from them for ever.

They are nothing but bullies shouting “That’s unfair, people are going to call me violent now!” after the school has decided to officially render the beating of other students a bad thing – not a punishable offence yet, a just bad thing.

These very people have been branding me and every single other gay man in the whole world paedophiles and zoophiles every time they’ve had a chance and when they did not, they created these chances filling the media with their hatred-infused, insulting and life-threatening speech.

They say that my physical and emotional attraction to other men means I rape children and animals. Rape! And now they fear they are going to be called “bigots”!? Are you fucking kidding me?

They treat lesbians like under-humans and refuse to even acknowledge the fact that women can possibly live a happy and fulfilled life without the presence of a man and his penis at the heart of it. For them, a life of which men are not the centre is a life that doesn’t deserve any attention expect when it comes to the porn they watch behind the back of the wife and the priest.

I don’t even mention the treatment they reserve to anyone tragically stuck between their narrow definition of gender and sexuality: bisexuals, transvestites and transgenders. For these people, they are monsters, freaks, mistakes of God, children of Satan, sinners that should not even deserve to be touched, looked at or even mentioned unless absolute necessity, i.e. to call for their complete extinction either through “treatment” or simply “removal”.

These people have been treating millions of LGBT people like untouchables and rejects of the society. They have been arguing that our rights to be equals are no constitutional matter all the while pushing for a constitutional interdiction for us to be equals.

These people have been naming and shaming us, threatening the life of every single one of us all the way into our very houses.

They have been calling on parents to have teachers fired when they are discovered to be gay because “a gay teacher is a threat to every child”.

They have been supporting in every way possible every company who fires employees solely for being gay.

These people are still lobbying so LGBT remain forbidden from giving their blood, not matter how important and useful it is because we are “AIDS-infested pest”.

These people still have access to wide audiences to which they repeat time and again that we are the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

They are still saying that we are a threat to humanity and should therefore be removed.

These people are still calling daily on the repel of laws that define homophobic crimes because they see these crimes as a benefit to society.

All of us have had to be putting up with their violence, their insults and their intolerance. We have been fighting against these people for decades after we have been chased, hunted, stoned, burnt, tortured, exiled by these people for centuries and now that the world is moving forward without them, they try to be turn themselves into the victims.

Let me be clear: bullies like them are and will always remain victims of themselves, of their intolerance, of their unwillingness to be tolerant and open-minded.

The world is round and yes, you are bigots! Embrace it because that’s the nicest thing you will hear coming that very world.

And when it comes to us, the LGBT community, don’t you worry, we won’t call you names. There is no way in Hell we’ll ever go down to your level.

The realm of the outdoors

Two weeks ago, I was at work and a colleague was telling us about her grandchildren. They were a “disgrace”, this “new generation” because the weather was beautiful and they could not even be bothered to go outside and envoy it. They would rather stay in all day playing some video games of some sort. Her problem: it was sunny and the children would not go out – like she would, presumably.

Then, a couple of day ago, the weather had changed into rainy days, right when the holidays started and she had her grandchildren staying with her. I saw her again and this time she was telling us about the weather and her “poor grandchildren” who could not even go out. I played dumb and asked her why.
“Because it’s raining!”, she said. I knew that was coming and I couldn’t stop myself, I had to be an annoying bitch.
“So?”, I asked gingerly.
“Well, I can’t let them go outside when it’s raining. They’ll get wet.” I told her she could let them go out.
“They are not made of sugar, they are not going to melt, you know. And maybe they don’t go out when it’s sunny because someone ‘s told them it was bad for their skin…”

She was outraged but I made my point about this endless complaining about the weather which is never good enough and mainly about the conflicting messages we are giving to children regarding what they can and cannot do when it comes to the outdoors.

That woman, born in the 1950s, would just not let her grand-children out because it was raining and they might wet and catch a cold. So the kids were doomed to stay inside and find a way to entertain themselves which turned out to be hours in their phones.  And she hates this. She wants them to connect with her although her childhood is probably filled with endless rainy afternoons at her own grand-parents when she had wished she was allowed to just get away from them, whichever the weather was.

I could have pointed out to her that as a child, she would not minded the rain if it meant having fun, but what got me the most was that same, endless chorus of “that new generation these days, really…Never wanting to go out. In my days…”. This business is seriously getting on my nerves, mainly because I hate the fact that the kids are being blamed for basically trying to adapt to all the scaremongering their parents have been subjecting them for generations when it comes to being outside. Your children are like this because of the education you gave them, because of the role models you were to them and your relationship with the outdoors will determine their willingness to experience it and feel at ease within it.

I am 31 now and for a long time, I have been this “new generation” but it turns out that I am not anymore. I am old enough to be the old “new generation”, judging by the ridiculously nostalgia-filled, fact-free, oblivious and conservative Facebook posts of a number of my 30-something friends. They are all describing a childhood in the 1980/1990s: free of videogames and Internet which allowed us to run free in the fields, hunt for frogs at dusk and play football outside until our kitchen-living, marriage-tamed mothers would call us for dinner. We would then beg for more time because there was nothing like spending time outdoors with our friends and nothing, not even the darkest night, would stop us. We were free. We were Laura Ingalls in the Little House in the Prairie, the wild nature was our playing field.

The problem with this vision is that it’s not what happened, it’s what most of us inspired to when we were kids.  I am not even talking about our teenage years when the Internet did arrive and we were the first generation to spent hours on consoles. I was lucky enough to be able to live this kind of running in the fields fantasy but most of us did not because something or someone would grab us by the collar and shout “Stop running!” as we were heading out.

A friend of mine, mother of a toddler boy, loves posting these nostalgic views. According to her, and many others of my still young age, the younger people today are wasting their life away by staying in, stuck on their phones, laptops and videogames. “They will never experience the joy of real life as we did”, she said. “Even with their friends, they’d prefer going to each other’s place and stay in rather than going out”.

Then I went to see her, we had lunch and a walk in the park but I discovered with shock that she was that kind of parents who is constantly warning their children about the danger of everything. In her eyes, and now the eyes of her son, the whole world is a minefield and death is lurking behind every daffodil.

It was sunny so he had to wear a hat and sun cream (in March!), every plant he touched she would snatch away from him and clean his hand with a sanitised wipe. We sat down on the grass and she took out two blankets that she put on top of each other (“sometimes germs get through the first one anyway”) and that was the only space where he could play. Any toy trespassing was swiftly taken away and put in a bag for thorough washing later at home and eventually, because he kept trying to explore his world, like every toddler, she put him on a dog leash so he just stayed there nibbling on his fingers until she gave him her Ipad with an “educational game” to play. Everything he did that meant reaching the outside world was stopped with a warning of danger even when it could have been an oppportunity to experience and learn. Instead, he went to the park and played with an Ipad. He’s 3 years old.

From a person who keeps on reminiscing on her childhood free of all constraint, she was quick to keep her own child was in a cage everytime he steps in the outdoors. I won’t be surprised if that child never wants to go out later and would prefer staying in. I won’t be surprised if he can’t tell a robin from a blackbird or a rose from lilac. I won’t be surprised if he gets grumpy when it rains and only wants to see the sun but never be exposed to it. Tanning booth and St Tropez tan, please.

And why? Because I suddenly realised that he will be exactly like his mother.  She can’t tell a robin from a black bird, she fake-tans before sunbathing because she was told it was safer and the only reason why she agreed to have lunch in the park and not in a café is because I insisted and told her I had not driving for two hours to sit behind a bloody window. I was paler than it was safe to know about and I wanted to be outside. She did put a scarf on because “the air was frisky”. It was 24° in Paris that day.

I can tell the difference between a robin and a blackbird just by listening to them. I know the names the trees and I like all kind of weather expect one (the unified light grey layered sky). I like the sun, I love the rain, the wind, hail, snow and thunderstorms. I like to go and run outside when the rain is lashing down during the summer supercell’s thunderstorms. The water is warm, the wind is strong and you let yourself drown by the power of Nature. I realised I hadn’t done it for years, going out in the middle of thunderstorms, so last year I did and no one but me was in the streets. Cars passing by looked at me like I was an alien standing in the river that the road had become.

Why me and not her? She looked horrified when I told her this. “You should never go out under a thunderstorm or you’ll get stroke by lightning!”.

Me and not her because all her childhood she heard all the following:
Don’t go out in the rain, you’ll get wet and you’ll get sick!
Don’t go out in the wind, you’ll catch a cold!
Don’t go out in the snow for too long or you’ll get too cold and you’ll get sick!
Don’t stay out in the sun for too long because you’ll get sun burned!
Don’t stay out in the heat because you’ll a fever!
Don’t go out in the sun between noon and 4pm because it is too bright and dangerous!
Don’t go out, it’s foggy and you will get run over by a car!
Don’t go swim for three hours after you ate something because of a phenomenon that no medical record has ever proved to exist!
Don’t touch this leaf! I don’t know what it is so you might get poisoned!
Don’t get go anywhere near a hedgehog, it’s full of fleas, it’s dangerous!
Don’t go look at that swan, it will get angry and break your arm!

Millions of children heard, are hearing and will hear this nonsense. Millions of children who then grow weary, scare or outright uninterested in the outdoors they see as a danger when not a complete bore or a nuisance that needs to be destroyed. No wonder, they always stay in!

I never heard any of these from my mother. Or anyone from my family as a matter of fact and everyone else looked at us weirdly. It’s not new. My grand-mother, born in 1936, and her siblings were already seen as bad seeds and daredevils by some of their classmates for they like the outdoors too much. It looks uncivilised. So at home, in a long family tradition, my mother always ridiculed my uneducated and scare-prone father and did not care for which weather we were playing under.

Maybe because we come from an enlightened family where I-heared-thats, such as cold-water drowning, have never had a place, for some of us were scientists and doctors, but all I know is that she never stopped us from going outside whichever the weather was. When it is sunny, my mother was the first to take us out and lounge with a book for hours while we were playing, all under the bright sun. She was getting looks at the time already and it was the 1980s.

So as usual, when the sun finally showed up a month ago, I went out and told a friend of mine that I was sunbathing. She said “Oh God, you shouldn’t! The first rays are always the most dangerous”.  That doesn’t even mean anything! She had been complaining about the bad weather for weeks and now that the sun was there, she was already weary of it, looking at it from the inside. “What a beautiful weather! But I am not going out, yet. It’s too dangerous”. And she is 35. How much do you bet her children will belong to this new “new generation who never goes out when it’s sunny”? Her parents were born in the early 1950 and already, they filled the heads of their children with ideas that the weather and the outdoors was full of dangers and need to be avoided.

My mother taught us to love the rain. It’s good for the garden and birds can find insects to feed their young. She would take us out to collect snails we would keep for a few days and feed herbs before realising them. Or crab that come when it rains on the beaches of Normandy. I was surprised to discover that none of my friends’ parents ever did that with them. And comes to think of it, my brother and I were almost the only ones to be out when it was raining. I remember friends of mine were forbidden from jumping in puddles of water or go near the river. We could do whatever we wanted, come back home soaking wet and covered in mud, my mother would just wash the clothes and get us in a bath. No word of having been an “irresponsible child who will deserve to catch a cold.

When it snows, she would take us out. It was not a question of yes or no from us. We would have to turn the Sega off, whatever level we were about to reach with Sonic, and go out to play with her. We did not have a sledge so we would take bin liners or kitchen trays but we had to beg to go out and it was fun. I regretted Sonic until the first sliding down.

When we don’t know a leaf, we would look at it carefully and look it up at home. She taught us that a hedgehog’s fleas are not interested in us and that every garden should have a family of hedgehogs because they are cute and they eat slugs which otherwise eat the leaves of our favourite plants.

My childhood now sounds like the ones of these Facebook posts but it has nothing to do with living in the 1980s, the 1990s or the 2010s. My family has always suffered some finger-pointing by people who would raise their children afraid and weary of all weather, all animals except for pets, all outdoor situations. Everything is a danger, everything is a risk, and everything is something their children will have to stay away from. And this has not started with the “new generation”.

You want your child to go out? Stop making them fear the outside! Let them play in the mud, the water, run in the rain. Make them love the outdoors and stop blaming everyone but yourself. It’s not your children’s fault if they can’t see the point of being outside, it’s because you never make them want to be there to begin with. My mother taught me the love of Nature and I regularly stop playing games or get off the Internet for hours just to sit still in her garden under a drizzling rain to watch sparrow, starlings, tits, blackbirds and robins feed and fight over some peanuts or bad apples we had put there for them. It took me six hours to write this piece because the sun showed its ray after four days of uninterrupted rain and I went to have a thorough tour of my mother’s garden.

Teach your child the love of the outdoors and they would gladly take their bike to ride for hours rather than sitting down at a computer. It takes nothing but to start with believing that Nature is here for us to admire and to appreciate whether it’s sunny or rainy.

t to have a thorough tour of my mother’s garden. Teach your child the love of the outdoors and they would gladly take their bike to ride for hours rather than sitting down at a computer. It takes nothing but to start with believing that Nature is here for us to admire and to appreciate whether it’s sunny or rainy.

Of love and men.

« I believe in love » is a sentence we hear a lot but I never really understood.

I can understand the belief in religion because somehow it weirdly seems more tangible to believe in something that does not exist. I have never seen spirits or God so I’ve never believed in them but I have seen love, it’s everywhere so what’s the point in saying that you “believe” in it. It’s like saying you believe in the sun or the trees.

That’s how I thought about it, until recently.

My grandfather died about a month ago. He was 83, had two terminal cancers and although he did not suffer physically, his physical decadence was an everyday psychological torture and humiliation for him.

When he died, I did not cry. Neither did my grandmother who smiled at me when I arrived at the hospital and where scores of family members were crying. She smiled at me and it made me feel so much better because we both rationalise death as liberation for the dead. Finally! He was free from the pain, the torments.

So I did not cry after losing the most important man of my life. Well I did cry but not because of his death. I spoke at the funerals and still did not cry. When I went home, I turned on Tumblr where I saw a gif of Looking where Kevin tells Patrick that “he’s fucking in love” with him. And only then did I cry. Between the tears, I went on Youtube to find just that moment and cried. Downloaded it, watched it, again and again and “cried, cried, cried over the love” of them.

This moment was an epiphany, the likes of the one who triggered my realising I was gay. It all started when I began questionnig men and our status in the society, the social and behavioural expectations put on us. My first question when I was about 12 was “Why is it that two girls who hold hands are just “friends” whereas two boys are “gay”?”

I questioned the many differences between the emotional strings men and women attached to their peers and realised one day, after years of observations, that I was a different kind of man, one that wanted to hold hands with another one, one that wanted to be as close to a man as I was to my (girl) best-friends, one that rejected the ideal of a man the boys were trying to emulate. I was a man that was going to tick the box “gay” for the rest of my life and I was okay with it because my family always knew and accepted it because “there is nothing to accept nor reject” as they say.

That crying over a couple of second scene of Looking made me realise something about me. I don’t cry at death, I don’t cry at pain, I don’t cry at anger because I rationalise them, I understand them, they are no stranger to me, I am ready from them.

I do cry at love gestures, grand or small. I noticed that the videos that always make me cry are the surprise proposals, the surprise homecomings, the genuine wedding speeches.The genuine, the true, the passionate, the explosive, the romantic love gestures. The love songs are throwing me over the edge: You look so fine by Garbage, To have not to hold by Madonna, Halo by Beyoncé, Between two Lungs by Florence and the Machine…

Crying is my way of shielding myself against and within love because I don’t know anything about it. It’s a stranger to me. I don’t think I have ever genuinely fell in love because I did not believe in it, I did not trust it. I know now how extremely unhappy this lack of belief in love can make someone.

This is now where my life is going to change again. This is where I am going to accept myself, not a gay man but as a man who has feelings he needs to believe in to be happy.

It really all started during yet another sleepless, anxiety-filled night where I, as I always do during such nights, got up and decided to write. I have been doing that since I was 11 or 12, not to be published, not to be read but to occupy and soothe my anxieties with creativity.

And on that night, about six months ago, I made the decision to create a gay couple who are living the romantic love. Not the sweet kind but the hard kind, the one that consumes you, the ones changes you forever, the one who runs you over again and again. That one nor words neither actions can really soothe and satisfy.

And after reading yet another article about the clichés of love, I decided that they would be cliché. They would be the clichéest couple that ever there was because I am sick and tired with the Westworld-wide cynism about love and everything attached to it. Everything is cliché today. Proposals needs to be creative, honeymoons need to be adventurous. No more of a knee down and Paris. “How common!”

When have we become so cynical about love?

Cynism is fine and I enjoy it and practice it greatly when it’s funny, when it’s all tainted delicately with irony with a blunt of touch of sarcasm but the one surrounding love is just spiteful, blasé and negative. It teaches us that maturity goes with the moment when you stop believing the fairytales-like love and be more realistic. In a nutshell: it doesn’t exist.

I am a very stubborn and self-determined person who is hardly influenced by anything from the outside unless it is well put, well thought through and well argumented. Except for love. I have been ready to believe all the worst I could hear and see about love. I have been putting it down, crushing it at the first occasion, finding all reasons and excuses to dismiss it, ridicule it, be angry at it and ignore it.

It became clear that I was my worst nightmare: a man who was a product of our society where men are said to be solely driven by economic fulfilment. Ask a woman about the most important day in her life, she will tell you either her wedding or the birth of her children. Ask a man older than 40, he will tell you about his promotion or finally buying his dream car (only money-related dreams are allowed in maturity). I am product of a society where men must be rational, economic animals whereas women are their emotional, foolish love-driven sidekicks.

My mother likes to think I hate her married lover because I am jealous. No, I hate him because he’s nothing but the stereotype the society is still pushing younger men to emulate: a successful banker at the Rothschild’s Bank with a company car, a wife and two kids to show off at business dinners. A man who is overworking in order to climb the professional ladder and who loves by interest, which is what I used to believe about all men. As far as I was concerned, men were incapable of love, were some kind of love-disabled species who yet understood it was a necessity for their survival to fake it.

When I asked my mother why he was not divorcing his wife instead of cheating with countless women (he seems to have settled with my mother for the past few years), she said because he can’t. The fact is that his love life is nothing but an instrument to maintain his social status: he says “I love you” to his wife, he has sex with his wife, he stays married to her making her believe he is the same man she married decades ago because his social and economic status depend on it. He was taught that some boxes need to be ticked to succeed and impress his peers so he ticks them without believing in them: wife, kids, career and car.

I long thought that when women are driven by love, men are driven by their honour, how respectable they are in our society. When my cousin told me he had his heart broken, my first thought, that I kept for myself, was “You liar! Just give up with that ridiculous excuse! Your heart is not broken, just your honour because she dumped you. That’s why you say you want to get back with her. Not because you love her but because you want to save your honour by being the one who did the dumping.”

And how many men are talking like this? How many men are doing this? “

How many of those men are shown to be the norm?” is the real question.

I tried and typed the word “husband” on Google a couple of month ago to find it was mainly attached to “cheating”. The tabloids are filled with stories of famous men cheating and allegedly cheating because that’s what powerful men do and people are ready to believe all these stories without a doubt. In France, we have totally interiorised the idea that a power comes with a set of mistresses. And I have interiorised that, as far as men were concerned, love is irrelevant.

Between 20 and 25, I took great pleasure sleeping with straight married men with kids because it comforted me in this idea. I went as extreme as asking them to tell me about their wedding day in details as I was kneeling between their legs. They seem to take pleasure in it too: the sin was too great. Was it some kind of death to them? Killing the man they pretended to be as liberation, even just for a couple of minutes?

Personally, I never thought it would have destroyed me so much. I have never trusted a man to love so I have never bothered trying to date, to see anyone because I knew I would be hurt and left betrayed and alone at the end. I rather spent 12 years, observing, listening, studying the people around me to find out more. I needed to rationalise it. Love was nothing but a psychological study I was conducting.

This is when it became apparent that is not just society but also my parents who marked me. An immature father who has never grown up and was only tender to my mother when he felt she was pulling away from him and he was about to lose the comfort of  the married life and her money offered.  But also a mother who, after knowing him for 25 years and marrying him twice has been left blasée and unable to believe in forever. She now has a very dry view of relationship, very blunt.

She accepts love and is very in touch with her feelings but when my brother was dating his girlfriend and was talking about children and long-time life in some foreign country, she replied “Well, that’s if you’re still together”. She was not being mean or anything, it just came out the way she believes it and she doesn’t believe in love anymore. She believe in passion, she believes in feelings but she doesn’t believe that two persons can love forever.

She is not the only one: how many time do we hear “mismatch” or “I gave them two weeks” or “It’s not going to last” when two people start dating?

What is wrong with people?
Why are we all believing in lies, deceit, irrelevance when it comes to relationships?
Why can’t we believe in love?

And I understood. I understand what it is now to believe in love. It is to believe that it exists. I believe in its power that can be stronger than anything. I know…”how cliché!”…Well, yes! So?

Everywhere, from our most cherished members of family to the national press and the wider society love is taking a beating by people who have stopped believing in it and whose disappointment needs to be expressed by forcing their open cynism us.

I, for once, am absolutely fed up and tired with it. I felt I was becoming a psychopath when it came to men: I was physically attracted to what I despised and feared the most. My pulsions turned aggressive as well as sexual and in fear of anything bad happening, I kept away from them. At 30, I found out that I wasted the last 10 years of my life trying to prove myself that I did not need a man.

Today, I don’t want to listen to all that crap about how love is nothing but a social invention serving social peace and prudish religion purpses.

I want more! I want hope and something to look forward to. I want to believe. To believe in love. To believe in men. To believe in their genuine ability to love like my brother is loving my sister-in-law. Like more and more men of my age and younger are loving. I want to believe in these men. The ones who, like me, are looking at their aloof fathers and men such as my mother’s lover as a kind of man that should be left in the past.

Call me childish, naïve, stupid, blind, look down on me, ridicule me as much as you want but I want to believe because one day, another man is going to open his heart and tell me he loves me and this time, I want to be ready to believe him, unlike the last time when I could hear nothing but a lie.

So today, I believe in love.

Homophobia debunked: “A child must not believe he comes from two men or two women”.

This is an argument I heard from Elisabeth Guigou, a former left-wing French Ministre de la Justice who was deeply in favour of marriage for everyone, including gay couples. However, regarding the right to adopt, she was against it – as are still the leaders of the governing Left in France today.

So that was her argument to justify her position. “A child must not believe he comes from two men or two women. He must always be able to understand and know that a child is born when a man and a woman are involved”. There is behind this, the matter of human survival. With 8 billions of us and counting exponentially, I think we’re safe but I do understand this.

However, it is flawed when used to prevent gay couples from adopting.

I am not going to argue or counter-argue the people who, in 2015, despite all scientific evidence, are still saying that a child can only be “normal” if he is raised by a father and a mother. This has been and is being argued out and frankly the people who still believe in it are now choosing to do so and nothing I or anyone else says will make them change their mind.

I am also not going to argue, once again, the false argument of gender roles. “A child needs a strict yet playful, strong and handsome father as well as loving, caring, softly-spoken, cuddly mother”. We were already moving away from that in the 1960s.

I say “he” for a child because in French, “child” is masculine so we use “he”. I am very confused with English because the British used “she” as a general term for all baby animals but “they” as a general term for people…

So Madame Guigou says that gay couples should not adopt because there is a risk that the children will grow up thinking that they are the product of two men or two women.

Let me put it to you this way: the only way this can happen is if the couple makes the decision to lock away their adopted child in a dark basement, with no contact with the outside world, no media of any kind from books to radio or TV, with no education, no friends, no family. Basically nothing but the contact of his two same-sex parents who will have to carefully programme their adopted child to distrust everything he sees, hears, reads and is told expect for them.

Frankly, anyone doing that must never be allowed to be anywhere but in a psychiatric hospital, certainly not adopt a child. And proportionally, we had more instance of this kind of mistreatment coming from straight parents than gay parents…

The truth is: a child will not grow up believing he comes from two men or two women. Why? Because he will interact with his family to begin with. Even before speaking proper words, he will see things and his brain will start putting A + B together. He will see that his fathers themselves have a father and a mother each. He will have uncles and aunts who are not gay and therefore will be dating or married to someone of a different gender and he will see his cousins coming from different gendered parents. He will basically be the only one, or maybe with his siblings, to have same-sex parents. So like every child, he will ask questions and he will learn that his situation is different. Not worse, just different.

And let’s say, his parents lie and tell him he’s coming from two men. This child will go to school, see his classmates interact with different gendered parents, he will go to birthday parties, he will see how the others are living and he will put the two together: there is something different in his family. Maybe he will ask the teacher or someone else and they will tell him about his situation.

Let’s say, again, that everyone, from the teachers to all the other parents, was briefed by the parents to hold their tongues and lie to the child. Let’s say they are all bastards who think it’s for his own good. That child will watch TV, see different gendered couples and their children, he will read books with the prince and the princess who get married and have a lot of children. He will see films and see that everywhere the man and the woman fall in love and have babies. He will see that everywhere he looks, it’s always a man and a woman having children. So he will put the two together. Then look at his parents and realise his situation is unusual.

Let’s say he doesn’t, he will have biology lessons when he is told bluntly that a man and a woman are needed to make a baby.

Let’s say he doesn’t listen and would rather text the girl he has a crush on, well he will have sex with her and find out for himself!

I am being silly now but that’s the point. This kind of sophism sounds very noble and perfectly acceptable but when you take just a few minutes to think about the practicalities of everyday, they are just plain irrelevant. The problem is that gay couples are still prevented from adopting, children are still wasting their childhood in the orphanages of France and many other countries because people still believe that. They still believe that these children will be forever twisted, somehow psychologically deficient and socially disabled because of their parents’ sexuality.

These couples could be making a child happy and a child could be growing in a safe and secure, loving and caring environment but no, the ones in power cannot see further than their fear of the unknown. What are Madame Guigou and all the others still scared of? That the child learning the truth about his conception will turn him upside down, throw him into a world of disbelief and make him murderous or socially inept?

In France the debate has forced people who were raised by gay couples in the 1980s/1990s to come out and show how very “normal” they all are. You see men and women brought up by gays and lesbians, but who are straight, married with kids and who say the only difference between their family and the ones of their friends and spouse is that the parents are the same gender. End of! But still, it’s not enough. Frankly, any excuse would do when it comes to prevent gay couples from having the same rights as others.

Now…Yes! It is true to say that the family and our parents are our first force of socialisation. Our parents are the first pillars of our social understanding, however, we also live in a society that influences our behaviour and thinking. If you consider the first 18 years of our life, in France, we can spend up to 15 of them going to school, interacting with different people, learning about facts and different points of view. We are not all screwed up because something we thought was the norm in our family turned out not to be.

The society has a huge influence of us, especially in this day and age of modern, mass and social medias. If the society were irrelevant to changing the behaviour, understanding and beliefs our family gave us, the reactionary forces would not be fighting and spending so much to prevent forward, conflicting and open thinking from getting a share of the voice. People who went on marches to oppose gay marriage in France are afraid of one thing: that their children will agree with different beliefs and eventually teach them to their own children. Therefore bringing an end to the vision they have of the world.

This idea that a child raised by two men or two women will forever believe it is possible for two men to procreate is to deny completely the human society, its influence and its teachings. Worst! It is to deny the capacity of gay couples to provide a fair, comprehensive, proper education to their children, all based on one aspect: their sexuality – a sexuality that “cannot benefit the human race” by bringing another life.

Things I hate: The “Baby on board” sign.

Why are people putting it up? Why are they actually spending money to buy that crap when they have a baby? Haven’t they got better ways of spending money?

And what are they saying exactly? That it’s fine to drive-murder every other car  on the road as long as there isn’t a baby inside. “You’re not a baby? You don’t have a baby? Your life is worthless, you don’t deserve to be treated with car, you deserve to be crushed between two lorries.”

Are they really expecting people to care? To suddenly change their driving because of their spawn drooling and crying at the back of their car? The usual bullying twats to suddenly get a brain? You know, the boorish boy-of-a-mans speeding right on your tail, so close that you can’t even see their bonnet and part of their windshield anymore, so close that their flashing headlights are basically shagging your brake lights…Are they really expecting them to suddenly slow down and learn how to drive carefully?

People who drive like this bought the road along with their car, that’s their thinking. And nothing will make them drive better and in a more considerate manner, certainly not the thought of the sleep-eat-shit-all-day mix of your genetics.

Then I remembered the “Princess on board”, “Little angel on board”, “Piece of Heaven on board” and you realise that the sign has nothing to do with road safety. They don’t buy the sign to ask people to be careful but to show off.

“We have a baby!”, that’s the message of these signs so that even when you finally manage to escape the restaurant, the pub, the shops, the cinema, the park, the streets, the waiting room, the supermarket….when you are finally free of the outdoors of any kind and the indoors of every kind with the usual brat screaming his head out, when you think you’re finally free of the parents and their overbearing need to force their kids on you, you are proven wrong.

Even in your car when you are alone, they are here with their baby telling you to worship it, love it, agree to say it’s the most precious thing on the roads of the world even it just shat and barfed on itself. You have to admire the parents, congratulate the parents, be happy for the parents, praise the parents who have just saved humanity from extinction. You have to acknowledge that they have joined the realm of “better people” who will now make the life of everybody a fucking nightmare!

Because let’s be honest, people who feel like they have constantly advertise the product of their sexual encounters and push it in the face of everyone all the way to the inside of the car windows always end up being the worst kind: the ones who bully the world into agreeing that it’s time for their child to be given 12 apostles.