Les engagements de Cy Jung

A swedish talk : am I an activist ?

Cy Jung — A swedish talk : am I an activist ?

It was International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on the 17th of may and Cy Jung was invited by the LGBTQ-network for employees at Lund University : this group has been organising for 2 years one day of conferences opened by hoisting a rainbow flag on the main building of the university.
Cy Jung gave the talk « am I an activist ? » presenting her political commitments for her first fifty years of life. Her conversation is based upon the french documentary realized by Ingrid Seyman called « Citizens to your sticks ! », this video can be seen here.

Cy Jung — Gissage du drapeau arc-en-ciel sur l'université de Lund (Suède)The presentation of that day (in English and Swedish) can be seen here.
And photos are available there.

La version dites par Cy Jung, en français, est ici. (Cy Jung only speak French.)
Translation by Laurie C, with Tom and Sophie.

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A text you can freely read is not a text you can freely copy : you must have the author’s authorization to do so. Please read the legal information abour the Cy Jung website here.

Cy Jung’swedish talk

When Laurie contacted me by e-mail for this day against homophobia (IDAHOT) organised by the LGBTQ network of Lund University, there was a word which immediately caught my eye : « activism ». This is not a word which belongs to my vocabulary. I even think it is loan translation from English. And, you would have noticed, I don’t speak English. This is an essential language : for people of whom it is their mother tongue of course, but also for international communication.
And however… I object.

I am a writer. Every day, I work with my language, French, and I never lose an occasion to denounce the invasion of « globish » (global english) in our LGBTQ fights. Nowadays in Paris, we « save the date » of our proud parade instead of « noter la date », we «  join the fun », we « gouine are family » [“dykes are family”] and we « go to the pussy cat party ». All of that doesn’t have real meanings for me, except « pussy cat », maybe…
And here I am already gone in activism, refusing to use this language, English, which doesn’t think the world as would have thought my language, French. I don’t say that one is better than the other one. I just say where my preference goes, preference that by nature I claim to the point that I immediately take action exactly here.
Activist am I ?

Before answering this question and to talk to you about my engagements, how they have been built up, how they fall into place and how they find inspiration, I propose to watch a 10 minutes documentary broadcasted on France 5, last February. France 5 is a national public TV channel which proposes a lot of very often well-built and well-documented reports and magazines.
Cy Jung — Tu vois ce que je veux direThis documentary, « À vos cannes citoyens ! » [“To your sticks citizens”], from Ingrid Seyman, is focused on blind or visually impaired people who have citizen commitments. I am one of those people. I am albino, so I am visually impaired ; moreover I’m a woman, and I am homosexual… I let you discover through my talk the long list of my differences.
My meeting with the journalist was very intense. What she kept from a full shooting day matches me well. You are also going to see the LGBT centre of Paris-Île-de-France, Parisian activists, artist works, Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence, a small part of the world where I am.

Thanks to Laurie for translating my words, for this documentary and for this presentation. Before the projection starts, I would also like to present you Isabelle Thézé, who is escorting me.
Isabelle has a philosophy background and she worked with Marie-Hélène Bourcier in the “Zoo”, first queer Parisian reflexion group — that was in the 90’s —, and she is an activist for the LGBT cause. She had high responsibilities in SOS Homophobie, in the LGBT centre, during the Europride in 1997 in Paris, in the Sport federation for gays and lesbians, and today in Paris 2018 for the 10th edition of the Gay Games, where she is the director of the Inclusion and Sustainable Development centre.
Actually this is not even for all of that that she is here today, even if she can help me to answer your questions. In fact, Isabelle is a friend. She is often escorting me during my travels, to help with my vision failure, and today with my « English bashing » [English difficulties”].

I can’t distinguish my commitments from my friendships. Indeed, the first founding principle of activism seems for me to go toward another person, to like them as they are, to share a drink, to tell your dreams about a better world and to go out in the night to stick posters on the wall of an homophobe association, scared but comforted by the friend, who is here and keeps watch over you.

« Ami, entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur nos plaines,
« Ami, entends-tu les cris sourds du pays qu’on enchaîne,
« Ohé ! partisans, ouvriers et paysans, c’est l’alarme !
« Ce soir l’ennemi connaîtra le prix du sang et des larmes. »

This is the Chant des partisans, the French resistance fighter’s anthem during the Second World War. My activism also thrives on France history.
So ! I’ll talk about it later. Let’s watch this documentary.

Cy Jung — A vous de voir[You can see the documentary (in french) here.]

« To your sticks, citizens ! » and « To your dictionaries, writers » ; in French it ryhmes and it allows me to come back to my first question. Activism. One of my working dictionaries, Antidote, gives me this definition : « Activism : Political attitude advocating the use of direct action and active propaganda ».
I am pleased with that.
I keep three words that are going to structure my talk : « political attitude », « direct action » and « propaganda ».

« Political attitude », first.
What interests me the most in those two words is the adjective « political ».

I’m born in 1963, a bit less than 20 years after the War. My parents were teachers from “the left-wing”, it means that they were opponents to the General De Gaulle, during the Algeria War. They were also activists for human rights and for big international causes, people self-determination – Cuba, Chili, Palestine...—, and also activists for the Popular Education, an educational movement born in the century which carried the idea that you can’t engage social changing or even revolution without preliminary people education.
I’m using on purpose the vocabulary of this time, the one of May 68. It says how, for left-wing activists of my parent’s age, you couldn’t dissociate activist action, education and political revolution in every sense.
It’s in that spirit that Fhar was created in 1971, the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action, 1st French homosexual political movement. This « front », created by homosexuals of both genders engaged in the feminist movement and/or intellectual contestation, supported revolutionary talks and carried out « direct action ». Act-up will get back to this dynamics in the 90’s to wake up consciences and public authorities to face AIDS.

I guess you’ve heard about Fhar ? Maybe not about the Gazolines.
Stem from the Fahr, this group is the 1st French homosexual group which works on gender. They notably stand out during the Pierre Overney funerals, a Maoist activist killed by a security guard during a strike at Renaud (the car’s company). At the beginning of the 70’s, the “gender questions” were just a feminist reflexion on bourgeois order. They were therefore indivisible from the worker fights. And as we see, the « working-class revolution » was crucial in LGBT combats.
For these activists, homosexuality was political (and not « sexual orientation », or « loving preference »), because it was ontologically thought as a contestation force against social order, mainly its sexism and its repressive nature personified by the « hétéroflics » [« straight-cops »].
The base of this analysis is simple : if you consider that social order is, among other things, structured on genital barrier (each biological sex translates into gender as a social role), homosexuality corrupts this barrier by nature because the two people who have desire for each other share from the beginning an identical fate. The permanent clash between women and men is then groundless ; homosexuality calms down exchanges and allows another political approach, an approach where desire is stronger than all the tyrannies which are proper to human relationships in their bourgeoisie routine.
Our love’s everyday life is often far from all of this, I have to admit. I am in a political theory.

The Fhar and Gozalines activists watchword was « Jouissons sans entraves » [« Enjoy without constraints »]. It was about to be opposed to everything that was oppressing sexuality, and so homosexuality. These activists had claims where liberty of individuals couldn’t be conceivable without body liberty (and desire) : liberated and free abortion and contraception, rape effective criminalization, decriminalization of prostitution, homosexuality, teenager’s sexuality, sexual education in school, condemnation of abusive police and judicial behaviours regarding everything which was deviated… And marriage refusal.
In marriages, women were considerate as oppressed, exploited (domestic work is free), constrained to sexuality and procreation. The « transpédégouines » [« trans-fags-dykes »] of that time considered therefore that their cause was similar to the women one, and that if you suppress marriage, everyone would find freedom, especially sexual freedom, and everyone could enjoy without constraint their desire stripped from political stakes.
We are far away from the nowadays LGBT demand for the « mariage pour tous » [« marriage for everybody »], demand which appears as a support to the bourgeois order. Homosexuality is still political (even if it is denied), but it is engaged in the other side, the oppressive side. It’s the price of rights equality, we have been told. But what’s the point of conquering an oppressive equality ?
I leave the question on standby.

I was not even 10 when Pierre Overney died but my political culture started here, from this idea that you can’t claim something without linking the demand to a preliminary political analysis from which stems a society project. In other words, my activism is above all else a « political attitude » aiming for changing the world, « changer la vie » [« to change the life »].
« Changer la vie », that was the campaign slogan of François Mitterrand, first socialist who has been elected president of the 5th French Republic, the 10th of May 1981. I was about to have 18, too young from a couple of days to be able to vote for these presidential elections. It’s probably my biggest regret in politic. Whatever ! Finally, the left-wing had the power ! For me who had, as a teenager, supported the end of the 70’s causes (mixed high-school, antimilitarism in the Larzac, antinuclear at Plogoff…), I could do my studies in peace and leave Mitterand govern on the left-wing.
I didn’t do my studies in a peaceful way, you could have guessed, and I learnt that governing implies to do concessions with your political ideal. With a good majority in the Assemblée Nationale (the lower chamber of our Parliament), you can easily abolish death penalty, legitimize homosexuality, open the medias to plurality, liberate society from its more obvious state coercitions. But how to trick the Big Capitalism, this one which takes all the benefits of the bourgeois order ? How to resist against the liberalism and the imperialism when banks and financial markets control the economy ? Even Tonton (« Uncle », that was the nickname of François Mitterrand), so great political figure he was, couldn’t do anything. Nowadays, Greeks are facing the same issue.

Cy Jung — Lund 2015Then I arrived to the adult age of my commitments with two deep convictions which structure them and define my way to drive them.
* You have to firstly think about the world if you want to change it, to understand its functioning, its issues, to know its history and to adopt a strong political project that rely on intangible principles which support action at any time.
* In a second time you have to know that this strong political project is an ideal which is going to collide every second with an everyday life that we have to take responsibility for, because it is often a painful everyday life for people. And the concrete action that we lead can infringe the political project by necessity, but not its founding principles.

If I apply that to the LGBT cause, I come back to what I said about rights equality.

The « marriage for everybody » is a claim stem from AIDS epidemic and from the moral and social necessity to give rights to people sharing their life with sick people. Before the tough vote for the Pacs in 1999, 1st civil partnership allowing two people of the same sex to link their material condition, a lot a men died from AIDS, leaving their partner without any rights and subsistence. The Pacs brought down some discrimination but not all of them, especially not the ones regarding rights pertaining to marriage.
In the French law, marriage allows lots of specific rights, especially in tax and property areas. Juridically, it’s an estate contract (like the Pacs) which defines properties in a couple, and it is at the same time a legal framework which define filiation and succession rights and the respective rights and assignments of the couple as well.
After the Pacs, it’s on the filiation argument that LGBT associations campaigned for the « marriage for everybody ». They considered that it was the ideal legal framework to remove discriminations regarding homoparental families. The second argument of LGBT associations was that because the « marriage for everybody » would give rights equality, it would allow fighting against homophobia : it will « banalise » homosexuality, putting it in the love side.
I struggle to understand how they could use this argument, which was however red-hot. In France, black slaves obtained rights equality at the same time than their emancipation in the XIX century. However France is still an especially racist country. I could have had the same argument about Jewish and anti-Semitism, and above all about women and sexism… It is then a purely artificial argument, which doesn’t have any historical or social founding. It is lapsed and it sends back the « marriage for everybody » to its main mission : reduce discriminations.

But which discriminations are we talking about ? The legal capacity for homosexuals to get married with a person of the same sex ? Right. But what about discriminations which exist among the different status : married, divorced, widowed, « pacsés », sambo, single ?
Here it’s not important that people are homosexual or not. I notice that the claim for the “marriage for everybody” reinforces discriminations according to the marital status, and also that in fact the filiation is not that automatic ; the PMA [“Medical Assisted Procreation”] was not given to same sex married couples (this is creating discriminations among married people) ; for the adoption of the partner’s kid, it’s currently in the court.
In other words, by claiming this demand about rights equality and by recording it in a political everyday life which had no other perspectives than the immediate benefit of this right, French homosexuals have created discriminations. They supported the bourgeois order without any compensation other than the right to have a ceremony in a city hall, in front of a civil state officer.

For all that, should we have renounced ?
What should we propose instead ?
Rights equality by suppression of the marriage for everybody, for example. It would have allowed at the same time the reinforcement of individual rights, for homosexuals and straight people. The proposition is not as crazy as it seems. I don’t give more details here but I can do it if you want me to.
The society would have followed ? I don’t know.
Nowadays, we level the political offer down in the name of « people wishes », which is expressed by surveys, and we obtain reactionary populist parties. Homosexuals from the 70’s had a political project which aimed to change the world. What would happen if we dared again to demand a homosexual desire which would support a revolutionary political project because it would be rebellious to the genital barrier ?

But we are out of this revolutionary logic, and not only in the homosexual movement. I regret it, not by sentimentalism, but because it leaves the LGBT movement on the defeat field ; it fights today for pieces of rights without trying to change the world. By denying its history and its political identity, people talk about Champagne parties and chocolates with heart shape, with an iPhone in the hands and moreover they dream about nappies. Homosexual desire lost the game in favour of the gay family consumption.
Unfortunately this is not the worst.
Indeed, this ideological defeat is escorted by a thinking defeat which disrupts, perverts and corrupts the action. I arrive at my second point « direct action and propaganda », with an example to illustrate what happens when you forget your principles and your values on the way.

For your information

A text you can freely read is not a text you can freely copy : you must have the author’s authorization to do so. Please read the legal information abour the Cy Jung website here.

Cy Jung — Affiche Inter-LGBT 2015The Parisian proud walk (our Gay pride) is organised by an inter-association which regroups around 60 national associations that participate to the « homosexual visibility » ; I take this term in every sense because it would be too long to explain in details. To highlight this walk, the Inter-LGBT produces every year a poster, by organising a pictures competition. At the same time, they think about a slogan with a claim that is supposed to be a consensus.
This year, a poster representing Marianne (symbol of the French Republic which is present in all our city halls), a Marianne with black skin, apparently with a male sex, and we could read this slogan « Our fights emancipate you ». We could say : how did they dare to insinuate that the LGBT fights would emancipate black people in the Republic ? The slogan is so racist, so neo-colonialist, so « huge » that everybody wonders. So do I, with this question : the Inter-LGBT would have definitely sold the Fhar’s soul to the heterosexist and racist bourgeois order, with the hope of the I don’t know which rights equality ?
After getting more information, I learnt that the Inter-LGBT wanted to say that its equality claims would serve the whole society. It looks like an unfortunate series of events sticking had put this slogan together with a picture that gives it totally different dimension. The misunderstanding excuse is ok ? I don’t think so. A minimum of political consciousness and human history knowledge are enough to discredit this poster, which was yet approved in this association.

I think that this is the proof of what you obtain when you claim a demand without wondering about the political project from which it belongs. In other words, when you demand rights equality by the “marriage for everybody”, how to produce a slogan that in fact doesn’t validate the social order for whose marriage is an institution ?
We are far away from the Fhar and from its successor, the Comité d’Urgence Anti-Répression homosexuelle [« Homosexual Anti-Oppression Emergency Commitee »], the Cuarh, homosexual movement created in 1979 specially by Geneviève Pastre, writer, and Jacques Fortin. « Non au racisme anti-homosexuels, non aux lois discriminatoires » ["No to the anti-homosexual racism, no to the discriminatory laws"]. It was in 1980, the Parliament was just rejecting the homosexual decriminalisation, a couple of months before the election of François Mitterrand.
The Fhar and the Cuarh were not subtle in their communication. They were in the propaganda, even in the direct action. Beyond concrete claim, their slogans and their action methods were carrying a political thought, a questioning of the social order, and the project of a better world.

I come back to Pierre Overney, this assassinated Maoist activist.
After his death, the French Marxist extreme left-wing divided into two camps : the first one wanted armed fight ; the second wanted to use the method of democratic combat, without however conceding to the elections way. And the camp who chose armed fight took the name of “Direct Action”. This group is responsible of several murders and its still alive activists are still in prison in the high security quarters.
This group didn’t have the support of the Marxist activists majority, but each person kept a little something of nostalgia and dream : ah ! If we were able to “smash everything » ! Today, in the light of the Islamist international terrorism, this little something is very odd, out of place, improper. But the paradox, it’s that the most famous victims of the attack against Charlie Hebdo last January were not far from this political nostalgia, from this desire to « smash everything ».

Cy Jung — 1980 — LarzcStill in the 70’s, some non-Marxist political movements on the left-wing managed to think and lead a non-violent direct action, on the plateau du Larzac for example, to fight against the extension of a military camp to the detriment of the local farmers. In my political culture, I have a month experience of occupation of the plateau, with general meetings every day, preventing exercise shoots by our physical presence, permanent harassment of the soldiers (road dams, graffitis on trucks, short-lived constructions on the training zones…)
We were the ancestors of the Zadistes, these environmentalist and anti-globalist activists who today in France disrupt airports, dams and disproportionate farm projects by a physical occupation of the places. In Germany, we also remember that one of the founding actions of the Grüne was the occupation in 1980 of the Gorleben site, to prevent nuclear power station construction. All of that reminds us of the factory occupations and picket lines which have earlier in European history allowed to numerous worker fights to succeed.

Direct action is not necessarily a violent action, as the term could allude to in French : it’s an action where people are physically involved, in the heart of public space, in a mix of civil disregard and non-violent occupation. These are not necessarily big things ; it can be a demonstration, a sitting, a collective dance on a Parisian square, a day about activism during the IDAHOT in a Swedish University with rising of the rainbow flag. Here, together, we occupy the ground and you, who are listening to me ; you are as activist as I am.
Occupy the ground.
Don’t let others say what we want instead of us.
Be vigilant, responsive, don’t let anything go.
It takes time and energy. It obliges to think, to accumulate knowledge and intellectuals tools to understand how things work. It requires to go out of the beaten tracks of ordinary thought. One of the slogans during May68 was “Imagination to the power”. It seems to me that it’s a good program for an activist.

You remember, at the beginning of this lecture, I talked about Popular Education, this idea that you have to educate people before thinking about social change or revolution. For me it’s an essential “direct action”, the first one maybe, because you realise that ignorance makes the work of totalitarism easier. The recent targets of islamists demonstrates it. Knowledge, information, art and culture are threatened because they are liberty producers. Am I not precisely a writer ? Yes I write, to produce novels and novellas, but also because writing is a propaganda tool.
The word does not scare me. My website, the associated blogs and my Facebook page are at the same time promoting tools of my writing and propaganda tools. When I choose to inform internet users about an LGBT movies festival program, or to invite them to participate to the 1st of May demonstration, I chose this information because they participate to my political project. The festival broadcasts « inverted culture » ; the 1st of May is the workers fight day.
Moreover, this website and these blogs exist in the framework of the numerical knowledge sharing action with a social centre of my neighbourhood. I learnt there how to code in exchange to office software application and Internet access lessons. This sharing exactly corresponds with my political project : it is non-market oriented, it is fair, it spreads knowledge, it allows everyone to win some autonomy and responsibility. Voilà. Everything is here. Today we call that a « hackerspace », I think. When I was a young adult, we called that « atelier » (“working group”), and we shared papers, felt pens, glue and ideas to make our banners together.

The evolution of the sciences and techniques makes us believe that our political action would be different. It is true that nowadays, pictures are more used than writing. Information is more abundant, but not necessary more reliable. However, our « direct actions » don’t really change in their shapes. Our countries history and our fights to change the world often give us the keys that lack in the haste that the modern world is proposing.
For example, I want to remember about French Protestants resistance in South of France after the Nantes edict revocation by Louis XIV in 1685. The most famous of these Huguenotes is Marie Durant, confined during 38 years in the Constance tower in Aigues-Mortes. Arrested the day of her wedding, she always refused to renounce. According to some linguists, we own her the political meaning of « resistance », « register » in Occitan.
This woman is a part of my political figures and of my references. I am the great-great-daughter of a pastor, this maybe explains that. Other figures are present is my political consciousness ; I named some. They keep me warm when I’m sad. They often tell me what emergency makes me forget. The Marie Durant sacrifice is an example, and I believe in the example value, and in the exemplary nature. Because of my republican culture, probably and because of the Popular Education, always.

A last word about propaganda.
You absolutely have to differentiate it from « communication ». When we do propaganda, we say what we want and what we do ; when we choose communication, we say what we suppose that people want to hear. Propaganda is therefore more something for activists groups who don’t have the desire to please, but the desire to defend their ideas. Communication belongs to institutions and organisations which don’t want to hurt public opinion.
As you might gather, I am more into the propaganda than into communication. However, the «  political communication » is my original job. I learnt how it works when I was in the Law Faculty, and then in Science Po [Political Studies Institute of Paris] where I follow the 3rd cycle. It was at that time (the end of the 80’s) that a mutation was happening in political parties and Medias. They had powerful slogans to apply what we coarsely call the « langue de bois » ["stonewalling"].
Then I was activist in the socialist party, in charge of what we were still calling the « propaganda ». I learnt there how to make a leaflet, a poster, a journal, how to find a slogan… My choice of being a writer as a job is partially due to these learning. To write, even a fiction text, is not exempt of political project. I don’t even speak about the subject or about the way of treating it, but about the writing itself. About this language that we use, its structure and its functioning, and what it carries about our way to think the world.

I wrote my first fiction text when I was 28. It was called the Fée de l’aurore que l’hiver a fait éclore ["Dawn fairy that winter made open"] Weird title for a 70 pages story of a fairy of which I actually forgot the whys and wherefores of. I wrote it to seduce a girl, when I yet didn’t know about my own homosexuality. I was a bit as if I entered into my lesbian desire through the writing, and vice versa. My desire is political, and my writing has to be because it obliges me to first think about this desire.
Cy Jung — Once upon a pouletteTen years later, I published Once upon a poulette [original title], a novel that I immediately wanted to be about desire. Lesbian sexuality had really little visibility in the 90’s. And I wanted to give it some, with this idea that I develop in the documentary that it is by sexuality that women and men win their freedom. My novel was activist, as well as my writing because I quickly realised that my language, French, is a macho and heterosexist language. In other words, it is totally inappropriate to write about desire which ignore genital barrier.
We have to write anyway, and find solutions. I take an example.
I want to show the desire of a woman to be penetrated by another woman with a strong conviction. A strong power that can be related to a manly heterosexual penetration, but it is not because of the political consequences of a manly call. In Once upon a poulette, I had not be able to say that in another way than using abstruse barbarism as « pénétration lesbotypique exophallique » [“out-of-phallus lesbian-typical penetration”]. I don’t even know if it can be translated. [well..!]

Ten years later, I got into a writing which reverses the subject and the object in the sentence.
In French, a sentence is built with the subject which acts on the object : « A man » (the subject) « penetrates » (the verb which gives the action) « a woman » (the object which is subjected to the action) ; or « a woman penetrates a woman », « a man penetrates a man ». Grammaticaly, it’s the same thing. Penetration stays heterosexist because the sentence strictly defines who the object is and who the subject is. But it’s possible, by appropriate lexical choices, to transform the object into subject, and to make sure that the penetration is seen from the point of view of those who are penetrated, by making their body the subject.
« The vagina keeps a watch on the finger. The vagina laughs at it, opens, closes. Is the finger going to come ? It hesitates ».
I could continue ; penetration is between two bodies, two desires, in an interaction where subjects and objects at every sentence change their role.

To conclude this lecture, this little style exercise leads me to slightly modify the terms of the activism definition : « Activism : political project which is thought in the use of direct action and active propaganda ». I like to add this verb, “think”, and to put “project” instead of “attitude”. The circle is complete. So yes I am an activist and, it must be noticed that I am not doing a lot of things in my life that are not lead by this energy.
Not even love...? Especially love ! That would be so painful to leave my desire to genital barrier.
I am especially proud and happy to have been able to share my talk with you thanks to the Lund University LGBTQ activists invitation. Thank you to all of them, men, women and others, to have invited me to this international day against homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia. Homosexuality can be considered as a political advantage by its subversive desire, and it’s with this advantage that homophobia finds its foundings. To fight against homophobia, we have to build our actions on our pride of homosexuality. That’s what I wanted to say today.
Thanks for listening.

Cy Jung, 18 mai 2015.

For your information

A text you can freely read is not a text you can freely copy : you must have the author’s authorization to do so. Please read the legal information abour the Cy Jung website here.

Information publiée le lundi 15 juin 2015.

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