Louis-Georges Tin

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Prof. Louis-Georges Tin, Photo by Alix

Louis-Georges Tin (1977 - )

Tin, a French university professor who was born in Martinique, is an emerging black activist in France.

Youth

Tin was born in the Antilles island of Martinique into the black middle class. Both of his parents are high school teachers.

“I was 10 when I first realized I was attracted by another boy,” he remembered in an interview with Doug Ireland.

I was never in the least ashamed of this desire, ever—but I was afraid of rejection by everyone else. Not without sadness, I accustomed myself to the idea that all homosexuals hid themselves like I did then, and that I’d never have a real sexuality or love-life. Martinique is very small, everyone knows everyone else, and that explains in part why there is no public gay space, no gay bar, no gay publication there. Nothing. All the Martinique gays live clandestinely. I didn’t begin to have a homosexual life until I went to Paris at the age of 17 for my university studies—for me, Paris was like life on another planet!
I came out to my friends and family at 19, when I was living in Paris and had acquired total financial and moral independence from my family. To my great surprise, even though I came from a fairly religious Catholic family, they took it rather well—not all my gay friends were so lucky.

Education

Tin attended the Ecole Normale Superieure. “I was the first person from Martinique admitted to Normale Sup since Aimé Cesaire [the renowned poet] in the 1930s. . . . In the beginning, all went well, and I studied literature. But when I began to declare my interest in gay and lesbian studies, things progressively degenerated. It may be the school of Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida, but I can assure you the intellectual climate there is less open than is commonly believed. The school administration did everything to oppose the conferences on gay and lesbian themes that I organized through the LGBT group I had created at the school.”

Tin claims that his academic career suffered greatly after he began his gay activism, even though his post-graduate work received the highest national honors, and despite his having published several books—including an anthology of 16th century poetry and Homosexuel: expression et répression (Editions Stock, 2000).

“It was after I published the Dictionary of Homophobia that things really got bad. . . . My career paid for that book very dearly, I can tell you. Even though it was unanimously hailed by the critics, and got a great front-page review in Le Monde’s book supplement—which is the biggest honor a book can receive in the French press—after it appeared my academic career simply stopped, from one day to the next. The kind of teaching jobs that I’d previously obtained without any problem whatsoever became inaccessible. It was discrimination pure and simple, and I was even told so unofficially—but there was no way to prove it, especially given the French judicial system, which is hardly protective of the rights of minorities of any sort. I wound up leaving France for university posts in Manchester, England, and then in Pittsburgh in the U.S. After I’d given up all hope of obtaining a teaching job in France, I finally got one at the university in Orleans.”

IDAHO

IDAHO has organized the first gay public actions in Bulgaria, Ivory Coast, and China,“ he told Ireland.

Because they felt themselves supported by an international movement of solidarity, our friends in those countries found the courage to dare what they’d never dared try before—a political coming-out. This year, the same thing will happen in Russia. With Gay Russia.ru, we have organized an International Festival Against Homophobia, as well as the first gay pride march ever, in Moscow. Despite the fact that the mayor of Moscow has banned the march, we have mobilized support for the right to have that pride march in the Council of Europe, and it will happen. This is typical of the kind of actions the IDAHO committee favors.
Also, IDAHO is co-sponsoring an all-day seminar on homophobia with the European Parliament, to be held at its headquarters in Strasbourg, to discuss how to fight homophobia in the member states of the European Union. But I intend to propose that the Euro Parliament take the lead in fighting for the universal abolition of the crime of homosexuality, the theme I have proposed this year for IDAHO. This may appear a utopian goal to some, but it isn’t really. After all, two-thirds of the U.N.’s member states have decriminalized homosexuality, and one may reasonably expect a majority of the U.N. Human Rights Council to support this goal.

Some Supporters

Tin has released a list of hundreds of VIP endorsers of the proposed U.N. resolution, including

• Nobel Prize winners (Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Dario Fo of Italy, Elfriede Jelinek of Austria, and Amartya Sen of India);
• political leaders, including two former French prime ministers (Laurent Fabius and Michel Rocard);
• academics (such as Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and world-famous sociologist Richard Sennett);
• entertainers (such as Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, David Bowie, Edward Norton, Mike Nichols, Lily Tomlin, actor-playwright Wallace Shawn, humorist Bruce Vilanch, and Spanish actress Victoria Abril);
• and a host of renowned writers, including Doug Wright, Jon Robin Baitz, Salman Rushdie, Gore Vidal, Sir Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Russell Banks, Bernard-Henri Levy, John Berendt, Lady Antonia Fraser, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Chambon, Peter Carey, and Edmund White.

Plans

In the 2006 Advocate interview with Doug Ireland, Tin was asked what chance he thought the resolution had of passing the U.N. and responded:

Many people believe such a resolution is beyond reach. I personally don't. Why? Because there is already U.N. jurisprudence in our favor. In 1994, Mr. Toonen, a citizen of Tasmania, who had been condemned for same-sex relationships, won his case in what was then the U.N. Commission on Human Rights—it said his arrest was a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the right of privacy. So we just ask the U.N. to extend this jurisprudence to other countries—75 in the world!—where same-sex relationships are still forbidden. There’s recent evidence that this is not as utopian a project as it might seem at first glance: In October this year, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the imprisonment in Cameroon of 11 men who’d been caught in a raid on a gay bar on charges of homosexuality was "an arbitrary deprivation of liberty" that violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That’s encouraging.

How would he and IDAHO work for its passage? Tin answered:

The campaign for the U.N. resolution will have two main components. An external media campaign to raise awareness within public opinion and governments will begin with the November 17 unveiling of a petition—for which VIP signatures are now being gathered—on IDAHO’s Web site, www.idahomophobia.org. Also, a host of international and country organizations have already signed on as cosponsors of the campaign for the resolution, like the International Lesbian and Gay Association and France‘s Ligue des Droits de l‘Homme. The second battle has to be waged within the new U.N. Council on Human Rights. We have to lobby the states that are members and ask them to support the resolution or at least not to vote against it. We are talking with the government of South Africa, which is a member of the council to sponsor the resolution. South Africa was the first country in the world to include the principle of nondiscrimination against gays and lesbians in its constitution—and their sponsorship would show that LGBT rights are not just a "Western issue."

What exactly does the resolution say?

The text I wrote asks for a universal decriminalization of homosexuality. It is very clear, easy, and simple, and based solely on the articles of the U.N.‘s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that were used to justify the decision in the Toonen case. I did not want to write a philosophical text on the issue, because an argument that may be relevant in one country will certainly be irrelevant in another one. We need a common language to support human rights. What could be more relevant and more international than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself?

Why did you choose this moment to launch this campaign?

The Toonen case was ruled on 12 years ago, so I thought it was high time that LGBT organizations decided to take advantage of it at the U.N. To be honest, I fail to see any issue that could be more important than this one for LGBT organizations. On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization decided that homosexuality could no longer be regarded as a disease, which is why I chose that date for the International Day Against Homophobia. The first IDAHO was only celebrated in 2005, so we really couldn’t do anything before that—but now our organization has spread to more than 50 countries and been endorsed by the European Parliament, so I think we are ready to go farther. Look, gays and lesbians around the world cannot wait any longer for their love to cease being made a crime. Many are in jail, or at risk of being jailed. Some are being killed. This has to stop now.

Impact of the European Parliament's Endorsing the Resolution

May 17, 2008, was the second annual International Day Against Homophobia.

The European Parliament, in its landmark resolution condemning homophobia passed 18 January 2006 as well as in May 2005 by the Belgian Parliament. The resolution has been observed with public actions and demonstrations in more than 50 countries, including Canada, China, England, Guyana, Iran, the Ivory Coast, Japan, and Russia.

An all-volunteer organization, “It may be surprising to some to learn that we work with no budget and no paid staff," Tin told Ireland. “In the beginning this was a necessity, as I began IDAHO alone and with no money. But it is also a choice—because an association with a base in 50 countries can quickly become a bureaucracy. I wanted to avoid this at all costs. I tried to imagine a structure that would leave the most room for local initiatives, enthusiasm, and independence—even if there’s enormous work coordinating IDAHO at the international level with the help of our correspondents in each country. And I think this formula has worked rather well!”

(See IDAHO's website.)