Jessica Hoffmann

The Revolution of Desire

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | August 19, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality
Tags: Francoise d'Eaubonne, Guy Hocquenghem, Homosexual Revolutionary Action Front, radical queer politics

In 1971, revdesbullhorn.jpga handful of feminists and gay militants shouting "family is pollution" demonstrated for revolutionary sexual liberation. 35 years after, what remains of these ideals and struggles?

That's the opening of The Revolution of Desire, a 2007 documentary about radical-queer activism in early-70s France.

What remains indeed?

More after the jump...

In a moment when assimilation to straight nuclear-family norms is the center of gay political movement in the US, when "marriage equality" rallies are exponentially larger than demonstrations protesting California's gutting of HIV/AIDS funding, it's illuminating to take a look at the contours of a radical-queer moment thirty-plus years and thousands of miles away.

The Revolution of Desire tells the story of the FHAR (the Homosexual Revolutionary Action Front), a radical-queer group that emerged in early-70s France in response to the heteronormativity of the Left, a burgeoning feminist movement, and a gay culture that had long been "happy but hidden." As The Revolution of Desire tells it, Marxists were calling elite-literati homos bourgeois, radical queers were insisting homosexuality was inherently subversive and it was the nuclear family that was really maintaining bourgeois order, and longstanding gay-male cultural institutions were feeling threatened by the increasing rowdiness of militant gay men and -- especially -- lesbian feminists who wouldn't stop making scenes in the streets.

And so a group of radical lesbians founded the FHAR -- which saw itself as more a movement than an organization, and which politicized sexuality and insisted on queer visibility within Left movements. (The FHAR was responsible for inserting a loud, uncompromising queer presence into France's May Day demonstrations, for instance.) Their actions were both fierce and fun -- and often quite funny. At an early feminist protest, to route around a police ban on carrying sticks at demonstrations, a small group of women drew a great deal of press attention by marching with hard sausages -- which they proceeded to use to hit cops while chanting, "Let them abort!"

Revolution of Desire documents the ways radical gay men and feminists seemed natural allies in the FHAR -- both fighting for liberation of the body, including the freedom to engage in non-reproductive sexuality. (FHAR texts often proudly reprinted a homophobic vicar's horrified proclamation that here were "homosexuals and emancipated women join[ing] forces.") Guy Hocquenghem and Francoise d'Eaubonne emerge as key figures deeply connected to each other, to their politics, and to the political and relational ways of being that would have them not separated by binary gender but engaged side-by-side in a loving friendship and political camaraderie.

Revolution of Desire also documents the political and community dynamics that led to painful ruptures around gender within the group, and ultimately the end of the FHAR. It's an insightful, and amusing, glimpse into the ways political groups and projects work, change, shift ...

And now, a generation-plus later, nearly everyone interviewed in the film -- including activists from the FHAR generation as well as younger radical queers from the Pink Panthers -- laments the "normalization" that dominates today's gay politics. "The FHAR wanted to change life and relations among people. But nowadays everyone just fights for 'equality,'" says Carole Roussopoulos, who made a 1971 film about FHAR. Historian Marie-Jo Bonnet concurs: "What a strange normalization! It was unthinkable in the 70s. ... To conform to the norm is the best way to be crushed."

More about the film here.


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EXACTLY! I keep thinking, "what happened?!" As members of the community of lgbtq folks we have so much more to offer society than trying to emulate the contributions of heterosexual white people. If we are not us, much is missing from the fabric of society.

Marriage between members of the the same sex is wonderful. Having marriage as the goal of a movement is a distraction. I'm not a proponent of gays and lesbians in the military. Look what we are fighting for. We want to be able to go kill Iraqi woman and children and contrbute heavily to the persecution and murder of hundrends of Iraqi gays? Doesn't our sensibility in general bring something very different to the table when it comes to conflict resolution and sanctity of life?

If we achieved everything the mainstream movment wants to achieve right now we would end up being just like them. That's not my goal. We don't need more of "them." Time to remember what it is to be just like us instead.

A radical movement's goals have turned into the "right to be assimilated."

I am a Femme Lesbian, bohemian at best,and as with all of us, possess many differing facets. I do not wish to be assimilated, I do not with to demand the right to be "just like a straight woman."

If I cannot dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution.

Where can I get a copy of this film?

Vincent,

It's not that easy to find in the US. The filmmakers were gracious enough to send me a review copy. You might try contacting them to learn of any upcoming screenings in your area. Contact info is here: http://therevolutionofdesire.blogspot.com/

Best,

Jess