Is Paris a homophobic or queer-friendly city? Can same-sex and LGBT couples visiting the city of light feel comfortable holding hands or kissing in public, or is there reason to be cautious? Are trans and non-binary visitors safe?
Following two widely reported, brutal attacks on gay men in October 2018, an assault on a lesbian couple in Parisian public transportation earlier last year and reports of attacks on transgender people in certain cities, some are worried about what they see as a spike in homophobic violence.
This applies to both the capital and the rest of France.
This begs an unfortunate but important question for LGBT visitors to Paris: how safe is the city in the recent climate?
Unfortunately, there's no straightforward answer to that question. Neither the American Embassy in Paris nor French authorities have issued any travel advisories around this issue, which seems, to this writer, a terrible oversight given the recent attacks. In general, Paris is extremely safe and welcoming, and it's not unusual to see openly same-sex or transgender couples in the city. In central, well-lit and populated areas of the city, we can confidently say that LGBT couples needn't worry about their safety.
Statistics Show a Decline in (Reported) Attacks
At least when it comes to attacks and harassment that victims report to the police and/or the media, homophobic and transphobic attacks in Paris have in fact declined.
According to French newspaper Le Figaro, such attacks in central Paris fell almost 38% in January through October of 2018, compared to the same period of 2017. However, when considering the Paris region as a whole, the decline was only around 11%, And more attacks happened in the suburbs of Paris than in the city center.
It's important to remember that only around 8% of victims report attacks to the police or other authorities, however.
Most Parisians "do not support such acts of violence"
Michael Bouvard, Vice-President of SOS Homophobia in France, said in a telephone interview that it's important that tourists realize that the general French population "does not support such acts of violence" and that while the current climate calls for some extra caution, LGBT travelers to Paris should not feel that it's unsafe to travel here, nor feel unwelcome.
Large majorities of the French supported former French President FrancoisHollande's (successful) marriage equality bill, for instance, and Paris has historically been one of the world's most LGBT-friendly cities, with enormous crowds assembling each year for the festive "Marche des Fiertes" (Gay Pride) event in the city center. And neighborhoods including the Marais, Belleville and "Beaubourg" (the area around the Centre Georges Pompidou) are home to large, well-established gay districts, where couples show little trepidation at being "obviously" together.
Still, we recommend that same-sex and transgender couples exercise caution at night, in poorly lit and quiet areas, especially in the following areas after dark: the areas around metro Les Halles, Chatelet, Gare du Nord, Stalingrad, Jaures, Belleville, and around the city's northern and eastern borders.
Bouvard of SOS Homophobia said he agreed. While generally safe, these areas have at times been known to harbor gang activity or to be the site of hate crimes. In addition, avoid traveling to the Northern Paris suburbs of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc. after dark.
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Our complete guide to staying safe in Paris includes more tips, including for same-sex couples. You may also wish to see our guide to the top gay, lesbian, and LGBT-friendly Bars and Clubs in the capital.