An American Lesbian in Paris: Au Revoir!
by Shannon Connolly
Two nights ago, sipping on my third (fourth? fifth?) glass of champagne at a little bar called Flute just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe, I felt for the first time pangs of regret that my four months in Paris were coming to a close. I was sharing the evening with two new friends – the first lesbian couple I had met during my time in Paris, in fact. And also for the first time since I had arrived in Paris, I felt myself wishing the night would just go on and on.
They were the first women I could talk to in person about Proposition 8 since it passed, they were the first people who wanted to exchange coming out stories (be honest, how often do you actually go four full months without telling yours to someone?), they were the first people I could talk to about But I’m a Cheerleader and Loving Annabelle and Bound – in truth, it was the first time I had really felt like myself since my arrival in Paris. When I climbed into a cab at 3:30am, several hours after the metro had closed for the night, I leaned back in the seat and looked out the window, watching Paris at night pass by, and seeing it in a new light.
I was a “tourist” for four months this year. Sure, I technically “lived” in Paris – but my time there was essentially an extended vacation and was broken up by countless other voyages throughout Europe and the UK. But, when I rode home in the cab after my night at Flute, I felt this familiar warm feeling inside – a sort of swelling up with happiness at having spent time with people who understand me, people who live like me, people who are like me. And I realized how unique and special that connection is that we gays and lesbians and transgender people get to feel when we meet one of our own.
Have you ever been a tourist somewhere? Somewhere really far from home? Ok, imagine you are in a foreign country, a place where you walk around knowing you are inherently unlike almost every person around you. And imagine you’ve been there for quite a while now. You are surrounded by people and yet feeling an acute loneliness. And then, walking down the street, you pass someone wearing a sweatshirt with your high school logo on it. Because of that simple thing you have in common, you make an instant connection with this person, this stranger who is like you in a place where you feel so alone.
That is sort of what it is like for us, isn’t it? Finding others like us, in a world where many of us often feel like outsiders in our own families, in our own hometowns, is like finding an old friend in a foreign place.
My night of champagne and stories and laughs with a couple of women like me was just what I needed before I left Paris. I’ve spent a good part of my life feeling like a tourist in a world where I’d really just like to find a few people like me – so, rather than make me sad to leave Paris, that evening only made me appreciate more the life in LA that I am about to return to.
Paris has its charms and its beauty and its attractions, but when my plane touched down in Philadelphia (where I will spend the holidays with my family) last night, I almost cried just knowing that I am one step closer to feeling those warm-and-fuzzy gay connection feelings every day again when I get back to California.
Au revoir Paris!