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French Vocabulary

French LGBTQ+ Vocabulary

Leyla By Leyla on November 6, 2019

Learn the French LGBTQ+ vocabulary and practice your French with this bilingual article.

Our daughter Leyla has always been a gay right activist. The other day, we were talking about it and she started using LGBTQ+ vocabulary I didn’t understand. She explained it to me, and then I thought it would make a good article for people who want to learn the LGBTQ+ French vocabulary.

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Bonjour, moi c’est Leyla, je suis la fille de Camille et Olivier de French Today, je suis bilingue français-anglais, et je vais bientît avoir 15 ans.

Hi I’m Leyla, I’m Camille’s and Olivier’s daughter, I’m French English bilingual, and I’m almost 15 years old.

Depuis que je suis petite, les droits des homosexuels m’ont intĂ©ressĂ©e, et j’ai toujours pensĂ© que tous les types d’amours devraient ĂȘtre acceptĂ©s, tant que tout le monde est consentant. Plus tard, j’aimerais peut-ĂȘtre ĂȘtre avocat ou lĂ©gislatrice dans ce domaine.

Since I was a little, gay rights have been an interest of mine, and I’ve always thought that all types of loves should be accepted, as long as the all people involved are consenting. When I grow up, I may want to become a lawyer or legislator in that domain.

Quand j’habitais Ă  Boston, aux États-Unis, on Ă©tait entourĂ©s de personnes qui faisait partie de la communautĂ© LGBTQ+. Mais quand on a dĂ©mĂ©nagĂ© dans une petite ville de Bretagne en France, plus du tout ! C’était assez surprenant pour moi, et j’ai souvent dĂ©fendu les droits homosexuels dans la cour d’Ă©cole, quand j’entendais des enfants utiliser des insultes comme “pĂ©dĂ©”.

When I lived in Boston in the States, we we’re surrounded by people that were part of the LGBTQ+ community. But not anymore when we moved to a little town in Brittany, France! It was pretty surprising for me and I often spoke up in defense of homosexual rights in the school yard when I heard kids using insults such as “faggot”.

1 – LGBTQ+ in France

Selon moi, l’acceptation des homosexuels est en train d’évoluer en France.

In my opinion, gay acceptance is evolving in France.

ComparĂ© Ă  la gĂ©nĂ©ration de mes grand-parents, ĂȘtre ouvertement gay ou mĂȘme de sexe inidentifiable est beaucoup plus acceptĂ© qu’avant. C’est un sujet de conversation dont je peux discuter avec mes amis sans problĂšme, et rappelez-vous qu’on habite dans une petite ville !

Compared to my grandparents’ generation, it’s now much more accepted to be openly gay, or even fluid gender wise. It’s a subject I can discuss with my friends without any problem, and remember we live in a small countryside town!

Mais je pense que pour beaucoup de personne, ĂȘtre homosexuel, ça passe, tant que ça ne concerne pas la famille ou les amis proches.

Yet, I feel that for many people, being gay is okay as far as it’s doesn’t concern their own family or close friends.

En d’autres mots, ils acceptent le concept, tant que cela ne concerne pas leurs proches.

In other words, they accept the concept, as far as it doesn’t hit home.

J’espùre que cela changera bientît.

I hope this will change soon.

Et maintenant, je vais essayer de vous expliquer le vocabulaire LGBTQ+ français.

And now, I’ll try to explain the LGBTQ+ French vocabulary.

2 – LGBTQ+ Neutral French Pronouns

In English, when you don’t want to misgender someone or if someone doesn’t identify as male or female (non-binary or other), you use pronouns like ‘they’ and ‘them’.

Example: Look at Chris! They look happy today! I’m going to ask them if they want to join us later.

In French, you would use a new French pronoun like “iel”, “ielle” (pronounce it like [yell] in English) or even “ille” (any of these 3 are fine).

If you’re talking about multiple non identified people, add an “s”.

Examples :

  1. Regardez Chris! Iel a l’air heureux aujourd’hui! Je vais lui demander s’iel veut venir avec nous plus tard.
  2. Iels sont ensemble depuis 2 ans. (They’ve been together for 2 years.)

Things are also changing about the adjective agreements. For example, you could add a “.e” to be inclusive.

Chacun.e fait comme iel veut !
To each their own!

The French language being so held on feminine / masculine (everything has gender, even things…) using “iel” etc… is not very common yet. And it’s a bit complicated. Even among the LGBTQ+ community, people don’t agree. Some people really push for the changes, some feel being that inclusive hurts the language.

I have to admit I’ve never heard “iel” used myself… Again, not much opportunity here in Paimpol! Here is an article (in French) which will explain, or at least give you a good look at the French neutral pronouns and adjective agreements.

3 – LGBTQ+ French Pronunciation

LGBTQ+ is pronounced like enunciating the letters of the alphabet in French: [el, gĂ©, bĂ©, tĂ©, cu, pluS – do say the final S]

L1 + L2

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4 – How To Say Gay In French

Note that just like in English, the adjective “gai(e)” means merry, colorful.
C’est une chemise trĂšs gaie.
It’s quite a colorful shirt.

We also use it to say “tipsy”.
Marc avait un peu trop bu, il été un peu gai.
Mark had a bit too much to drink, he was a bit tipsy.

To be honest, my Mom would say that… I wouldn’t!

To refer to sexual, romantic or emotional attraction, you’ll see both spelling used in French: the English “gay” as well as the French “gai(e)”.

We also use the word homosexual to describe a sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to someone of the same sex: “un homosexuel”, “une homosexuelle” (short: “homo”). It can be a noun or an adjective
Il/elle est homo. He/she is homosexual.

5 – LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Among The Community

Not everybody within the LGBTQ+ community uses precise terms and/or pronouns. Usually, texts of LGBTQ+ associations such as a sports club will be very careful to use an all inclusive language.

Yet, among people themselves, not everybody agrees. Some may use mostly the word “gay” as a “summary” of all the possibilities.

6 – LGBTQ+ French Vocabulary

As you’ll see, many of the terms we use in French are the same as in English. I’ve added a short definition for people who may not know what the LGBTQ+ terms mean in English.

  1. Heterosexual: someone attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Straight: “un hĂ©tĂ©rosexuel”, “une hĂ©tĂ©rosexuelle”, “un/une hĂ©tĂ©ro”
  2. Bisexual: sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to someone of male or female sexes: “un bisexuel”, “une bisexuelle” (short: “bi” – pronounce it the French way, like [bee] = il/elle est bi).
  3. Pansexual: sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity: “pansexuel, pansexuelle” (short: “pan” – pronounce it the French way, with a nasal [an] sound).
  4. Androgynous person: having the physical characteristics of both sexes: “une personne androgyne”
  5. Bi-curious: (m) “bi-curieux”, (f) “bi-curieuse” – remember to pronounce it the French way [bee]
  6. Lesbian: describes a woman attracted to a woman : (f) “une lesbienne”. It’s also an adjective: “lesbien, lesbienne”.
  7. A bear (slang) describes a hairy, heavy-set (sometimes muscular) gay or bisexual man: “un ours” (do pronounce the final “s”)
  8. non-binary person: someone who doesn’t limit themselves to feminine or masculine attributes: “une personne non-binaire”
  9. transgender: people having a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth = “un/une transgenre”
  10. transexual: someone who had a sex change operation = “un transexuel”, “une transexuelle”.
  11. cisgender person: Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cisgender woman. The term cisgender is the opposite of the word transgender (wikipedia) – “une personne cisgenre”
  12. transvestite: someone who enjoys dressing with clothes or attributes usually assigned to the opposite sexe : “un travesti”, “une travestie”
  13. the LGBTQ+ community: (f) “la communautĂ© LGBTQ+”
  14. sexual orientation: (f) “l’orientation sexuelle”
  15. homosexuality: (f) “l’homosexualitĂ©”
  16. heterosexuality: (f) “l’hĂ©tĂ©rosexualitĂ©”
  17. gay rights: (m) “les droits des homosexuels”
  18. gay marriage: (m) “le mariage gay”
  19. homoparental adoption: (f) “l’adoption homoparentale”
  20. misgendering: (v) “mĂ©genrer” or “malgenrer”
  21. dysphoria: a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life: (f) “la dysphorie”
  22. sex assigned at birth: (m) “le sexe assignĂ© Ă  la naissance”
  23. breast binding: (v) “se bander les seins”
  24. sex reassignment surgery: (f) “une chirugie de rĂ©assignation sexuelle”
  25. testosterone shots: (f) “des injections de testostĂ©rone”
  26. to be in the closet: to be gay but without saying it openly: “ĂȘtre dans le placard”, “ĂȘtre secrĂštement homosexuel”, “ne pas rĂ©vĂ©ler ses prĂ©fĂ©rences / son identitĂ© sexuelle(s)”
  27. to come out: to announce publicly that you are gay: “faire son coming out”.
  28. to be outed: when someone else divulges your sexual orientation or identity without your consent: “rĂ©vĂ©ler l’orientation ou l’identitĂ© sexuelle de quelqu’un contre son grĂ©”.

7 – Gay French Expressions

To say someone is gay, one may say “il/elle/iel est de la jaquette” or “il/elle/iel est du bĂątiment”.

Among the community, it’s common to hear “il/elle/iel est de notre paroisse” or “il/elle/iel est de la famille”.

8 – Homophobic French Insults

I hate to have to write these down but I think they are important for educational purposes. If you were to hear them in a French movie, you’d need to understand them.

DO NOT use these, they’re hurtful but they’re in this list so you can recognize them and get away from the people using them!

French Insult to Say “Gay”

  1. un PD (or pĂ©dĂ©): it’s a shortened version of “pĂ©dĂ©raste”: from Ancient Greek paiderastᾗs, “lover of boys”. It’s not always an insult: it’s so commonly used that some people use it without ill-intention, a bit like “queer” in English. It’s also used inside the community LGBTQ+ and it’s fine then.
    But it can be an insult as well, and often is.
  2. une tafiole – all the following insults use the feminine to describe a man. They are roughly the equivalent of “faggot” in English.
  3. une pédale
  4. une tarlouze / une tantouze
  5. une folle, une folasse

French Insult to Say “Lesbian”

  1. une gouine (ou “une goudou” ou “une gouinasse”). Same remark as “pĂ©dĂ©”, it’s not always used as an insult but it can be.
  2. une camionneuse (literally a female truck driver)
  3. un broute-minou (very vulgar)

Unfortunately, there are many more, but I don’t think it’s necessary to list more here. I repeat, these are hurtful, so don’t use them.

9 – French Song About Gays & Transvestites – Charles Aznavour

I wanted to finish this article on a more positive note and thought about sharing this beautiful song by French singer Charles Aznavour, released in 1972.

At that time being gay, or even talking about it was still quite a taboo in France, and I admire Aznavour for taking the risk to sing about that subject and create such a beautiful, sensitive, respectful and loving song, especially since he was not gay himself.

Note the play on words: “Je suis un homme, oh! Comme ils disent”. I think this may have been to avoid potential censorship (homosexuality was still illegal in those days) yet it’s so poetic!

The lyrics are copyright, but I hope he won’t mind me sharing them here with you. Aznavour also sang this song in English (called “What Makes A Man” but I don’t find the English version as poetic even though it rhymes nicely. So I translated it the best I could.

“Comme Ils Disent” – French Lyrics

J’habite seul avec maman
Dans un trĂšs vieil appartement
Rue Sarasate
J’ai pour me tenir compagnie
Une tortue, deux canaris
Et une chatte
Pour laisser maman reposer
TrÚs souvent je fais le marché
Et la cuisine
Je range, je lave, j’essuie
À l’occasion je pique aussi
À la machine
Le travail ne me fait pas peur
Je suis un peu décorateur
Un peu styliste
Mais mon vrai métier
C’est la nuit
OĂč je l’exerce travesti
Je suis artiste
J’ai un numĂ©ro trĂšs spĂ©cial
Qui finit a nu intégral
AprĂšs strip-tease
Et dans la salle je vois que
Les mĂąles n’en croient pas leurs yeux
Je suis un homme, oh!
Comme ils disent
Vers les trois heures du matin
On va manger entre copains
De tous les sexes
Dans un quelconque bar-tabac
Et lĂ , on s’en donne a cƓur joie
Et sans complexes
On déballe des vérités
Sur des gens qu’on a dans le nez
On les lapide
Mais on le fait avec humour
Enrobé dans des calembours
MouillĂ©s d’acide
On rencontre des attardés
Qui pour épater leur tablée
Marchent et ondulent
Singeant ce qu’ils croient ĂȘtre nous
Et se couvrent, les pauvres fous
De ridicule
Ça gesticule et parle fort
Ça joue les divas, les tĂ©nors
De la bĂȘtise
Moi, les lazzis, les quolibets
Me laissent froid, puisque c’est vrai
Je suis un homme, oh!
Comme ils disent
À l’heure oĂč naĂźt un jour nouveau
Je rentre retrouver mon lot
De solitude
J’ĂŽte mes cils et mes cheveux
Comme un pauvre clown malheureux
De lassitude
Je me couche mais ne dors pas
Je pense Ă  mes amours sans joie
Si dérisoires
À ce garçon beau comme un dieu
Qui sans rien faire a mis le feu
À ma mĂ©moire
Ma bouche n’osera jamais
Lui avouer mon doux secret
Mon tendre drame
Car l’objet de tous mes tourments
Passe le plus clair de son temps
Au lits des femmes
Nul n’a le droit en vĂ©ritĂ©
De me blĂąmer, de me juger
Et je précise
Que c’est bien la nature qui
Est seule responsable si
Je suis un homme, oh!
Comme ils disent

“Comme Ils Disent” – English Translation

Translation
I live alone with Mom
In a very old apartment
On Sarasate Street
I have to keep my company
A turtle, two canaries
And a pussycat
So that mom can rest
I very often do the grocery shopping
And the cooking
I clean, I wash, I swipe
Occasionally I also sew
On the sewing machine
Work doesn’t scare me
I’m a bit of a decorator
A bit of a stylist
But my real job
It’s at night
that I do it transvestite
I’m an artist
I have a very special show
That ends fully naked
After stripping
And in the showroom I can see that
Males can’t believe their eyes
I’m a homo
Like they say
Around 3AM
We go out to eat among friends
Of every gender
In a random bar
And there, we have a blast
And without any complexes
We gossip the truth
About people we can’t stand
We stone them
But we do it with humor
Wrapped in puns
Wet with acid
We meet stupid people
Who to amaze their table
Walk and wave
Mimicking what they think is us
Covering themselves, the poor fools
With ridicule
They gesture and speak loud
They act like divas, tenors
Of stupidity
As for me, their bad jokes and mean words
Don’t get to me, since it is true
I am an homo
Like they say
At the time when a new day comes
I go back to find my routine
Loneliness
I take off my eyelashes and my hair
Like an old clown sad
of weariness
I lay down but I don’t sleep
I think about my unhappy loves
So ludicrous
About this boy handsome as a god
Who did nothing yet sat fire
To my memory
My mouth will never dare
Admit to him my sweet secret
My tender drama
Because the reason of all my torments
Spends most of his time
In women’s beds
no one truly has the right
To blame me, to judge me
And let me point out
That it is indeed nature
who is the only responsible if
I am an homo
Like they say

I hope these French LGBTQ+ vocabulary will be useful to you. My parents will be monitoring this article very closely and will turn off the comments section if need be. Please refrain from any hurtful, preachy or disrespectful remarks – we will remove them, blacklist your IP and report you as spam.

If you’d like to help me and suggest some words for the French LGBTQ+ vocabulary list, I’ll be happy to add some: please provide the English word, the French word and if need be an English explanation. Merci!

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