Now this is an interesting one. The French Foreign legion is a part of the French Military Forces, simple as that, and thus governed by the same rules, regulations, policies and legislation, you might think. But what are those policies?
It’s not that easy. (Photo copyright © Defence Image Database, without permission.)
It was rather difficult to find out the official stance. Granted, this was not helped by my French being rather basic these days, but even asking a French speaker for help did not yield much better information.
France, like many European countries legalises homosexual partnerships in a civil partnership, similar to Britain. Thus a ban on homosexuality in the Forces does not appear to be logical nor legal, and, in fact, is not in place. However, the wording is quite peculiar. On 5 May 2000 The Independent stated:
FRANCE’S ARMED forces will accept homosexuals into its ranks provided they do not attempt to “convert” others. A defence ministry spokesman said yesterday: “We have no intention of introducing recruiting criteria that would take into account the personal practices of individuals.”
What, exactly, is meant with “convert”? This is the most infuriating thing I have read in a while. But let’s not go there, because if I do I’ll end up in a rant and that’s not what I set out to do.
We are getting closer to the matter in an article from 2004 by glbtq, Inc. which I quote in another post on attitudes towards homosexuality in European Military Forces.
Countries with Laissez-faire Homosexual Policies
Scholars describe France and Belgium as countries that have adopted laissez-faire approaches to homosexual personnel. That is, they do not officially exclude them, but they also do not explicitly guarantee their right to serve.
In France, indifference characterizes the official attitude towards homosexuals in the military. Although homosexuals are not banned from French military service, it is recognized that they may face greater challenges than their heterosexual counterparts. Thus, they are allowed to opt out of military service if they wish by declaring themselves unfit because of their sexual orientation.
Commanders and psychiatrists can also discharge gay and lesbian personnel if they feel they are disrupting their units and cannot fit in.
There we have the crux of the matter. France leaves itself wide open for abuse – and for court cases, and I hope the latter is exactly what will happen to them, just like it did in Britain. This means, when looking at the wording, that France does not discharge people for their sexual orientation but for disrupting their units, which is a very clever wording that gives them basically the right to come up with any excuse and chuck anyone out they wish to, by claiming it wasn’t the sexual orientation, but the “disruption”. And pray, tell, what exactly is meant by that? Also, since being gay is accepted as an excuse for not getting drafted (France has National Service like Germany), homosexuals would be in two minds about attacking the policy. As a friend put it: “Typical French. Eat your cake and have it too!”
Britain, which might not be an inclusive environment inside the military, particularly in the army and in the teeth arms (tank regiments, infantry, Royal Marines, SAS, etc), France with it’s “laissez faire” leaves the matter wide open for abuse. In Britain there is a zero tolerance policy and a whole host of equality and diversity policies and a code of conduct that governs every inch of a soldier’s professional – and personal – existence, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I explored the official stance in a post. And there are doubtlessly instances where derogatory remarks such as “you hold your rifle like a faggot” are being pursued and prosecuted/stopped. I explore this in an insider view.
Getting back to the French Foreign legion, after careful internet searches and translation help I have learned that homosexuality is not only actively discouraged during the recruitment process, but that a soldier is discharged should it be found out that he is gay. Which might be a disaster for the individual, because it leaves them without any recommendation and a black mark on their personal records through omission and thus serious difficulties in finding further employment (as explained in a personal blog post by an actual Legionnaire – to which I shall not link)
Somebody else “in the know” posted the following regarding the recruitment process (in French, this is a translation): “It’s not officially written but at the recruitment interview you get refused [if you are openly gay] and the recruiters make sure people know that, so gays don’t try to join.”
There you have it, homosexuality is not accepted in the French Foreign Legion.
Now, will someone please go and write some good stories?