Extimité is the new french podcast founded by Douce and Anthony, two unapologetically black and queer Parisians. Extimité is a space interviewing individuals subject to systemic oppression because of their gender identity, sexuality, body condition or mental condition with a new episode every 15 days. Douce and Anthony generously translated a segment of their third episode with Jean-Baptiste and answered some questions regarding le podcast for EL CHAMP.
EXTIMITÉ LE PODCAST
“Albert Camus would say, “Democracy is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority”. When you are aware of that, you understand how important it is to march for those who can’t.”
For our english readers, what does Extimité mean and why did you choose this for the podcast’s name?
Douce: Actually it was Anthony who came [up] with this name of Extimité. It can be translated as extimacy, the contrary of intimacy. It’s a notion conceptualised by the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Jacques Lacan. It was then more defined by the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Serge Tisseron. He said that in our societies, people are constantly dealing with extimacy: the desire to speak up about things seen as private, in order to embrace them more easily. It immediately spoke to me because what we want to do with this podcast is to invite people to tell their powerful, meaningful, sometimes difficult stories.
Anthony: I studied literature at la Sorbonne and did an important research paper about Hervé Guibert. This French writer [who] died of AIDS at the age of 36 in 1991. Before his death, he published many novels about his own life with the disease, constantly navigating between shame and shamelessness, between true and false. By doing so, he showed how lies can help you to cope with a difficult truth. The uncanny result became an obsession of mine: when people make fun of you, make you feel ashamed, make you want to hide what they perceive as your ugly truth, it’s devastating. But it can also make you stronger. By keeping your things private, your issues, traumas, and what makes you different, you build your own sense of truth and reality. With Extimité, we want to stop hiding what builds us. We want to say the intimate in what it has as a collective. We want to make it resonate with a political immodesty. We want to tell our truths.
Was there a moment or specific experience that prompted you both to start the podcast or how exactly did it come about?
D: This summer I was questioning my life and the path I wanted to take for my future. I love to write, I love being a freelance journalist. But at some point I knew that my experience as a black bisexual woman in France was a shared story with other people. I wanted to create a space where people facing systemic oppressions could express themselves be heard. And the podcast was obvious: technically you don’t need a lot of materials to have good quality. Also, it’s easy to learn how to edit and mix if you have a bit of patience and a strong passion for music or sound. With those, you can tell a story that will be heard. So I started thinking about who would want to start this audio adventure with me. And Anthony was my first and last choice.
A: I was living a complicated love story with a straight-passing white man. We were madly in love, but this three year relationship led me to deny my identity, as a black and fem gay man. When it ended in May 2018, I was a wreck, wondering if I was even myself the whole time. That’s when I realised it was the first time I was really thinking about me and who I was. Deeply. I wanted other people to go through this dizzying experience, and that’s exactly when Douce came to me in July 2018. She wanted to interview people about their experience of being a minority in a podcast. I immediately saw the opportunity to make it a podcast about the construction of identities, as if we were all writing both a collective and personal diary. The extimate diary of a generation.
Are there any young prominent queer creatives or athletes in Paris that make you excited for the future?
D: Amandine Gay, a French black woman who describes herself as pansexual. She’s the director of Ouvrir La voix (Speak Up), her first documentary. It deals with black woman issues (racism, misogyny noir, invisibilization) in France and Belgium. Plus, Shirley Souagnon a French-Ivorian humorist, gay and out. She’s very comfortable with who she is and it’s very inspirational to see her on a stage. And last but not least, Bilal Hassani for his flamboyance and his personality. He’s a young French-Moroccan singer. He also has a Youtube channel where he posts his videos.
Jean-Baptiste. I agree with Douce about Bilal Hassani, he’s one of the most visible & upcoming queer creatives in France at the moment. He speaks up about bullying and homophobia while being true to himself. I’ve actually been really impressed about his ability to spread his joy and self-confidence to his audience. I hope he will continue sharing his positivity because I’m sure he’s helping a lot of young gays / queers who struggle to accept who they are. Even as a 27 year old guy, Bilal Hassani has taught me a lot & actually helped me be even queerer than I was.
A: I was also going to say Bilal Hassani! So let me be, once again, a bookworm and say Edouard Louis. He is a 26 French gay novelist, writing about social violence, and how it reverberates in the intimate sphere. In my opinion, he is like the spiritual son of the philosopher Michel Foucault and the writer Hervé Guibert, the perfect embodiment of the new French Theory. He recently said in the American queer media Them.us : “The border between what is political, what is personal, and what is intimate is a historical and socially constructed border. It’s a social frontier.” Can we get an Amen?
I also want to mention Kiddy Smile, a black, gay and proud, singer. He recently performed at L’Élysée (our French equivalent of the White House), wearing a tee-shirt that said “immigrant son, black and fag” and I was living for it! In France, we are so uptight about race, immigration and sexual minorities, so it was a big statement. His first album, ‘One Trick Pony”, just came out and you must give it a try! It’s a fresh take on House music.
How does it feel to be queer and part of the fitness community?
JB: I’ve struggled for the majority of life with weight problem. I was an overweight kid, teenager and young adult. And I realised as I came out, how difficult it was to fit into the gay community as an overweight young guy. However I started my fitness journey not for the looks and to be [considered] more attracting, but to be more self-confident.
To me, working out, being mindful of my diet and overall lifestyle is actually very linked to my interest for personal development, stoic philosophy and my (now full) acceptance of my sexuality and queerness. It’s a whole. It’s my own “wellbeing system”.
I’m far from having the body of my dreams and I’m still struggling with a slightly negative body image also due to the importance of looking good to fit in the gay community. But at the end I’m doing all of this for myself, it’s a commitment for a better life. I’ve made amazing progress thanks to my coach Aadam Ali (@physiqonomics) and this fitness journey is very enjoyable also thanks to him. And I’m starting to look fit, which is nice.
Today being part of this fitness community makes me want to go further: I’m planning on becoming a personal trainer and I’d love to help LGBTQ+ people who may want to improve the relationship they have with their own body because I truly believe that fitness can be a lever to improve self-confidence. I’m also planning to create a podcast around these issues, but wait & see :).
How much does what’s taking in New York in terms of the political climate and social movements reflect the conditions in Paris?
D: To my mind, in Paris and in France in general the lines are moving thanks to the USA. All the social and justice movements born there such as Black Lives Matter, the intersectional feminism and the queer as a global political community had a huge impact on how we started to define ourselves as minorities. Thanks to the USA and social media, social sciences are now seen as legitimate in terms of gender and race, even if the fact of not having ethnic statistics in France prevents a real awareness of race problems and thus of intersectionality as a social brake.
JB: Even if situations are not 100% comparable in New York versus in Paris, I think the political climate and social movements are yet slightly similar. Thanks to social media we’re more and more connected and aware about what’s happening in foreign countries. What’s happening in New York, especially the #WontBeErased movement, in Brazil with LGBTQ-phobic aggressions or even in Paris where there is a rise in aggressions… Everywhere where minorities like the LGBTQ+ community are oppressed: it’s pretty much the same pattern. And I truly believe these issues need to be tackled globally, because racism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and other discriminations are contagious.
A: What is going on in the US is dramatic for women, refugees and the LGBTQ+ communities. We are facing similar issues in France. When a government attacks minorities, this is the first symptom of a democracy crisis, not to say the beginning of fascism that we know so damn well in Europe. Thankfully, New York seems to be structuring itself to defend individual freedoms. It’s really inspiring to see how feminists and LGBTQ+ activists are organising together in New York. In France, even in Paris, we are not there yet, it’s a lot more fractured, divided. A lot of feminists are claiming to be “universalists” when they are in fact excluding muslim women, sex workers and other minorities. It’s the same in a lot of so-called LGBT organizations, when in fact they are only defending white Parisian gay privileges. As Albert Camus would say, “Democracy is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority”. When you are aware of that, you understand how important it is to march for those who can’t.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
D: I have three that I would like to write:
I see life in black and queer
Life is too short to wax my pussy
Humanity barricaded itself with concrete, would it be afraid of Nature ?
JB: There are two things that I would like to write:
You are enough
A: For all my LGBTQ+ sisters, brothers and GNC siblings, “When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”
As an emotional wreck that needs to be loved and a Leonard Cohen fan, I would graffiti: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Otherwise, because I’m first and foremost a beauty hoe, I would more probably graffiti something deeply superficial like: “Shut your eyes to see”.
“… defined by the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Serge Tisseron. He said that in our societies, people are constantly dealing with extimacy: the desire to speak up about things seen as private, in order to embrace them more easily.”
Jean-Baptiste Episode 3
Jean-Baptiste is a 27 year-old man from Reunion Island (an overseas region of France in the Indian Ocean). He is of mixed race. Growing up, his two older siblings had already left the family home while his father was also working far away. Jean-Baptiste consequently felt very lonely growing up. Replacing his emotional deficiency with food: especially pots of Nutella.
Although he was brilliant at school, he was bullied for being overweight. His nickname was “Jambon-Beurre” (which means “ham and butter sandwich”, a play-on-words of his name). At 18 he moved to France where he realised he was gay. Whilst still struggling with the hardships from school, in order to feel better in his skin, he started exercising and got tattoos.
His first tattoo is a quote from the Lebanese–American essayist, Nicolas Nassim Taleb: “I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand”. The quote is from the book, “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder” where the author explains how a body can rebuild itself stronger after a shock or trauma. Something that resonates a lot in Jean-Baptiste’s mind.
Today, he has 5 tattoos which he described as helping him to reclaim his own body after being overweight and bullied. “After each tattoo, I feel like my body is a little bit more mine”, he said. It’s been only a year since his weight has stabilized. And whilst he still may have a lot of physical complexes, bodybuilding helps him a lot as a personal development tool.
He emphasized how hard it is to feel comfortable in your body, especially in the gay community: “One year ago, at a nightclub, I was making eye-contact with a guy. When he finally approached me, he touched my belly without my consent and then gave me a disdainful look. I was left in shock. Now that I am more muscular, I feel like I finally “exist” in gay spaces. It saddens me because I wonder how people who do not respond to beauty canons feel.”
As a mixed race man, he’s also more sensitive to racism in and out of the gay community: “People always mistake me for a white person: I am white passing. That’s why I have the impression of not being part of a minority, except maybe the LGBT community as a gay man myself. With my skin tone, I feel as part of the majority in my daily life. Because I’m rarely racialized, I sometimes don’t feel legitimate enough to talk about racism.”
On social media, people often assume he’s racist because he posts a lot of photos with some of his friends and they are predominantly white gay twinks. “I’m pretty aware of racism in the gay community. Social media represent only 1% of my life. These photos are from gay parties. I’m not casting my friends according to their skin color. I refuse to be reduced to that ideology: I am not ‘JB the gay’ nor ‘JB the mixed race guy’. Several factors make up my identity !”