Feb 12, 2014

We Protest: Grands Causses


Last year, when President Hollande announced that France would move forward with legalizing same-sex marriage, we learned about an anti-gay marriage protest in which a few of Gigi's good friends would march with their families. I get a bee in my bonnet, and the girls and I create placards and decide we will protest the protest.

Demonstration sign: Tous nes d'un homme et d'une femme! = All born from a man and a woman!

Pippa comes with us but, at seven years old, seems to have little idea what it's all about. Then-nine-year old Gigi is embarrassed to hold up a sign and even more so when I am told several different times by security to put down my non-approved, pro-gay-marriage signs (because even French rebellion has its bureaucracy). I get a few thumbs ups from bystanders and one loud "Nous sommes bien d'accord, Madame!" ("We heartily agree, Madame!"). Embarrassed though she is, Gigi stands up for her beliefs, even chiming in on a debate with a lady standing next to us.

Gigi originally has plenty of perfectly understandable reasons for not wanting to participate, mostly that it would be embarrassing to be out there holding a sign with people staring at us, in a largely disapproving manner. To make matters worse, I tend to scream out "Woo-hoo! Mariage pour tous!" at the top of my lungs, in a very American style, every few minutes. Given that we realize, belatedly, that we have some grammar/vocabulary issues, I'm sure we are those people -- the immigrants in the protest with oddly misspelled and unnaturally worded Chinglish or Spanglish signs. It's not like pro-gay, anti-discrimination protest sloganeering French has been at the top of my studies. Though I realize it makes me look a bit less edu-ma-cated, I don't care; they get the point across.

Translation of my signs. And corrections:

Jamais encore la bigotisme = Bigotry: never again
      ("Bigotisme" being a fine noun meaning bigotry, according to my [admittedly 1973 edition] Cassell's French-English Dictionary, that it appears none of the actual French people know is a real word. Perhaps I should have gone with "bigoterie" or simply "discrimination"?)

Mariage pour tout! = Marriage for all!
      (But here's that pesky tout/tous/toute dilemma. All of these words mean "all" in different contexts, and of course I choose the wrong one. It should have been "tous".)

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité = Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood
       (Pretty self-explanatory French motto, and at least I got this one right.)

I might have skipped the demonstration, given the embarrassment and seeming futility, until Gigi tells me that one of the reasons she doesn't want to go is that she is afraid her Catholic school classmates will see her. Living in France of all places, that to me is the one reason we absolutely have to do it. Something like the Holocaust or the deportation of the Jews under the Vichy government was possible because too many people were -- and still are -- afraid to speak up for what they know, in their hearts, to be right. World War II buff that she is, Gigi grasps that concept immediately.

I recognize that my friend and her daughter feel they are doing the same -- speaking out, as they see it, on behalf of children who they feel will be harmed by having same-sex parents. And I have a begrudging respect for that. Pippa, meanwhile, seems to have a greater grasp of the issue at hand than we originally thought. When Anthony asks her opinion of the protest, she thinks about it and says to him, "Well, since I know you, I would be sad if you died and I didn't have you as my daddy. But if I didn't know you, and I had two mommies, I wouldn't miss you at all."

Hours afterwards, I am choked up, frustrated, weepy and have a raging headache. But it was worth it, because at least there's one more nine year old in the world who knows that discrimination is never acceptable, and that silence is complicity.

THE CHEESE: Grands Causses

Though the name is similar to Bleu des Causses (which is sometimes, even more confusingly, called Grand Bleu des Causses), the Grands Causses is a non-blue, hard cheese made from the milk of Lacaune sheep. Generally a fall and winter cheese, it's made in l'Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées, in the region of the park of the Grands Causses, hence its name. It's aged on wooden boards for a minimum of three months, after which it ends up with a gray, sandy crust that is hard enough that even crust lovers will generally choose to forego it.

For having been aged this long, it's a subtle cheese, mild with just a tiny hint of wood and herbs. However, the mild sheepiness sure does taste nice with some pâte de coing, which is basically quince gel. It would also be delicious with a cherry jam. The texture is very firm but still moist -- not crumbly or dry.


The connection is a bilingual, imperfect play on words: This is a "grand cause" for our family, given that we have dear gay friends and relatives (and, simply, our own strong sense of what is right). And I'm posting it now, during the Sochi Olympics, in response to Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia. We protest!


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