I used to go to Europe every year. A spring break jaunt beginning at the Louvre and ending with the Horseman's Club in Amsterdam, or a more extensive summer tour of France, Germany, or Estonia.
But Visiting Assistant Professors are on the job market a lot, and after 10 interviews involving 40 flights nearly every spring, I didn't have the stomach for more long lines, sardine-packed cabins, delays, cancellations, and putting my toiletries into baggies. Besides, I had to save my money for the 6-hour drive to the nearest gay neighborhood.
My last trip was in the summer of 2007: three days visiting Yuri in London, three days in Paris, and then a quest for Breton men.
Breton is a Celtic language, similar to Welsh and Irish. Denigrated by the French government for centuries, it was losing speakers fast, down from a million in 1950 to about 300,000, mostly elderly and rural. You could see it in street and metro signs in Rennes, but I had never heard it spoken.
So I rented a car and drove four hours to Saint-Brieuc, where I spent the night. The next day, up the coast to Plouzec, Paimpol, and Treguier. Overnight again. Then to Rennes, Paris, back to London, and home.
It was a bust. A lot of cute guys, but all speaking French. I even tried saying "Mat an traou!" to shopkeepers and gas station attendants and a teenager on the beach, but they responded in French.
But I did get cruised at the Ernest Renan House.
In addition to being the heart of Brittany, Treguier is the birthplace of philosopher Ernest Renan, who caused a scandal by writing The Life of Jesus (1863), asserting that Jesus was not a divine being.
There's a statue of him in the town square, being lauded by the Goddess Athena. When it was first installed in 1903, townsfolk rioted, thinking that it was criticizing Catholicism.
He looked North African, not Breton, but hoping, I said "Mat an traou!"
"The Jews are a cancer eating away at other nations," he replied in French.
My mouth dropped in shock. Had I understood him properly? What kind of pick-up line was that? "Les juifs...quoi....?" I began. "My French isn't good...."
Grinning, he switched to English. "That's what Renan taught. Also, that the Jews of the Bible are not related to the Jews of modern Europe. Isn't it a tragedy that a national hero of France was so anti-Semitic?"
"I had no idea..."
"What a pity that many Frenchmen are still prejudiced against Jews." He held out his hand. "I'm Farshad." (Not his real name.)
An Arabic name! Muslim, but not anti-Semitic.
We sat down in a nearby cafe. Farshad was a history teacher at a lycee in Paris, visiting Bretagne on holiday. Third-generation Moroccan. And gay!
I had met gay Muslims before, but they were all on the downlow, maintaining a strictly heterosexual facade, meeting with "special friends" only in private, behind closed doors.
But Farshad was out. He marched in the Gay Pride Parade in Paris. He was out to his parents. "My father doesn't like to talk about it, but my mother asks, 'when will you find a special guy and give me grandchildren?'"
He was even out to many members of his masjid, "But I must be quiet to my imam, of course."
We spent so much time talking about being gay and Muslim in France that afternoon turned into evening. We checked our guidebooks for a Moroccan restaurant in Treguier, came up empty, and went to a pizza place instead.
And then back to his hotel room.
Farshad turned out to have a hairy, nicely muscled physique, and beneath the belt a Mortadella+.
#12 on the list of the biggest "sausages" I've ever encountered!
A nice surprise in Bretagne.
The next day, I drove on to Rennes, and Farshad continued his holiday. We became Facebook friends.
Two years later, he helped found the first gay Muslim organization in France. A gay-friendly mosque opened in 2012.
See also: My Sausage List. ; My Top 15 Sausage Sightings; and The Top 10 Public Penises of Islam