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social sciences

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Hahn, Pierre (1936-1981)  

Pierre Hahn was one of the earliest gay militants in contemporary France and an amateur historian who received the first doctorate given in France for work in the history of homosexuality.

Pierre Hahn, who was born on April 5, 1936, was nineteen when he contacted André Baudry (b. 1922), the conservative former seminarian who had just begun publishing Arcadie, a monthly "" review and would soon found an association with the same name. Invited to participate in the review, Hahn wrote numerous articles (under the pseudonym André Clair) on a wide variety of subjects of interest to the homosexual readership, while simultaneously embarking on a career in journalism.

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Under pressure from his father, however, Hahn briefly entered a psychiatric hospital at the age of twenty in a vain attempt to "cure" his homosexuality. The experience left him with a life-long distrust of the medical profession because of the way it had been treating homosexuals since the nineteenth century.

By the mid-1960s Hahn was evolving beyond Baudry's position that homosexuals should show themselves "respectable" and "dignified" in order to win the tolerance of society and the approval of the authorities. Hahn later explained that he had begun a serious relationship with another man and "like all people who are in love, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops; I also wanted to rehabilitate something [homosexuality] that was held in contempt or treated with condescension." In a public talk at Arcadie, he compared the discrimination against homosexuals to racial discrimination, a point of view that shocked some of his more conservative listeners.

Hahn also got in touch with several left-wing groups in Paris, who still considered homosexuality to be a bourgeois vice: "I was trying to get these puritanical leftists to understand that homosexuals were oppressed and that there was a struggle to be undertaken here."

Guy Hocquenghem (a leading gay militant of the 1970s, but at the time a 21-year-old Trotskyite who carefully hid his own homosexuality from his "comrades" on the political left) later recalled Hahn's appearance at one meeting in 1967: "He came into the damp cellar and for an hour spoke to us about homosexual liberation. It was the first time I had ever seen a homosexual militant. And for a good reason, because at the time he was the only one in Paris."

In late 1970, some of the lesbians belonging to Arcadie started holding meetings together with a number of sympathetic men, including Hahn. Out of this caucus there emerged a small radical group that undertook a number of commando actions, most notably the disruption of an anti-abortion meeting in Paris on March 5, 1971, in which Hahn participated.

Five days later, on March 10, more or less the same group sabotaged a live radio broadcast on the theme "Homosexuality, This Painful Problem." Half an hour into the broadcast, they stormed the stage and overturned tables, chairs, and microphones. Hahn, who was taking part in the program as an invited journalist and (presumably heterosexual) "expert" on homosexuality, had arranged to have the group seated in the front row of the auditorium.

That evening the jubilant radicals founded the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action (Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire, or FHAR). Radical gay liberation had come to France and Hahn, breaking definitively with the conservatism of Arcadie, threw himself whole-heartedly into the movement. He was the author of many of FHAR's most fiery manifestoes.

After FHAR's collapse in early 1974, Hahn remained active in the gay movement and wrote articles for the expanding gay press. He had also begun research into the gay past. One former gay militant, Alain Huet, remembers Hahn as "a living homosexual encyclopedia" and "an inexhaustible talker" on the subject.

In 1970 Hahn edited a small anthology of quotations about homosexuality from ancient times to the present. In 1979 he published Nos Ancêtres les Pervers (Our Ancestors The Perverts), in which he tried to demonstrate how, by repressing same-sex activity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris, policemen and doctors had produced the modern homosexual as a distinct category of man (he did not deal with lesbians).

In late 1980, a board of examiners at the University of Paris-VIII (Vincennes) awarded Hahn a doctorate in philosophy for his work on "the birth of homosexuality." He submitted no formal doctoral dissertation, earning the degree on the basis of the work that he had already published in the form of books and articles. Hahn's was a "doctorat d'université," which was less prestigious than other kinds of doctorate and did not confer any right to teach.

By then Hahn's professional life and personal life were both in disarray and he had taken to drinking heavily. Without a steady job, he found it difficult to make a living and was deeply in debt. He was also infatuated with a young Moroccan, who took Hahn's money and gave little in return.

Hahn committed suicide on February 19, 1981. Gay militants had to take up a collection to pay for the burial. The card on one of the two wreaths at the funeral was an implicit acknowledgment of his historical role in launching gay liberation in France: "To Pierre Hahn, from his friends in the French and foreign homosexual movements."

Michael D. Sibalis


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social sciences >> Overview:  France

France, the second largest nation in Western Europe, has a rich, if markedly ambivalent, relationship to glbtq people and cultures.

social sciences >> Overview:  French Gay Liberation Movement

The French gay liberation movement was born during the early 1970s on the foundation of a courageous, if conservative, homophile movement and the thrust of a massive wave of social activism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Homophile Movement, U. S.

The homophile movement of the United States refers to organizations and political strategies employed by homosexuals from the end of World War II to 1970.

social sciences >> Overview:  Paris

One of the world's most iconic cities and an influential hub of Western culture, Paris is also a major international glbtq center.

social sciences >> Baudry, André Émile

André Baudry, as leader of the French homophile movement from the early 1950s into the 1980s, was the principal spokesman for homosexuals in France before the rise of gay liberation in the 1970s.

social sciences >> Guérin, Daniel

French leftist Daniel Guérin came out publicly as a homosexual in his late sixties and for the remainder of his life worked to fuse gay liberation and left-wing politics.

literature >> Hocquenghem, Guy

Leftist Guy Hocquenghem produced a considerable canon of queer theory and experimental fiction, much of it still unknown outside France.


Girard, Jacques. Le mouvement homosexuel en France 1945-1980. Paris: Éditions Syros, 1981.

"L'itinéraire d'un pionnier." Gai Pied (May 26, 1981): 38-39.

Martel, Frédéric. The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France since 1968. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1999.

"Pierre Hahn nous a quittés." Masques 9/10 (Summer 1981): 19.

Untitled Obituary. Homophonies 6 (April 1981): 7.


    Citation Information
    Author: Sibalis, Michael D.  
    Entry Title: Hahn, Pierre  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated January 25, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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