Society

Former DSK Lover's Lurid Memoir: He Was "Half Man, Half Pig"

And a bit "Poodle" too, according to Marcela Iacub, a lawyer and writer who had an eight-month affair with Strauss-Kahn last year.

NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR, LE FIGARO (France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS – Disgraced former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn is back in the spotlight in France. A former lover has just published an explosive tell-all in which she describes him as “half man, half pig.”

The book – called “Beauty And The Beast” – was written by Argentinian-born Marcela Iacub, a lawyer, philosopher and writer who writes a column for daily newspaper Liberation. She doesn’t explicitly name Strauss-Kahn in the book, but told news weekly Le Nouvel Observateur that she started the book from the beginning of their eight-month affair in 2012, mixing fiction with reality.

“The steps of the affair, the locations, the words reported, everything is true,” she told Le Nouvel Observateur in what she says would be her only interview on the subject.

Le Nouvel Observateur, has published excerpts from the book, which will be released in France on Feb. 27, the latest blow to the former head of the International Monetary Fund whose 2011 encounter with a maid in a New York hotel room destroyed his chances to be French President.

A few choice cuts:

- The man-pig: “What is creative, artistic in Dominique Strauss-Kahn, what is beautiful, belongs to the realm of the pig, not man. Man is horrible, while a pig is wonderful, even though he is a pig. He is an artist of the gutter, a poet of the abject and of dirt,” Iacub told Le Nouvel Observateur.

In the book, which is penned like an open letter, she writes: “You were old, fat, small and ugly. You were a vulgar macho, without culture.”

- Women, all women, ugly women: “The list of your mistresses, your one-day conquests, your successive and simultaneous whores showed a moving aspect of your life as a pig. These women were ugly and vulgar,” she writes.

“You reminded me of dogs I had, who liked all the dogs in heat – without distinction.” She adds: “There was a generous side to you, that you would show to any woman, as long as she had the appropriate organs to accommodate you.”

“I would think, ‘the uglier, the more vulgar the woman, the more he is attracted to them.’ I’m sure that If you had the choice between Angelina Jolie and an ugly woman, you would chose the ugly woman.”

- Turning the French presidential palace into a swingers’ club: “You said that you were ready to give your blood for the nation, when in truth, you would have used the nation to spread your endless supply of sperm. You would have turned the Elysee Palace into a giant swingers’ club, you would have used your assistants, your collaborators, your employees as touts, organizers of orgies, experts in the art of satisfying your darkest urges.”

- What happened at the New York Sofitel: “To understand what happened in this room, you have to put yourself in the mind of an authentic pig. A pig who believes the cleaning lady is Catherine Deneuve in ‘Belle de Jour’ (the 1967 movie in which she plays a bored housewife who works in a brothel).”

She adds: “Only a pig would think it is normal for a poor African immigrant to give him a blow-job without any compensation, just to make him happy, just as a humble tribute to his powerful being. And the poor woman came back to the room to see if you had left her some sort of a tip, but there was nothing. Not even a note or a flower. The cleaning lady was horribly shocked but she was not raped. This is how I see things.”

- On his rich wife, Anne Sinclair: “Not many people know that she turned you into her poodle. Not because she had so much money. You simply couldn’t leave. You couldn’t imagine leaving her because it was impossible for you to give up this life of luxury. You became her poodle, a macho who felt like a miserable poodle. And the more she tried to pretend she didn’t see that you were chained to her because of her money, the more she owned you, humiliated you, turned you into a whore.”

“She dreamed of being the wife of a president.”

In her interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Iacub says Anne Sinclair told her: “There is nothing wrong with getting a blow-job from a cleaning lady.”

Reactions:

In an open letter written to Le Figaro and addressed to one of the co-founders of Le Nouvel Observateur, Strauss-Kahn writes he is “doubly disgusted,” taking aim at “the behavior of a woman who seduced (him) to write a book, pretending to be in love to exploit an fantastic and unreal story.”

Anne Sinclair, head of the French Huffington Post, also penned a letter to Le Nouvel Observateur, to criticize what she called “a move by a perverse and dishonest woman, who is motivated by sensationalism and greed.”

Front page of Liberation on Friday – "A Dangerous Liaison:"

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Coronavirus

Where Lockdowns For LGBTQ Meant Moving Back In With Homophobic Relatives

The confinement experience could turn brutal for those forced to live with relatives who would not tolerate a member of the family living their sexual orientation openly as a young adult. Here are stories from urban and rural India.

At a Rainbow pride walk in Kolkata, India

Sreemanti Sengupta

Abhijith had been working as a radio jockey in the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 2020. When the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, Abhijith returned to the rural Pathanamthitta district , where his parents live with an extended family, including uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Eighteen months later, he recalled that the experience was "unbearable" because he had to live with homophobic relatives. "Apart from the frequent reference to my sexual 'abnormality', they took me to a guruji to 'cure' me," Abhijith recalled. "He gave me something to eat, which made me throw up. The guru assured me that I was throwing up whatever 'demon' was possessing me and 'making' me gay."


Early in 2021, Abhijith travelled back to Thiruvananthapuram, where he found support from the members of the queer collective.

Inspired by their work, he also decided to work towards uplifting the queer community. "I wish no one else goes through the mental trauma I have endured," said Abhijit.

Abhijith's story of mental distress arising from family abuse turns out to be all too common among members of India's LGBTQ+ community, many of whom were trapped in their homes and removed from peer support groups during the pandemic.

Oppressive home situations

As India continues to reel from a pandemic that has claimed more lives (235,524) in three months of the second wave (April-June 2021) than in the one year before that (162,960 deaths in March 2020-March 2021), the LGBTQ community has faced myriad problems. Sexual minorities have historically suffered from mainstream prejudice and the pandemic has aggravated socio-economic inequalities, instigated family and institutionalized abuse, apart from limiting access to essential care. This has resulted in acute mental distress which has overwhelmed queer support infrastructure across the country.

Speaking to queer collective representatives across India, I learned that the heightened levels of distress in the community was due to longstanding factors that were triggered under lockdown conditions. Family members who are intolerant of marginalized sexual identities, often tagging their orientation as a "disorder" or "just a phase", have always featured among the main perpetrators of subtle and overt forms of violence towards queer, trans and homosexual people.

Calls from lesbians and trans men to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns.

Sappho For Equality, a Kolkata-based feminist organization that works for the rights of sexually marginalized women and trans men, recorded a similar trend. Early in the first wave, the organization realized that the existing helpline number was getting overwhelmed with distress calls. It added a second helpline number. The comparative figures indicate a 13-fold jump in numbers: from 290 calls in April 2019-March 20 to 3,940 calls in April 2020-May 2021.

"Most of the calls we have been getting from lesbians and trans men are urgent appeals to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns," said Shreosi, a Sappho member and peer support provider. "If they happen to resist, they are either evicted or forced to flee home. But where to house them? There aren't so many shelters, and ours is at full capacity."

Shreosi says that the nature of distress calls has also changed. "Earlier people would call in for long-term help, such as professional mental health support. But during the pandemic, it has changed to immediate requests to rescue from oppressive home situations. Often, they will speak in whispers so that the parents can't hear."

Lack of spaces

Like many of his fellow queer community members, life for Sumit P., a 30-year-old gay man from Mumbai, has taken a turn for the worse. The lockdown has led to the loss of safe spaces and prolonged residence at home.

"It has been a really difficult time since the beginning of the lockdown. I am suffering from a lot of mental stress since I cannot freely express myself at home. Even while making a call, I have to check my surroundings to see if anybody is there. If I try to go out, my family demands an explanation. I feel suffocated," he said.

The pandemic has forced some queer people to come out

Sumit is also dealing with a risk that has hit the community harder than others – unemployment and income shortage. He's opened a cafe with two other queer friends, which is now running into losses. For others, pandemic-induced job losses have forced queer persons from all over the country to return to their home states and move in with their families who've turned abusive during this long period of confinement.

Lockdowns force coming out

According to Kolkata-based physician, filmmaker and gay rights activist Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, the pandemic has forced some queer people to come out, succumbing to rising discomfort and pressure exerted by homophobic families.

"In most cases, family relations sour when a person reveals their identity. But many do not flee home. They find a breathing space or 'space out' in their workspaces. In the absence of these spaces, mental problems rose significantly," he said.

Not being able to express themselves freely in front of parents who are hostile, intolerant and often address transgender persons by their deadname or misgender them has created situations of severe distress, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Psychiatrist and queer feminist activist Ranjita Biswas (she/they) cites an incident. A gender-nonconforming person died under suspicious circumstances just days after leaving their peer group and going home to their birth parents. The final rites were performed with them dressed in bangles and a saree.

"When a member of our community asked their mother why she chose a saree for someone who had worn androgynous clothes all their life, she plainly said it was natural because after all, the deceased 'was her daughter,'" Biswas recalls.

The Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling

David Talukdar/ZUMA

"Correctional" therapy

In India, queer people's access to professional mental healthcare has been "very limited," according to community members such as Ankan Biswas, India's first transgender lawyer who has been working with the Human Rights Law Network in West Bengal.

"A large majority of the psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as a disorder and practice 'correctional therapy'. It's only around the big cities that some queer-friendly psychiatrists can be found," Biswas said. "The pandemic has further widened the inequalities in access to mental health support for India's LGBTQ community."

Biswas is spending anxious days fielding an overwhelming amount of calls and rescue requests from queer members trapped in their homes, undergoing mental, verbal and even physical torture. "We don't have the space, I just tell them to wait and bear it a little longer," he said.

Medical care is dismal

Anuradha Krishnan's story, though not involving birth family, outlines how the lack of physical support spaces have affected India's queer population. Abandoned by her birth family when she came out to them as a trans woman in 2017, Anuradha Krishnan (she/they), founder of Queerythm in Kerala who is studying dentistry, had to move into an accommodation with four other persons.

Isolation triggered my depression

"I am used to talking and hanging around with friends. Isolation triggered my depression and I had to seek psychiatric help." Living in cramped quarters did not help with quarantine requirements and all of them tested positive during the first wave.

What is deeply worrying is that the Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling, placing more and more pressure on queer collectives and peer support groups whose resources are wearing thin.

During the 10 months of the first wave of the pandemic in India in 2020, Y'all, a queer collective based in Manipur, received about 1,000 distress calls on their helpline number from LGBTQ+ individuals. In May 2021 alone, they received 450 such calls (including texts and WhatsApp messages) indicating a telling escalation in the number of queer people seeking help during the second wave.

As India's queer-friendly mental health support infrastructure continues to be tested, Y'all founder, Sadam Hanjabam, a gay man, says, "Honestly, we are struggling to handle such a large number of calls, it is so overwhelming. We are also dealing with our own anxieties. We are burning out."

Sreemanti Sengupta is a freelance writer, poet, and media studies lecturer based in Kolkata.

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