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From Paris, A Provocative Little Letter To Santa

Essay: For citizens of France and the world, there is much to be grateful for -- and much to worry about. Looking back at what good has and hasn't come from past Christmas wishes, this French writer has a special request for Santa that can never

A Santa spotting, circa 1895 (Chuck Coker)
A Santa spotting, circa 1895 (Chuck Coker)
Roger-Pol Droit

LES ÉCHOS/Worldcrunch

PARIS - Cher Père Noël (Dear Santa): In these final hours before Christmas, I do not want to impose. But perhaps, despite your busy schedule, you might make some time to hear out my last-minute requests?

I am asking nothing for myself (I'm a bit too old, plus I have been naughty this year). I write instead on behalf of my country and planet.

For France, it seems impossible to wish for something that would please everybody. But it would be kind of you to give everyone a magnifying glass in order to scrutinize our public accounts, and a pair of binoculars so as to see a little further than just the next quarter. For the presidential campaign, ear plugs and nose clips would be most useful, not to mention a strong dose of reality -- and irony. If you could also drop in our stockings a few ideas on how to combat the recession, how to have confidence in our own abilities, along with a good supply of energy, and we might just be able to avoid being completely shipwrecked.

For the whole wide world, throughout the generations, we've already asked so much of you: revolutions, brighter futures, progress, the emancipation of mankind … And I am sorry to say that in return, you have only delivered articles of poor quality. It is better not to ask you again for these things. Instead, Santa Claus, save us from wanting to conquer the skies, from craving the impossible, from believing in radical change. Still, never let us be content with the status quo.

The abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the end of apartheid – these things show us that not all fights are in vain, and that all progress is not necessarily illusory. It is difficult to separate dreams from reality, to hold on to hope in a world that resists it. It is hard to remain lucid enough to measure the length of a path, enduring enough to continue down it, and grounded enough to act rationally, without believing in Santa – oops sorry, didn't mean to be rude!

A special request

Especially since I have one more request – a more difficult and somewhat personal one. All of these Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations, turkeys and foie gras – frankly, I'm tired of it. All of these gifts we're obligated to give and receive, these static rituals – I've had enough, and I don't think I'm the only one. I guess what I'm trying to say is that many of us wish for the disappearance of that jolly man in red, with his sleigh and reindeer, who returns year after year, and has become nothing but a syrupy, shimmering, and exhausting relic. Do you see what I am getting at? I might as well be direct: I am asking you, dear Santa Claus, to make yourself disappear!

But now, as I write these lines, I realize how they may be problematic. Suppose, in fact, that my request is granted and that next year, there is no more Santa! Radio silence, no sounds of reindeer or sleigh, not one more word. What would this prove? Well quite simply, that Santa actually exists!

That indeed is the interesting paradox you embody. It's not enough to imagine that you are there only when you believe, as with any ordinary god. Rather, Santa Claus, you're the only higher being whose sudden disappearance would undoubtedly prove the existence.

So in fact, if you do not return next year, dear Santa, if you are not seen anywhere, not mentioned anymore, then I will definitely have to believe that you are real. Thank you for listening, I wish you a safe journey this Christmas Eve.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Chuck Coker

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My Wife, My Boyfriend — And Grandkids: A Careful Coming Out For China's Gay Seniors

A series of interviews in Wuhan with aging gay men — all currently or formerly married to women — reveals a hidden story of how Chinese LGBTQ culture is gradually emerging from the shadows.

Image of two senior men playing chinese Checkers.

A friendly game of Checkers in Dongcheng, Beijing, China.

Wang Er

WUHAN — " What do you think of that guy sitting there, across from us? He's good looking."

" Then you should go and talk to him."

“ Too bad that I am old..."

Grandpa Shen was born in 1933. He says that for the past 40 years, he's been "repackaged," a Chinese expression for having come out as gay. Before his wife died when he was 50, Grandpa Shen says he was was a "standard" straight Chinese man. After serving in the army, he began working in a factory, and dated many women and evenutually got married.

"Becoming gay is nothing special, I found it very natural." Grandpa Shen says he discovered his homosexuality at the Martyrs' Square in Wuhan, a well-known gay men's gathering place.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

Wuhan used to have different such ways for LGBTQ+ to meet: newspaper columns, riversides, public toilets, bridges and baths to name but a few. With urbanization, many of these locations have disappeared. The transformation of Martyrs' Square into a park has gradually become a place frequented by middle-aged and older gay people in Wuhan, where they play cards and chat and make friends. There are also "comrades" (Chinese slang for gay) from outside the city who come to visit.

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