Namibian activists welcome appointment of openly gay French PM

Gabriel Attal

Human rights activist Jholerina Khoetage Timbo and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and other (LGBTQI+) activist Wendelinus Hamutenya-Jeremiah have welcomed the appointment of France’s first openly gay prime minister Gabriel Attal last week.

Attal was appointed by French president Immanuel Macron after the resignation of former prime minister Elisabeth Borne.

“It is important to note that especially in Europe, people are appointed based on their expertise and experience,” says Timbo, an openly transgender woman.

Timbo adds that being LGBTQI+ shouldn’t limit anyone from having a passion for the development of their country.

“Sadly in Namibia, LGBTQI+ people are, in most cases, reduced to their sexual acts. There are people in all sectors who have showcased their exceptional skills in their professions and politics aren’t different,” Timbo says.

Namibia’s social climate and social media commentary indicates that many Namibians are not ready to accept openly gay politicians.

Timbo says the best way to address the current onslaught on and hatred towards the LGBTQI+ community is for an openly LGBTQI+ person to stand for elections.

Timbo says LGBTQI+ Namibians are tax paying citizens, many of whom excel in their professions.

“I am happy that it will show (Attal’s appointment) many other countries that LGBTQI+ people are capable,” says Timbo.

However, she warned that they have to work five times harder to prove themselves, which is a challenge awaiting Attal as an openly gay man and France’s youngest prime minister.

Former Mr Gay Namibia Hamutenya-Jeremiah congratulated Attal on Facebook last week.

“Congratulations to Gabriel Attal, the youngest ever French prime minister and the first openly gay [one]. I wish him the very best as he embarks on his journey as prime minister. Make the LGBTQI+ community proud in your country and the world. Sending tonnes of hugs.”

Attal is the son of Yves Attal, a lawyer and a film producer of Tunisian Jewish descent. His political ambitions started when he attended a demonstration against Jean-Marie Le Pen, when the far -right leader ran against the late Jacques Chirac in 2002.

In 2006, Attal joined the socialist party.

He worked in the office of then health minister Marisol Touraine when he was 23 years old.

In 2016, Attal left the socialist party to join French president Macron’s new Centrest En Marche, which later become La Republique En Marche (LREM).

At 29, Attal became secretary of state in the education ministry.

He was the former head of LREM, government spokesperson and public accounts minister.

In 2018, Attal was outed on X (Twitter) by his former classmate while dating Stephanie Sejourne at the time.

Sejourne is currently secretary general of the governing party.

Attal said during a television interview that he had been subjected to homophobic bullying while at school. He also described being a target of homophobic and anti-Semitic hate speech on social media.

French media have speculated that he is a potential candidate in the next presidential elections.

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