Paris's underprivileged suburbs hold first-ever Gay Pride rally

France held its first-ever Gay Pride rally in a "banlieue" on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday in an event organisers hoped would not only stand up to homophobia but change preconceptions about life and attitudes in poorer neighbourhoods.

Waving rainbow flags and placards, thousands took to the streets for the march in Saint-Denis, a working-class suburb just to the north of the French capital.

Backed by the local council, the suburb’s town hall along with pedestrian crossings were decked out in the colours of the rainbow flag for the occasion.

Although Paris hosts an annual gay pride march that attracts hundreds of thousands every year, organisers of the Saint-Denis march said it was the first time a gay pride rally had been held exclusively in a French suburb, rather than a major city.

The goal, they said, was not only to speak out against rising homophobia in France, but also change pre-conceived notions about life in the Parisian suburbs and the attitudes of their residents.

“The majority of the discourse about homophobia in the suburbs isn’t against homophobia, but against the people who live there, who are portrayed as LGBTQI-phobes,” Luca Poissonnet, one of the co-founders of the association Saint-Denis ville au Coeur, which organised the march, told AFP.

The march comes amid signs of increasing homophobia in France.

There were a record 231 recorded cases of physical aggression against people in the LGBT community in 2018, according to the association SOS Homophobie.