France offers several national honours for civilians who have made remarkable contributions to the country, its language and culture. The most notable of these awards include the highest civilian honour, Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour, created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802) and the Ordre du Mérite (Order of Merit, created by Charles de Gaulle in 1963).
These awards are available to both French nationals, and to individuals from other countries who have upheld the ideals of the country. Honours may be made by the President of France, or by Ministerial order.
The vast majority of individuals honoured with the awards come from the arts and cultural professions. This includes poets, writers, photographers, artists, dancers, historians, musicians, fashion designers, and actors. Several business leaders and politicians have also been honoured with the awards.
Individuals from the LGBTQ community are also well-represented on the awards list.
Prominent LGBTQ French national recipients have included the AIDS activist, Daniel Defert (Partner of philosopher Michel Foucault) fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, and actor, Nicole Stephane. International LGBTQ recipients include jazz singer, Josephine Baker of the United States, photographer, Sir Cecil Beaton of Great Britain, ballet dancer, Serge Lifar of Russia, and author, Elif Shafak from Turkey.
Recognition of LGBTQ individuals, who have contributed to France, and its culture, is important for the community, since it reveals the active participation of a minority group in upholding and promoting the ideals of the larger nation state.
Queerbio has found celebrated LGBTQ individuals, who have received France’s national honours, from Canada, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Italy, Lebanon, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States.