Lived Narratives of Villa Biron

In the suburbs of Paris, unbeknownst to most Parisians and almost veiled by an imperceptible narrow street, there is a building that has been for over 40 years a hub for gender non-conforming people from around the world. Nowadays most of its inhabitants come from South America and Southeastern Asia, as well as certain parts of Europe, and arrive in the French capital with the primary goal of joining a more tolerant and economically profitable environment.

Facing several threats to their living conditions, which may stem from their legal status in the country, a certain degree of exclusion from the housing market and a situation of prostitution, they are led to gather in this particular place, either by the action of associations, social assistants or solidarity between the old ones and the newcomers. They bond into a community that shares not only the typical obstacles in the life of newly arrived undocumented refugees, but also a wide array of oppressions and social stigmas tied to their queer status.

Villa Biron and its surroundings have been stigmatized as a place of prostitution, drugs, violence and social stagnation. Through the understanding of the origins and logics of this place, as well as a collection of memories told by its very dwellers, we hope to shed light on the humane narratives that take place between and around those walls, stories of solidarity and resilience, as a way to crystalize a less stigmatized representation of this place and the lives that have passed through it.

By doing so, we also hope to contribute to increase the visibility of such population and raise public awareness about the specific adversities they encounter as a group. Therefore, in the context of this work, we consider it of paramount importance that these individuals be given the freedom to express and frame their bonds with that space according to their own perspectives and priorities.