Imagine one of those annoying TV commercials for The Villages retirement community in Florida… but with fit, active, happy-looking, well-groomed, silver fox gay and lesbian couples frolicking in the sunshine, on golf courses, tennis courts, boats, and beaches.
The U.K.-based Villages Group (not connected to The Villages in Florida), has planned the world’s first LGBT-friendly retirement community, Le Village – Canal du Midi, in the South of France in Salleles-d’Aude near Narbonne. They received official permission to build a generic £20 million gated community of 107 eco-friendly homes for seniors this year, with a hotel, restaurant, bar, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, golf, saunas, gym, jacuzzis, tennis courts, housekeeping service, and concierge. That development didn’t receive much initial interest, thanks to the lackluster real estate market…that is, until the company added rainbow flags to the marketing literature and wording specifically targeting the British and French LGBT communities.
Then the inquiries started flooding in at thousands of e-mails a day.
It’s illegal in France to market solely to a particular sexual orientation, so the company was quick to point out that heterosexuals are welcome in the village. (This would make Le Village one of the few places where one could boast about being “the only straight in the village,” a la Little Britain).
The town’s mayor, Yves Bastie, who only learned about the change in marketing after the construction was approved, said he was “flabbergasted” and was worried the effect Le Village would have on the image of the town. On the other side, the secretary of the Association of Retired Gays (l’association Les Gais Retraités) disapproves of the idea of LGBT’s self-segregating. “Gays must fit into society and not go it alone.”
The outrage following France’s legalization of gay marriage this year and the fact that anyone is surprised by this brilliant marketing plan shows how deeply ingrained homophobia still is. And perfectly illustrates why an aging LGBT couple would want to choose such a place to retire.
Or, should I say, a rather wealthy retired LGBT couple: the house prices start at €236,000 (about $320,000), not including €70 ($95) weekly service charges.
The Villages Group’s promotional video for its “rainbow village,” below: