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In Cantal, a rural reception center allows young LGBT+ people to come and “recharge their batteries”


It is nicknamed the Lourdes of Cantal. A small village of three hundred inhabitants, Quézac is home to a Marian sanctuary which, from the 14th century, became a popular place of pilgrimage. A still active community of nuns, installed in a building facing the church square, welcomes pious travelers and Catholics on spiritual retreat. There was a time when the sisters also hosted pilgrims in one of the sand-colored houses a stone’s throw from the sanctuary. But for the past two years, this building, reinvested by an association, has offered a resting space to a completely different community: young LGBT+ people come here to recharge their batteries during short or long stays.

At the entrance to the estate, a sheep stands guard, posted where the large vegetable garden begins, previously maintained by the nuns. “Everything in this place lent itself to continuing a tradition of welcome and passage”, says Chouk Thomas, a young postman in his thirties, one of the initiators of the project. First to arrive in the area in 2018, with the desire to find a place to try his hand at market gardening, he started by renting, then buying this house, whose land includes half a hectare of cultivation. Very quickly, its seven bedrooms, its large convertible attic, and the adjacent outbuilding appear to it as a ” call ” to open the doors.

Former accommodation for pilgrims, the house has been taken over by the association Le Jardin des passages for two years.

The idea of ​​a place of welcome and collective life then gradually germinates, to which Chouk, a young transgender man, wishes to give a “queer” dimension: a “safe place” where LGBT+ people can come and spend time. peacefully, among peers, sharing common experiences, and welcomed by the permanent inhabitants of the house (today three). “With those who have joined me to live there year-round, we wanted to offer a place of resource, mutual aid, still very rare in rural areas on queer issues”explains the man who grew up in the Charente countryside, before living in Nantes for a few years.

Officially constituted as an association in March 2022, the collective Le Jardin des passages then organizes events to shine in the region. It also accommodates free of charge – or in exchange for helping out, for market gardening or odd jobs – visitors who request it. Around 60 people have already passed through the house, generally between the ages of 20 and 35. For many, they are city dwellers who feel the need to ” blow “came to woof [une pratique consistant à travailler bénévolement sur une exploitation agricole en échange du gîte et du couvert], especially in summer. But the collective also hosts artistic residences, or young queers coming out of psychiatric hospitals who come to rest.

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