Oscar Wilde knew what he was doing when he fled England to Paris. It was one of the safer places to be gay back in the day. While it took until 1982 for homosexuality to become legally on par with heterosexuality in France, when the age of consent was made the same, gays weren't persecuted as aggressively as they were (or are) elsewhere in the world.
In fact, the last, rare case of "sodomites" being punished for their sexual acts was way back before the French Revolution. It was 1750 and two young men were caught in the act, quite literally. The punishment?
Fast-forward a few years to the French Revolution and their crime was decriminalized – albeit too late for them.
But history is never forgotten. Late in 2014, Paris honored these two men, as Paris does, with a plaque on rue Montorgueil, where they were arrested. You can find it at the intersection of rue Montorgueil and rue Bachaumont in the 2nd arrondissement.
During the unveiling ceremony, Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said, "Remembering is never useless, especially in a context of a fresh outbreak of homophobia, whether it's verbal or on the internet," referring to recent reports of a rise in homophobic incidences in France over the last year or so.
Like many regrettable moments in history, the Holocaust, the Algerian War, and others, France isn’t entirely shy about acknowledging its darker moments. Commemorative plaques dot the city's streets, bridges, and buildings.
Fortunately, with marriage open to everyone and more equal treatment, France is on the road to recovery, more than 250 years after this execution. With few historical "gay" spots to visit in Paris, this plaque gives us something to acknowledge, and visibility is always welcomed.