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The Man Who Made Magazines Gay
Gay magazines as we know them trace their origins to Germany, specifically Berlin, where a writer, editor, and photographer named Adolf Brand in 1896 founded Der Eigene. It was the first kind ever: a magazine dedicated to „masculine culture,“ man-on-man love, and the male physique.
Der Eigene took quite a high-minded approach to the burgeoning homophile movement, peddling poems, reviews, essays, and short stories by leading German thinkers like sexologist Ernst Bruchard, photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden, pacifist Kurt Hiller anarchist John Henry McKay, all the while making sure to keep things lively with nude pictures of men being men.
The name „Der Eigene“ translates to The Own, a catchphrase lifted from Max Stirner’s 1844 work The Ego and Its Own, in which Stirner argues that individuals can and should have complete autonomy in all aspects of their lives. To Brand and his colleagues, this included sexual relations. He wasn’t interested in dissecting or diagnosing same-sex desire, as some others were. Rather, he wanted to savor romance. Scientific arguments „took all the beauty away from eroticism,“ he said.
Der Eigene’s mere existence is a prime example of Berlin’s liberalism in the late-19th Century and early-20th. But even as he pushed social, sexual and legal boundaries — Brand was sued for libel after outing politician Freidrich Dasbach in 1904 and again in 1907 for doing the same to German chancellor Prince von Bülow, and the magazine was targeted by conservatives after running author Friedrich von Schiller’s poem „Friendship,“ which opponents claimed was obscene; a court dismissed the case — Brand himself wasn’t immune to familial expectations: he married a woman named Elise Behrendt, a direct contradiction to the magazine’s apparent mission.
But Brand’s vision lived on in others‘ work. He sowed the field that allowed fellow German Otto Bierbaum to found Der Insel, another gay magazine, in 1899 (it shut in 1901) and elsewhere Brand’s influence could be felt in Zurich, where publisher Karl Meier in 1932 turned a lesbian journal called The Friendship Journal into Der Kreis („The Circle“) one of the most successful and influential gay magazines in publishing history. Der Kreis was the only gay magazine to run during the Nazi regime and expanded its reach beyond the printed page by organizing homophile salons throughout Europe. And Der Kreis, the history of which is chronicled in Hubert Kennedy’s book The Ideal Gay Man, also helped launch the career of Karlheinz „Jim of Zurich“ Weinberger, a photographer whose denim-obsession just as seminal in the artful construction of masculinity as Muscles magazine and Bob Mizer.
Der Kreis and Der Eigene served as a template for the 1952 launch of States‘ very own One Inc. In fact, an advertisement for Der Kreis featuring „beautiful images“ of men part of the reason the U.S. Postal Service deemed One „obscene“ in 1954. While Der Kreis shuttered in 1967 and One wouldn’t make it to the 1970s, both broke down barriers that created a gay magazine market, and neither could have done it without Der Eigene.
This means of course that those of us who enjoy gay magazines owe a big thanks to a German man named Adolf…
Below some covers from Der Eigene. Above right, a von Gloeden photo published in Der Eigene in 1902.
Top 10 Best Gay Magazines In 2021
Maybe you’re a teenager who is still in the closet and for good reason. Maybe you’re in your 40s and this British guy called Dan Howell on Youtube just gave you the courage to come out to your supportive wife, who knew deep down that you couldn’t really love her back. Or maybe you’re a guy strutting around in heels and defeating the bullies because when they make the mistake of taunting you in your face, they discover that you have a mean right hook.
You are all in it together. Sometimes what any of us wants is just a sense of community, somewhere we belong. Let this pro LGBTQ and gay magazines remind you, whether they weigh you down while hidden in your backpack or give you giggles as you read them in a coffee shop, that the world has come a long way and it still has a long way to go. Here are the list of Top 10 Gay Magazines.
A Timeline of LGBTQ magazines 1897 – 2008
An historical timeline of gay magazines, from 1897 to 2008.
The word magazine is an Arabic term for storehouse. Although periodicals had been published before, it was first used to describe a publication in 1731 with advent of the Gentlemen’s Magazine.
Other magazines followed in the eighteenth century, coinciding with the rise of literacy – The Lady’s magazine and The Lady’s Monthly Museum were however only affordable to a small section of elite female British society. By the 19th Century, the target audience changed: middle-class women were the new readers of titles like the Englishwomans’ Domestic Magazine and Charles Dickens’ Household Works. The formula for a magazine included lengthy pieces of fiction as well as articles known as ‘improving material.’
It was not until the 20th Century, with the advent of cheap printing technology, that magazine publishing became a more commercial affair, with its main source of income from the advertiser and not the reader.
The first gay magazine, Der Eigene, was published in Germany in 1896. It was not sold on the market stand but could be obtained from listed sources and underground merchants. This mode of sale lasted until the 1920s when gay and lesbian magazines could be found in German kiosks alongside newspapers and mainstream magazines.
The publishers of Der Eigene, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and Adolf Brand, formed the world’s first gay liberation movement, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, in 1897.
In the English-speaking world, gay liberation took longer to take hold. The first gay magazine of consequence, One, was published in 1952 by the Mattachine Society.
In 1948 two books that would bolster the cause of gay liberation were published: Gore Vidal’s fiction The City and the Pillar – which argued that homosexuality was a normal impulse and not a perversion – and Alfred Kinsey’s ground-breaking study, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male – which showed that there was a discernible gap between the myth of heterosexual mainstream and the fact. Nevertheless, the late 1940s witnessed the beginnings of a moral panic in the United States that led to the Communist witch-hunts. The demonised figure of the homosexual was swept up in this hysteria.
Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in 1950 in the wake of a clampdown on homosexuals, who, according to a US Senate committee, lacked “emotional stability” and would “frequently attempt to entice normal individuals to engage in perverted practices.” Members of the Mattachine Society attempted to emphasise their respectability, for example, turning up to events wearing hats and ties.
One magazine worked to dispel these myths through a combination of articles by doctors and psychologists to the personal accounts of its members. Its focus was on public education and not political activism.
The first lesbian organisation, The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), was founded in 1955 with chapters in New York and Chicago. In 1956 its co-founder Phyllis Lyon became the editor of The Ladder. This was not the first lesbian magazine to be published in the US, however. That was Vice Versa, which was distributed privately in Los Angeles between 1947 and 1948.
At first the DOB cosponsored events with the Mattachine Society, but they quickly found the men to be condescending. There was no woman’s movement to speak of at that time, and they found voice for their concern in The Ladder.
As the 1960s progressed, the Mattachine Society and the DOB seemed out of date. The tone of the magazines in the pre-Stonewall era was apologetic. This was no longer right for the era, as was shown in the hard-hitting Los Angeles Advocate, which was first published in 1967 and is still running as The Advocate.
The Stonewall riots in June 1969, in which gay men and women hit back after a sustained period of intimidation by the New York Police, spelled the end of the era of the Mattachine Society and the DOB.
One had already closed in 1967. The Ladder published its last edition in 1972. As membership of the Mattachine Society fell away, a new organisation: unashamed, youthful, radical and uncompromising began to take its place – this was the Gay Liberation Front. Gay Liberation ideology consequently changed the tone and content of the magazines of the era.
The Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance were a far cry from the predominantly non-confrontational approach of the Mattachine Society. This was echoed in publications such as Fag Rag, and Gay Sunshine, which took a sexual liberationist approach; Gay and Come Out!, which reflected the militancy of the time; and Off Our Backs, the proactive lesbian feminist publication (not to be confused with the racier On Our Backs).
The only paper that tried to present a balance of gay male and lesbian representation was the Boston based Gay Community News.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Britain in 1967. The Polari lexicon used secretly in the 1950s was on public display in the BBC Radio drama Round the Horne. In 1971 the homosexual love-story Maurice, a work by one of the century’s greatest novelists, E.M. Forster, was published posthumously. Quorum was published in 1971 and ran to 1976.
In 1972 the Gay Liberation Front was founded, Gay News (which was published as a broadsheet newspaper) and Jeffrey were published, and the first Pride march was held in London.
The founding of Millivres Ltd in 1974 brought soft-core to the British market with the publication of HIM. Millivres has since gone on to dominate the gay market, and now publishes GT (formerly Gay Times), Diva, AXM and the Pink Paper.
Gay News was effectively sunk by an archaic blasphemy trial in 1976-1977, led by the ‘moral crusader’ Mary Whitehouse (a former headteacher). Founding the Clean up Television Campaign (later to be the National Viewers and Listeners Association), Whitehouse claimed to have the ‘support of half a million housewives’ during her glory years. At the end of the trial the editor of Gay News, Denis Lemon was fined £500 and sentenced to nine months in prison while Gay News was fined £1000.
After the trial Gay News stuttered along until 1983. It was relaunched in 1984 in magazine format as Gay Times. Diva was launched as its “little sister” in 1994. Smaller, alternative magazines for women such as Curve and Velvet Magazine also surfaced, as well as the gay and lesbian art’s magazine Square Peg.
The magazine with the largest circulation in the UK is currently Attitude, founded in 1994. The Northern and Shell Group published it until it was sold to Remnant Media in 2004. It was briefly in the ownership of Giant Clipper and Attitude Publications Ltd before Trojan Publishing Ltd purchased the “intellectual property rights” in 2008.
The major publications in Britain are now published by the adult industry.
In 1970 it was illegal to engage in homosexual acts in every state and territory in Australia. In that year the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) was formed. This was followed by the formation of the Gay Liberation in 1972 at Sydney University.
Campaign, the country’s longest running commercial gay magazine, was launched in 1975.
Australia had its Stonewall moment in 1978 when police arrested attendees at Mardi Gras. This provoked protests across the country and those arrested were released without charge.
From the 1990s the major magazines were mostly lifestyle ones, with a heavy emphasis on physique pictorial, such as Blue, launched in 1995, and DNA, launched in 2000.
The physique magazine AMG was first published in 1945. It was, under the guise of sport, the first gay soft-core, and preceded the more political publications in the US. The 1970s witnessed the rise of a more sexualised for the mainstream gay press but it was not until the 1990s, with the mining of the Pink Pound (UK), the Dorothy Dollar (US) and the Pink Dollar (AU), that this imagery defined the gay magazine.
In the UK this is shown in Gay Times, AXM, and the free publications Boyz and QX, all of which feature a high degree of nudity and advertisements for hard-core pornography.
The US publication Out was launched in 1992, and is similar to GT in that its coverage focuses on pretty boys, shopping, and clubbing. It does not carry hard-core advertising, and in this respect is similar to the British publication reFRESH (founded 2002).
The printed magazine has had to adapt in the Internet age.
The relationship between the magazine and its online counterpart has, nevertheless, not so much changed the magazine itself as it has added a dimension to it.
To get this relationship right, it would seem, is the Holy Grail of all magazines.
GT and Attitude have started sites that are Web 2.0 insomuch as they employ forums and user-profiles. The sites are, however, an addition to the magazine and there is no degree of significant interaction between the two.
The Advocate maintains a successful website because it highlights features of the magazine, maintains blogs, and offers daily news updates. The site supports and adds to the paper-magazine. There is nonetheless a clear dividing line between the two.
11 Gay, German Movies From 1924-2004
German movies from the Weimer Republic, East Berlin, and the 21st Century.
Germany has been churning out gay hits for nearly a century. Here, 11 gay movies, from the dramatic to the comedic, from the absurd to the touching, from the Weimer Republic to unified Berlin, straight out of Germany.
1. Michael („Michael“), 1924: Based on Herman Bang’s 1902 novel, Mikaël, and directed by legendary silent movie filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, this Weimer Republic-era picture, also called Mikaël, Chained: The Story of the Third Sex, ruffled a few feathers for its frank, sympathetic portrayal of a painter who falls for one of his male models, but mostly the critics were either too shy to discuss it or it went over their heads.
2. Die Büchse der Pandora („Pandora’s Box“), 1929: Actress Alice Roberts reportedly wasn’t keen on playing tuxedo-wearing lesbian Countess Augusta Geschwitz in this pre-talkie feature, but she did anyway, pulling off the role of a woman lusting after Louise Brooks’s Lulu, a woman on her way toward the end of her wits, and Jack the Ripper’s blade.
3. Mädchen in Uniform („Girls in Uniform“), 1931: While homosexuality was simply alluded to in the aforementioned flicks, it was on full display in Mädchen in Uniform, the tale of a boarding school girl who falls for her teacher. The movie, based on Christa Winsloe’s play Gestern und heute, was so influential that it was remade in 1958. It was such a big deal in the US when it came out that there was an immediate Broadway adaptation, and Irving Thalberg asked for more lesbian undertones to be added to the script for Queen Christina, starring Garbo.
4. Anders als du und Ich („Different From You and Me“), 1957: Not to be confused with the similarly gay 1919 movie Anders als die Andern („Different from the Others“), this mid-20th Century narrative revolves around rich kid Klaus’s affair with a lower-class peer named Manfred. Drama ensues. And drama also ensued when the picture came out — not only were conservatives displeased with the gay content, early gay activists were livid over an ending in which, spoiler alert, Klaus is „cured“ of his homosexuality. This clip shows Klaus mooning over his unrequited love. The entire movie, subtitles and all, is also available at YouTube.
5. Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers, sondern die Situation, in der er lebt („It Is Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But The Society In Which He Lives“), 1971: Perhaps one of the most controversial gay features ever to come out of Germany, or anywhere else, this mouthful of a movie and its portrayal of gay men as shallow, fashion-obsessed, limp wristed weaklings created such a stir that the videotaped criticisms from gay activists constitute their own short. It’s called „Audience Response to It’s not the Homosexual…“
6. Faustrecht der Freiheit („Fox and His Friends“), 1975: Iconic New Cinema filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed, wrote, and starred in this story of a gay man who falls for a wealthy heir.
7. Taxi zum Klo („Taxi to the John“, or „Taxi to the Toilet“), 1981: Frank Ripploh’s semi-autobiographical drama about a prim and proper school teacher with a hardcore after-hours sex life was groundbreaking and sensational for its time, and indeed remains a cult classic (and one of the sexiest gay films according to director John Cameron Mitchell). There’s also a 1987 sequel called Taxi Nach Kairo.
8. Ein Virus kennt keine („A Virus knows No Morals“), 1986: Released in 1986, at the height of the AIDS crisis, this musical uses comedy to address a terrifying plague. In this clip, the nurses use song to stress condom use and safer sex.
9. Coming Out („Coming Out“), 1989: There’s no need for translation to understand Heiner Carow’s coming-of-age tale set in East Germany, which — fun fact! — premiered the very night the Berlin Wall collapsed.
10. Lola und Bilidikid (Lola and Billy The Kid), 1999: Writer/Director Kutluğ Ataman had hoped to film this story of a young man trying to reconcile his homosexuality with Islam in Turkey, the main character’s family’s homeland, but he couldn’t shore up enough support. Thus, filming was moved to Berlin, where the movie actually takes place.
11. Männer wie wir („Guys and Balls“), 2004: No, this flick — which literally translates to „Men Like Us“ — isn’t a camp remake of Guys and Dolls, though that would be spectacular. Instead, Sherry Hormann’s rom-com tackles homophobia in sports by casting Maximilian Brückner as Ecki, a closeted soccer player who comes back strong after being booted from his team for being gay.
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The biggest gay publication in the Netherlands, which, since 1992, comes out every once a month, and is Amsterdam’s gay magazine. Gay News is entirely bilingual (in both English and Dutch) and is distributed in The Netherlands & Belgium. It’s Holland’s only independent gay publication. Gay News is unique for it’s mixture of serious to light editorial content, is informative, varied, and home to some of the well-known dutch gay authors and editors. Nowadays, Gay News is Holland’s only gay monthly.
Every summer the Pride Weeks are celebrated with the lesbian/gay city festival, CSD on the Spree and many other events. The highlight is without a doubt the annual CSD Berlin, where the streets of Berlin play host to demonstrations for equal rights but also to celebrations. This year the CSD takes place digitally.
Tips for gay Berlin
How the gay and lesbian scene in Berlin emerged
Back in the 1920s, Berlin had already become a haven and refuge for gays and lesbians from all over the world. There are 170 clubs, bars and pubs for gays and lesbians, and well as riotous nightlife and a gay neighbourhood. But parties aren’t the only thing being organised – several political associations are founded in Berlin to fight for equal rights. However, the Nazis‘ rise to power spells the death knell for this diversity, and it would take several decades for Berlin to return to its status as a global centre for the LGBTQ scene. Learn about how Berlin became a hotspot for gays and lesbians over the course of the 20th century, and how its scene attracted people from all over the world – and continues to do so today.
This is a GLAAD Media Award-winning monthly LGBTQ magazine with the highest circulation in the United States. It was first issued in the year 1992 and has since become one of the most popular sources of LGBTQ representation and entertainment. Hence, Out easily made it on our list of the top gay magazines. One of the most notable features is the Out100 list that recognizes and honors 100 LGBTQ community members who have been influential in the past year.
3. Gay Times
Gay Times Magazine is a monthly publication from the other side of the Atlantic and is an easy pick as one of the best gay magazines. First issued in 1984 from London, this magazine started out catering solely to gay and bisexual men but has since branched out its content to include the broader LGBTQ community. The contents covers ranges from entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle to individual stories and achievements. The magazine received a spotlight on the 1996 movie Beautiful Thing as a key plot element.
6. Hello Mr.
Next on our list of gay magazines is a different kind of pick, and one of my personal favorites. Hello, Mr. began as an Australian indie magazine in 2013 with the very simple yet memorable slogan: about men who date men. It then went on to take the world by storm gaining a big social media following, the magazine itself and the editor-in-chief then being covered by GLAAD, The Huffington Post, and even Out. However, in July 2018, they printed their last issue. Its 10 issues can now be found in an online archive on their website. A break from gossip and politics, the contents of this magazine include fiction, personal stories, and interviews, art and photography.
Another indie publication for this list. Unlike most mainstream publications, Gayletter actually started out as a weekly email newsletter in 2008, and then expanded to printed and online magazines in 2014. The stories they put in here are the true highlight. They have a very personal and relatable appeal. The entire publication is very thoughtful and, as the kids call it these days, aesthetic.
You might also interested in Best Wedding Magazines
Need a break from all the news about the uphill struggle for equality and diversity? Or are you maybe exhausted from attending too many pride festivals (who am I kidding as if that’s a thing)? Do you just need a very gay vacation? Well, this magazine has got you covered. Passport is basically a travel and culture magazine that caters exclusively to gay and lesbian tastes.
It has interesting features about not just great travel destinations, but fun things to do there – events often tailored for LGBTQ people. Everything you see in this magazine provides you with an immediate sense of calm as if just looking at pictures of a wine glass beside the ocean can actually make it real. One thing it does indirectly, and something to appreciate, is that it lets you know about international destinations that are LGBTQ friendly, especially helpful if the vacation you have in mind is of the romantic kind.
These gay magazines have been handpicked for our list because each has something fun and intriguing to offer to its readers. All 10 of these magazines are amazing in their own way and have tens of thousands of fans.
About Polari Magazine
Polari Magazine is an LGBT arts and culture magazine that explores the subculture by looking at what is important to the people who are in it. It’s about the lives we lead, not the lifestyles we’re supposed to lead.
Its content is informed & insightful, and features a diverse range of writers from every section of the community. Its intent is to help LGBT readers learn about their own heritage and to sustain a link between the present and the past.
Polari is designed to nurture the idea of community, whether that be social and political, or artistic and creative. It is your magazine, whether you want to read it, or whether you want to get involved in it, if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer.
Polari Magazine is all these: it’s a gay online magazine; it’s a gay and lesbian online magazine; it’s an LGBT arts and culture magazine. Ultimately, it is a queer magazine.
Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum*)
In Berlin’s Gay Museum you will take a journey through the eventful history of the gay, lesbian and transgender scene. The Schwules Museum*
Good to know for LGBTI*
Berlin has a long and proud history of inclusion. Practical information for LGBTI * visitors is available from dedicated organisations here
Founding of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee
The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee – the very first gay and lesbian organisation in the world – was founded in Berlin. Its founder is the Jewish doctor Magnus Hirschfeld. His guiding principle: “Justice through science”. His goals: freedom from persecution by the state and religious oppression, the fight for emancipation and social recognition. The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, remains the most politically influential association with its lobbying activities, its alliances and awareness campaigns, right up until the early 1930s.A column erected opposite Charlottenburg Town Hall serves as a memorial to its historical birthplace.
One of the first gay venues in Berlin, notorious for frequent raids by the police, had already been open in Jägerstrasse since 1885. In 1900, Magnus Hirschfeld is aware of six pubs known to be venues for gays and lesbians. By 1910 there are twice as parks such as Tiergarten, public baths and a range of railway stations traditionally provided places for many homosexual men to meet. These also included public urinals, facetiously known as “Café Octagon” in Berlin due to their shape.
Starting in 1901, the literary and artistic bohème gather in the Dalbelli trattoria on Schöneberger Ufer, where they hold evening lectures and cabarets. Among others, Peter Hille and Else Lasker-Schüler, Erich Mühsam and John Henri Mackay recite poetry there. This is also where Else Lasker-Schüler makes friends with Magnus Hirschfeld. Mühsam and Mackay start contributing to the “unique” from this point on.
The co-owner of the restaurant, Alma Dalbelli, continues running the business as the Como from 1905 on: it was Berlin’s very first gay wine bar.
Lesbians generally became involved in bourgeois feminism as a way to assert their interests and to fight for the right to their own careers and independence, as well as the right to political activity and the right to vote. Their ranks include feminists and suffragettes famous across Germany, such as the Berlin-based Helene Lange and Gertrud Bäumer, who live together as a couple.A number of lesbian women, including Johanna Elberskirchen and Toni Schwabe, take a pro-active stance and fight to become actively involved in the gay movement, arguing in favour of having their say in Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. Their persistence pays off when Toni Schwalbe is elected to the Chairmen’s College, the governing body of the committee, in 1910 and Johanna Elberskirchen in 1914.
The Scorpion, the first lesbian novel, is penned by the Berlin author Elisabeth Weihrauch in 1919. Furthermore, the first gay film, entitled Different from the Others (directed by Richard Oswald), is shown in Institute for Sexology, headed by Magnus Hirschfeld, opens in Berlin’s Tiergarten. It is a doctors‘ clinic and, at the same time, a centre for the gay and lesbian emancipation movement. Congresses and campaigns focussed on sexual reform make it internationally renowned. It proves to be a crowd-puller with its functions to increase public awareness and its museum on the history of institute stood at the site where the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the Cultures of the World) now stands in Tiergarten. There is a column not far away to commemorate it.
The gay and lesbian movement rapidly gains pace with the Friendship Associations and their local branches all over Germany, which are founded from 1919 on. In 1923, the associations are united under the leadership of the publisher Friedrich Radszuweit in the Association for Human Rights. The same year, he opens the first bookshop for gays and Berlin, around 40 venues open as meeting places for men – and increasingly for women as well. In 1921, there is an International Travel Guide to promote them – the very first gay and lesbian guide. A number of barkeepers join forces to support the movement.Magazines for gays and lesbians are available at public kiosks and in the venues: they include Die Freundschaft (Friendship), the Blätter für Menschenrecht (Magazine for Human Rights), Die Freundin (The Girlfriends), Frauenliebe (Women’s Love), and Das dritte Geschlecht (The Third Sex) for transvestites and transsexuals.
The competing gay and lesbian associations are united in their fight against Paragraph 175 (which criminalises homosexual acts). The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee had been filing petitions since 1897 calling on the Reichstag to abolish the special law against homosexual men. More than six thousand prominent personalities from the German Empire and, later, the Weimar Republic have signed the 1922, the gay and lesbian‘ associations briefly unite to form an action group to ensure their voices are heard during an upcoming criminal justice reform. The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee drafts an alternative concept that gained much attention, and in 1928, the criminal justice commission responsible decides to reform Paragraph 175. However, the hopes of newly-found freedom are soon dashed by a conservative government that is elected to means that the Berlin Police Headquarters at Alexanderplatz remains a credible threat of force despite its policy of tolerance towards the gay and lesbian scene. This site is now occupied by the Alexa shopping centre, with its size and colour serving as a reminder of the former red behemoth.
There are now around 80 venues for gays and lesbians in Berlin: beer-soaked dives and distilleries, bourgeois restaurants, wine bars and clubhouses, dance halls and dance palaces, ballrooms and cosmopolitan night-time bars. From 1925 on, large-scale events are held in the ballrooms in Alte Jacobstrasse and Kommandantenstrasse, or in the Nationalhof in Bü the manager of the Violetta Ladies‘ Club, Lotte Halm, along with several hundred of her fellow female members, helps shape major sections of the lesbian movement and entertainment scene from 1926 on. She unites her association with the Monbijou Women’s Club in 1928, which also includes transvestites and transsexuals, cooperating with the Association for Human Rights and constantly finding new venues for events.Numerous hotels and guest houses, beauty and hairdressing salons, tailors and photo studios, doctors and lawyers in private practice, libraries, cigarette and shoe shops, and even a car rental company, a travel agency and a distributor for potency pills advertise in gay and lesbian magazines.
A travel guide for lesbians is published in 1928: Berlin’s Lesbian Women. The author Ruth-Margarete Roellig describes 12 venues in it, all of which are located in the lesbian hotspot of Schöneberg. This includes the popular café and bar for dancing and entertainment, Dorian Dorian Gray opened at Bülowstrasse 57 in 1921. Every evening, there is a stage programme or live music to dance to, along with carnival costume balls and literary readings. The highlight of the weekend is the variety shows and performances by famous stars of the scene, including the dancer Ilonka Stoyka. Her portrait was even printed on the cover of the lesbian magazine Liebende Frauen (Loving Women) the end of the 1920s, the British author Christopher Isherwood arrives in Berlin to sample the pleasures of its liberal gay nightlife. His Berlin Stories were written during his time in Berlin, and would later provide the inspiration for the musical Cabaret. Another icon of queer life in Berlin in the 1920s is the singer Claire Waldoff, who also lived in Berlin with her female partner.
Following the seizure of power by the National Socialists and conservatives, a campaign is launched against alleged “public immorality” under a new policy of “national moral renewal”. In May 1933, Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexology is closed and plundered. The new police director in Berlin had already had 14 of the most famous gay and lesbian venues closed in March. Local police departments pass further prohibitions in the city’s urban districts. The gay and lesbian associations also feel coerced into abandoning their efforts.
The owners of the all-night bar for lesbians, Mai & Igel, are also affected by the forced closures, while the carnival costume balls for gays and lesbians held at the In den Zelten amusement strip in Berlin’s Tiergarten, which were also hugely popular among heterosexuals, are banned with immediate effect. The artists‘ bar Chez Eugen, known as Moses, feels the full force of the ban: thugs from the SA raid the bar and drive its Jewish owner into exile.
A period of disguise and retreat into private groups of like-minded people begins for gays and lesbians. There are still a number of bars, camouflaged as artists‘ bars, to visit, and despite police surveillance, raids and bans, new bars still open up, allowing brief moments of freedom to be enjoyed.Homosexual men are particularly affected by persecution. Following raids by the Gestapo, the first prisoners are sent to concentration camps from 1934 on. With the tightening of the anti-homosexual laws in 1935, the number of convictions has tripled by 1939. They result in the loss of friends, freedom, wealth and profession, and lead to marginalisation and social ostracism, ultimately making intimate life a source of trauma. Only a small number of those persecuted survive the increasingly frequent deportations to concentration camps occurring during the war. So far, the names of around 400 Berlin men who fell victim to the terror against homosexuals have been identified.
Rising from the ashes and defying the post-war austerity, gays and lesbians re-emerge, holding their first balls again in the midst of the rubble of the destroyed city from 1946 onwards. The organisers are flamboyant female impersonators with names like Mamita, Ramona and Cherie Hell. In 1949, there are more than 20 bars open again to cater to men and 15 for women. They offer a sanctuary and a place to socialise, and they encourage their customers to dream of a better life and fight for new freedoms. Many still have compelling memories of Berlin in the 1920s, yet are also traumatised by their experiences of persecution during the Nazi too is a legend reborn in 1947, with the transvestite bar Eldorado reopening and remaining open until the end of the 1960s.
A Berlin-based group from the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee was founded in 1949 to resume the efforts made by the first gay and lesbian movement. In 1950, the association was registered under its new name as the Berlin Society for the Reform of Sexual Law. It is part of a homophile movement becoming established across Germany. In Berlin, an Association of Friends was founded in 1952, and a new Association for Human Rights was established in 1958, in which Lotte Hahm – the Berlin woman who fronted the lesbian emancipation movement during the Weimar Republic – was also an active women are involved in establishing homophile associations, they are also a minority. They meet privately and in women’s bars, such as Ida Fürstenau in Kreuzberg, or in Gerda Kelch’s Cabaret in Schöneberg, with a venue called Bei Kathi und Eva opening in a laundrette in Schöneberg in 1958.
Venues for gays and lesbians are once again threatened by police raids from the mid-1950s on. Many men once again become the victim of state prosecution under the law against homosexuals, a Nazi law that remains on the books and has since been tightened. When the Berlin Wall is built in 1961, the divided city of Berlin loses its leading role, and its appeal, as the city of freedom for gays and lesbians for a decade to the gay and lesbian associations disband, the bar scene in West Berlin stands its ground. The number of bars increases, and by 1966 there are 28 different venues. Men continue to meet in Elli’s Bier-Bar, or go dancing in Kleist Casino or Trocadero. Chez Nous becomes an attraction in Berlin with its travesty shows. In 1963, Christel Rieseberg opens Club 10 together with her girlfriend in Schöneberg, which acquired prominence as Club de la femme and Dinelo. An intimate club and bar called Inconnu opens in Charlottenburg in 1966.
A new generation with a new urge for freedom loudly demands to be heard. As so-called Rosa Radikale (pink radicals), they reinvent homosexuality, understanding it as a political and anti-capitalistic promise of liberation. Rosa von Praunheim’s film, It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971) inspires the gay scene to establish new associations. This is the launching pad of the gay and lesbian movement.Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin is founded in Berlin in 1971, from which the feminist awakening emerges in 1975 with the founding of the Lesbian Aktionszentrum – along with the lesbian archive Spinnboden as an initiative for the discovery, and preservation, of female love. The gay bookshop Prinz Eisenherz opens in 1978. The first Gay Pride Parade/CSD is held in 1979.A new awakening is being ventured in East Berlin as well: the Homosexuals‘ Interest Group is founded in 1973. One year later, the transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf opens a venue for gays and lesbians that will later become legendary in her museum dedicated to artefacts from the late 19th century.
The Schwule Museum (Gay Museum) opens in 1985, followed by Begine, a women’s bar and alternative project. Both remain self-administered venues today. While autonomous and free spaces are coming into being, other initiatives are promoting integration. They are active in trade unions, political parties and churches. Choirs, sports associations and hiking groups add diversity and vibrancy to the scene in Aids-Hilfe is formed in 1985, and benefits from widespread support and becomes a new actor in the gay movement. In 1993, an opera gala at the Deutsche Oper marks the beginning of one of the most successful fund-raising events for Aids-Hilfe.
In East Berlin, gays and lesbians are able to emancipate themselves from 1983 on with the protection of the Protestant Church. In 1986, away from the church, the Sonntagsclub (Sunday Club) opens as a cultural space. It still exists today.
On the same evening as East Germany’s first gay-themed feature film Coming Out celebrates its première, the Berlin Wall falls: it’s 9 November CSD parades become more and more colourful and diverse, and much larger, in the reunited capital, and a high-spirited party accompanies the list of political demands being called for. The Transgeniale CSD is held from 1997 to 2016, an alternative event typical to Berlin at which a focus is directed at the political 1997, Berlin celebrates 100 years of the gay movement with an exhibition in the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts). Although the lesbian movement is largely neglected by this exhibition, no public protests occur (yet). A gay-lesbian reunification occurs in 1999: the gay and lesbian association is formed and tries out a new era of cooperation
The controversial discussion around same-sex marriage, which first started in 1992, becomes the topic of public debate in 1999. In 2001, it results in a registered partnership, before the right to marry is finally extended to same-sex couples in 2017. A run on Berlin’s registry offices adopting the colours of the rainbow and the word queer, new homopolitical alliances are being formed. Queer becomes a political agenda, and a new label for the LGBTIQ+ movement. Rainbow flags are part of the urban landscape, fluttering in front of the community’s businesses and venues, and flying proudly from the town halls in Berlin on the occasion of the annual CSD initiative “Berlin supports self-determination and acceptance of sexual diversity” is launched in 2009, showing the Berlin state government’s support for diversity and equality of Germany’s largest LGBTIQ community.
There are now 150 venues where events are held for the LGBTIQ community: cafés, restaurants, bars and a club scene that is unique in Germany. The range of services, shops, associations and entertainment fills a business directory of its own, which includes more than 1,000 30 June, Federal Parliament enacts a draft law by the Federal Council that allows same-sex couples to September 2017, a monument to the world’s first gay and lesbian emancipation movement, which was initiated by the gay and lesbian association, is unveiled on Magnus-Hirschfeld-Ufer, behind the Federal Chancellery. It is formed by six towering, colourful calla lilies – a plant that features both female and male flowers. It is a symbol of the diversity of sexuality and gender, and a metaphor for a confident, flourishing scene – a landscape that was first conceived of, put to the test, and made possible in the 1920s – when Berlin was a role model for an international gay and lesbian capital in which all queer people could find a haven and 1 October 2017 – a Sunday – the first gay and lesbian couples marry in Germany, including Volker Beck, a politician for the Green party, who marries his spouse in Berlin-Kreuzberg after a long fight to be able to say “I do”.
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