Gay German Boy Marcel tells us about the gay life in Berlin

Over the past few decades, Germany has evolved to become one of the most gay friendly countries in the world.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Schöneberg in Berlin was famous for being one of the first ever gay villages with a thriving queer culture. Sadly the LGBTQ community of Germany took a massive beating during the Nazi era, either being forced to flee or coerced into concentration camps where they were persecuted and beaten, usually to death. Fortunately, since the 1960s, the community began a great renaissance as they started to rise from the shadows, starting with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1969.

Fast forward to today: Germany has started to reclaim its fabulous crown as one of the leading LGBTQ friendly countries in the world – a feat it once proudly held in the pre-Nazi era.

87% of Germans believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society

According to the , 87% of Germans believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society – the second-highest score in the world after Spain. In 2017, Germany legalized both gay marriage and adoption rights. In addition, it has an array of anti-discrimination laws and progressive transgender laws, making it one of the most trans-friendly countries in the world as our friend Finn Ballard explained to us.

Is it all rainbows and unicorns? We met up with the affable Marcel Danner in Berlin who was Mr. Gay Germany back in 2019. He told us what gay life is like in Germany as well as his tips for LGBTQ travelers.


Gay-o-meter: Registered partnerships: Yes (2001)Marriage: NoStepchild adoption: NoJoint adoption: YesMilitary service: YesAge of consent: 16

Pride parades: Germany has more than 65 parades, biggest are Cologne (July) and Berlin (June)Hotspots: Schaafenstraße in Cologne (Gay Capital of Germany), GMF Party in web:  , , Role models: Jens Spahn (politician), Hella von Sinnen (entertainer)

Population: 82,2 mill.Capital: BerlinGovernment: Federal constitutional parliamentary republicPresident: Frank-Walter SteinmeierChancellor: Angela MerkelReligion: Evangelical Church In GermanyLanguage: German

MR GAY EUROPE IN GERMANYOfficial producer: Mr Gay GermanyName of producer: Patrick Dähmlow


Germany gay marriage: Couple are first to marry under new law

Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende, a couple for 38 years, exchanged their vows at the town hall in Schöneberg, Berlin.

Registry offices in several German cities were opening, unusually, on Sunday to allow couples to wed on the first day it was legally possible.

Getting married will give gay couples the same tax advantages and adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

Germany has allowed same-sex partners to enter into registered partnerships since 2001, but these did not give couples exactly the same status in German law as marriage.

The German parliament voted to introduce marriage equality in June, after Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly dropped her longstanding opposition to parliament holding a vote on the issue.

Germany gay marriage: Couple are first to marry under new law

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Which areyour favorite places in Berlin to go for a gay night out?

Möbel Olfe in Kreuzberg is my favourite bar. It’s the first gay bar I ever went to so it will always have a special place in my heart. I love the cuddly pink fluffy bar called Roses, which is just around the corner from Möbel Olfe on Oranienstraße. Also, Bar Saint Jean in Mitte is another favourite of mine.

State of the Gay

While Germany can be considered a safe place for LGBT travelers, it is still important to familiarize yourself with the laws and overall culture of being out in a foreign country. Where Germany stands on gay marriage, adoption rights and military service may not impact your travel plans, knowing the issues will give you a better picture of the gay culture. It may even keep you safe.

City Guides

One of the best ways to experience Germany’s gay culture is to go to where the locals hang your destination from the list below to find area gay bars, restaurants, shops and hotels.

Coming Soon: Bremen, Cologne, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig, Munich, Stuttgart

Hidden Homophobia Is Germany Really as Liberal as It Seems?

A gay couple that was seeking to open a restaurant near the Bavarian town of Freying received an anonymous letter early last year. „Stay away. We don’t need people like you here,“ it read. Additional threats followed, including a faked obituary and an open, though anonymous, letter claiming that one of the two was HIV-positive and that there was a danger that diners could be infected. The restaurant was never opened.

Can a story like be really be true? In Germany of all places, a country that was last week enraptured by the coming out of former professional footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger and where it seemed like the entire country supported him?

Hitzlsperger made his announcement in the influential weekly chose the exact same headline, marking one of the very few times when the two publications have concurred. Everyone in the country seemed to be in agreement when it came to Hitzlsperger’s courageous step.

Yet the jubilation was so great that it at times seemed a bit too much for the occasion. A former football player came out. Is that really such a monumental event? Of course its progress when it is made clear that homosexuality exists in the world of football as well. No player the caliber of Hitzlsperger had thus far gone public with his homosexuality.

But the rejoicing sounded suspiciously self-serving and smug: „We are so amazingly liberal that we can even get excited about a gay professional football player,“ the message seemed to be. „Germany is so much better than Russia, where homosexuals are openly discriminated against, and superior to France, where hundreds of thousands take to the streets to protest gay marriage.“

One could almost feel the relief at the fact that the positive reaction to Hitzlsperger’s announcement was large enough to cover up the normal hostilities, clichés, stereotypes and discrimination against gays that exist in Germany. But they were there. Even as pronounced its „respect“ for Hitzlsperger, the paper’s columnist Franz Josef Wagner wrote in an open letter to the former German national team player: „Nobody thought that you are gay. You were athletic, a power-player.“ The prejudice was clear, even as it was hidden behind the admiration.

Wagner’s bias came despite Hitzlsperger telling that „it is pure nonsense that homosexuals are ‚unmanly.‘ One is confronted by this preconception again and again.“

While Hitzlsperger was being celebrated across the country, the main churches in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg announced last Friday that they were opposed to a plan to include lessons on homosexuality in the school curriculum.

This parallelism comes closer to the German reality. Another element to consider is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s strict opposition to adoption rights for homosexual couples. How great really is the cause for celebration in Germany?

Secondary school teacher Gabriel Stängle is likewise concerned about public school students in Baden-Württemberg. The 41-year-old, lives in the Black Forest and launched an online petition in November of last year that had been signed some 90,000 times by last Friday evening. His campaign is entitled: „Future — Responsibility — Learning: No Curriculum 2015 under the Ideology of the Rainbow.“ Stängle’s primary concern is what he describes as sexual „reeducation.“

Stängle is angry with the state government — a coalition of the center-left Social Democrats and the Green Party — which is currently developing an educational program for public schools which will include the „acceptance of sexual diversity.“ Students are to learn the „differences between the genders, sexual identities and sexual orientations.“ The goal is to enable students to „be able to defend equality and justice.“

Stängle sees this as being in „direct opposition to health education as it has been practiced thus far.“ Completely missing, he writes, is an „ethical reflection on the negative potential by-products of LSBTTIQ (which stands for „lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgender, intersexuals and queer people) lifestyles, such as the increased danger of suicide among homosexual youth, the increased susceptibility to alcohol and drugs, the conspicuously high rate of HIV infection among homosexual men, the substantially lower life-expectancy among homo- and bisexual men, the pronounced risk of psychological illness among men and women living as homosexuals.“

Most of the petitions‘ signatories live in the rural, conservative regions of Germany’s southwest and the majority wishes to remain anonymous. Some signed with handles such as „The Gay-Hater.“

Baden-Württemberg Education Minister Andreas Stoch (of the SPD) finds the petition to be „wrong and discriminatory.“ The claim that his ministry wishes to reeducate students is „completely absurd,“ Stoch says. „We want to educate children to be open and tolerant.“

Peter Hauk, floor leader for Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the state parliament, on the other hand, says he can „understand the fears.“ He is bothered by the fact that the state government has elevated sexual diversity to a „guiding principle.“ Education, he says, must be oriented towards Christian and Western educational and cultural values, as is enshrined in Article 16 of the state’s constitution.

The churches agree. Children and youth should not be influenced as they search for their sexual identity, reads a joint statement released by Catholic and Protestant churches in Baden-Württemberg. „Functionalization, instrumentalization, ideology and indoctrination must be defended against,“ the statement reads. That, of course, has long been the churches‘ strategy: avoid influencing people, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation. At least as long as heterosexuality was the predominant order of the day.

The well-respected Frankfurt-based sexologist Volkmar Sigusch, on the other hand, sees the Baden-Württemberg plan for its curriculum as a „long-overdue step toward educating children and youth about the cultural normality in our country.“ The issue of sexual diversity „badly needs to be (normalized) so that children can develop sexually in an atmosphere free of fear.“

It looks a lot like Baden-Württemberg is sliding into a culture war — despite the onset of the age of Hitzlsperger.

It’s a situation that has been seen before. During last year’s Christopher Street Day — the name given in Germany gay pride parades and events — the Baden-Württemberg government flew the rainbow flag over the state capitol building for the first time. But this show of solidarity with gays and lesbians went too far for the deputy head of the state’s CDU chapter, Winfried Mack. He criticized the move as „undignified and dumb“ adding that only the state flag should be raised above the capitol.

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more .

If I were a lot younger and met Marcel, I might be his Mr. Right. I grew up in the ’70s in the USA and there were classmates that made fun of me for being bad in sports. When AIDS came about in the ’80s, there were homophobic people saying „F*****s die of AIDS“ and „Vampires wouldn’t bite fags because they’d give them AIDS“. Lesbians are less likely than other people including heterosexuals to get AIDS but violence against them increased as well.

The things people used to say! So amazing to see how far our LGBTQ family has come since those days eh?

Is there was (or is right now) any changes at schools from your time period about gay/feminine people?

Very much so! When I was growing up in 1990s and early 2000s, Section 28 was very much law in the UK. This was a law passed by Thatcher in the 1980s which made it illegal for teachers to promote „homosexual content“! Not too dissimilar to Russia’s awful anti-gay propaganda law 🙁

Fun article and best of everything to Marcel. I would like to have a ‚hard copy‘ of gay news mailed to me. I’m of that generation who loves to read but I get tired at the computer. Better to relax with good coffee. Thanks

Thanks Tom. Sadly access to a printer is a challenge for us…!

Hello, Bonjour and Welcome to our travel blog. We are Stefan and Sebastien a French/Greek gay couple from London. Together, we have been travelling the world for over 10 years. Nomadic Boys is our gay travel blog showcasing all our travel adventures as a gay couple.

2. (2004)

After their most recent loss, a soccer team discovers its goalie is gay and casts him out. He retaliates by bringing back an all-gay team for a game to prove who’s better.

Director:Sherry Hormann | Stars:Maximilian Brückner, Lisa Maria Potthoff, Dietmar Bär, Eileen Eilender

5. (2004)

A close friendship between two crew teammates is tested when one slowly discovers he’s gay and attracted to the other.

Director:Marco Kreuzpaintner | Stars:Robert Stadlober, Kostja Ullmann, Miriam Morgenstern, Jürgen Tonkel

11. (1994)

Thrown out by his girlfriend from her apartment, Axel lives for a while with Norbert, a gay man he met some days before.

Director:Sönke Wortmann | Stars:Til Schweiger, Katja Riemann, Joachim Król, Rufus Beck

15. Men to Kiss(2012)

The gay couple Tobi and Ernie are being visited by Ernie’s old friend Uta. What at first looks like an innocent house-call, turns into an insidious attack on the couple’s relationship.

Director:Robert Hasfogel | Stars:Frank Christian Marx, Udo Lutz, Alexandra Starnitzky, Sascia Haj

17. (2009)

A young gay couple go on a camping trip, biking through the woods of Brandenburg. They have some mishaps along the way before meeting a woman and her teenager son on a farm.

Director:Jan Krüger | Stars:Sebastian Schlecht, Eric Golub, Iris Minich, Denis Alevi

18. (1996)

Christoph, cop and self-confident macho, has trouble with his fiance. After a long night he wakes up in the arms of Edgar, a good-looking, gay auto-mechanic. His live gets more and more … See full summary »

Director:Rolf Silber | Stars:Christoph M. Ohrt, Carin C. Tietze, Tim Bergmann, Oliver Stokowski

21. (2011)

A drama centered on the relationship between a two young men, as one of them navigates the difficulties of life as a transgender man.

Director:Sabine Bernardi | Stars:Rick Okon, Max Befort, Liv Lisa Fries, Felix Brocke

The Meaning of ‚Gay‘

Baden-Württemberg, of course, is not the only German state where such examples can be found. One need only look at how the meaning of the term „,“ or gay, has evolved over the years in Germany. Originally it was used condescendingly or even in hostile ways. Those uses are still around, but today gay is more of a neutral synonym for homosexual and is even used this way by openly gay men.

But there is a second development which has seen „gay“ come partly decoupled from its sexual meaning while still maintaining a negative connotation. An example from a schoolyard in Berlin: A student doesn’t want to tell his classmates that he enjoys reading books at home because such a hobby is considered „gay.“ Feminine or uncool is the meaning here, just as the word „gay“ can be used in English.

At the beginning of 2013, the city of Zweibrücken in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate published a calendar that was designed to keep young men and women away from drugs and alcohol. The slogan „sober (is) cool, drunk (is) gay“ was used. „This calendar is homophobia funded by public money,“ said a spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany. The city answered by saying that it was youth slang and was not directed at homosexuals. The calendars were destroyed, however.

There are further examples. In 2012, the Bund der Historischen Deutschen Schützenbruderschaften, a group that is comparable to a socially conservative fraternity in the US, banned its annually chosen „king“ from openly showing his homosexuality in a parade. The king’s partner had to walk in the second row while the king, the group said, should bring a woman „because of Christian tradition.“

There is also the case of Tanja Junginger, who had a temporary contract with a Catholic kindergarten in the city of Neu Ulm. After she came out as a lesbian, her contract was not extended due to her alleged „unnatural lifestyle.“

Furthermore, gay men in Germany are still not allowed to donate blood despite there being no medical reason to exclude homosexuals from doing so.

Are they all simply isolated cases? Of course German society has become more tolerant on the whole, particularly in large cities. When gay couples kiss at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, few take notice anymore. It is normal. But there remains a quiet, widespread and diffuse bigotry, and it is present in the political classes as well.

„To be honest, I still have a problem with complete equalization,“ Chancellor Merkel said during the election campaign last year in response to a question regarding adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples. „I am not sure when it comes to the good of the child,“ she said.

Merkel had voiced her discomfiture with the issue before. Then too, however, she failed to mention any concrete reasons for her unease. She is certainly not homophobic and she maintains a good and friendly relationship with former Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the first high-level politician in Germany to have come out as gay. It is likely more of a diffuse feeling that two men or two women cannot be as good at parenting as a man and a woman. The granting of full adoption rights for gay couples in Germany was not included in the coalition agreement she recently concluded with the Social Democrats. The SPD was in favor, but was not inclined to put up a large fight over the issue.

Merkel, of course, praised the coming out of Thomas Hitzlsperger last week. But, wonders Sönke Rix of the SPD, „What are Ms. Merkel’s praiseworthy words worth when inequality still exists? (German conservatives) should consider whether they should use the current debate to rethink their outmoded position. Political action rather than laudatory words are needed.“ She notes that the current coalition agreement certainly wouldn’t stand in the way. On the contrary: „The existence of unequal adoption rights for homosexuals is discrimination,“ Rix says. One could approach the issue on that basis, she continues.

German conservatives do have some prominent homosexuals in their party, such as the former Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust and the healthcare expert Jens Spahn. Still, Merkel’s government only extended tax benefits to homosexual couples of the kind available to heterosexual couples last year after being forced to do so by the German Constitutional Court. Skepticism of same-sex relationships is one of the last refuges of conservatism in Merkel’s party. It isn’t openly homophobic. But the words of the party’s former parliamentary floor leader Friedrich Merz said it best: „I have nothing against gays,“ he said „as long as I don’t have to participate.“ It is unknown whether he was ever asked to do so.

The debate about how homosexuals are treated is not solely about homosexuals. The issue has become a measuring stick for the liberalness of a society. Lobby groups, of course, are partially responsible for that shift, but there is a kernel of truth in the approach. How liberal a society is can be seen in instances where people are susceptible to discrimination. And by that measure, Germany’s society is far from being liberal to its core.

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All of Germany seemed to support former professional football player Thomas Hitzlsperger’s announcement last week that he is gay. But is German society really so liberal? Here, participants in a Christopher Street Day parade in Frankfurt in 2011.

German society has become much more tolerant in recent years when it comes to sexual orientation. But in contrast to major cities like Berlin, where this gay pride parade was held in 2012, bastions of conservatism and even bigotry remain.

Former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle paved the way for top-level politicians in Germany to come out as homosexual. But Hitzlsperger was the first prominent professional athlete in Germany to come out.

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, which is more conservative than German society on the issue of gay rights, has some prominent gay men in its ranks, including former Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust.

Mass-circulation tabloid Bild praised Hitzlsperger last week. But the paper’s columnist Franz Josef Wagner was unable to completely avoid homophobic stereotypes in his editorial on the issue.

Thomas Hitzlsperger played professional football in Germany, Italy and England in addition to playing over 50 matches for Germany’s national team. He retired in 2013.

50. The Children’s Hour (1961)

Old-fashioned and melodramatic it may be, but playwright Lillian Hellman’s tale of decent lives destroyed by idle gossip still hits hard. MacLaine and Hepburn play the proprietors of a prestigious all-girls school who are forced to close when an especially psychotic little brat claims she saw them kissing. Hepburn was sold as the movie’s star – she’s the dainty, glamorous one with the macho boyfriend (James Garner). But it’s MacLaine who stands out, as the determined bachelorette forced to face a few things she’s been hiding from herself. The supporting performances are stunning, especially Miriam Hopkins as MacLaine’s voracious aunt, and it’s lovely (and, even in 2015, unusual) to see a movie so dominated by women, with Garner the only guy who gets more than a line or two. TH

47. Pariah (2011)

Dee Rees’s Brooklyn-set 2011 feature is the story of butch African-American lesbian teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye) as she tries to deal with feelings that increasingly put her at odds with her family (check out her mother’s aghast response to things like Alike’s preference for boys‘ underwear). The influence of religion in the family’s life is also crucial – though that nice new girl at church doesn’t exactly turn out to be the straight-and-narrow influence Mom had in mind. Expanded from a short film with the help of executive producer Spike Lee. BW

45. Stranger Inside (2001)

Prison has been a perennial setting for lesbian drama of one stripe or another, from 1960s exploitation pictures to ‘Orange Is the New Black’. ‘Stranger Inside’ – directed for HBO in 2001 by Cheryl Dunye, but released to cinemas in the UK – stands out both for its consultation of actual prisoners, and for its rich evocation of aspects of African American identity seldom seen on screen. Treasure (Yolonda Lee) is a juvenile inmate who engineers a transfer to adult jail hoping to find her birth mother. Instead she finds herself navigating a daunting world of aggression, intimacy, religion, politics and an unforgiving pecking order. BW

44. Paris Is Burning (1990)

Jennie Livingston’s 1990 portrait of New York’s drag ball culture might be the most seminal LGBT documentary ever made. Initially a student project, it surveys with acuteness and sensitivity the underground scene that facilitated community and expression for many who were disenfranchised by their sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity and poverty. It also gave the world vogueing, as demonstrated by the legendary likes of Pepper LaBeija, Willi Ninja and Angie Xtravaganza, who are among the revelatory interviews. In many ways a response to mainstream pop culture, the ball scene in turn influenced it – from Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ to ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. BW

43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The first X-rated film ever to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, John Schlesinger’s sad, soulful portrait of a male prostitute trying to get by on the unforgiving streets of New York City may not raise that many eyebrows today – but its view of masculine insecurity and male companionship hasn’t dated at all. Tall, lunkish Texan Joe Buck (Jon Voight, in his best ever role) comes to the city with dreams of becoming a gigolo to society ladies, but gets more attention in the lonelier corners of the gay community. The film never puts a pin on Joe’s own sexuality, but the gay undertow is clear in his gradually tender friendship with scuzzy street hustler Ratso Rizzo — immortally played by Dustin Hoffman. GL

40. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The story, on the surface, doesn’t hold any obvious LGBT significance: it’s the simple fantasy of a country girl, Dorothy (Judy Garland), who encounters a magical land after she receives a bump on the head during a storm. So why has ‘The Wizard of Oz’ become an LGBT classic, even giving us the term ‚friends of Dorothy‘? Cultural theorists have spent many hours debating the answer to that question, with some suggesting that it’s simply a matter of camp and others digging deeper and equating the black-and-white conservatism of the film’s Kansas scenes to repression and even homophobia, and the colour and energy of Oz to being out and proud. Whatever the reason, somehow it just makes sense. DC

35. Pink Narcissus (1971)

Goings-on behind closed doors have always been part of the LGBT experience – including LGBT filmmaking. Throughout the 1960s, James Bidgood shot a series of no-budget luxurious fantasias on 8mm film in his New York apartment, featuring hot young thing Bobby Kendall in such guises as a sexy matador, a sexy belly dancer and a sexy slave boy. Strung together as the erotic imaginings of an idling gigolo, these gorgeously imaginative scenes were released anonymously in 1971 as ‘Pink Narcissus’. Their ability to quicken the pulse while retaining a kind of kitsch innocence made them an influence on French artists Pierre et Gilles, among others. BW

32. Edward II (1991)

Cast: Steven Waddington, Andrew Tiernan, Tilda Swinton

Derek Jarman’s typically eccentric spin on Christopher Marlowe’s 1593 play about the doomed fourteenth-century king (played by Steven Waddington) catapults the present into the past – not least by having protesters from the pressure group Outrage playing characters in the drama. In exploring Edward II’s sexual relationship with the unpopular Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan) – a rare example of a gay romance in the literature of the time – Jarman lashes out at establishment forces then and now. Jarman’s interest is more modern than historical, but he forcefully and playfully makes his point about homophobia through the ages. DC

31. Pink Flamingos (1972)

A lot of LGBT films ask mainstream audiences for sympathy, understanding, even pity. That ain’t John Waters’s style. In his delirious realm of bad taste, it’s the straights who deserve pity for their intolerably timid stifling conformity while the freaks live it up on their own grotesque terms. The apex of this sensibility is of course 1972’s midnight movie par excellence, ‘Pink Flamingos’, in which outsized drag legend Divine defends her title of Filthiest Person Alive by any means necessary. Cue sex, drugs, murder, cannibalism, fame and – how could we forget – the shit-eating grin to end them all. BW

26. Bound (1996)

On release, ‘Bound’ was taken to task by some sectors of the LGBT community. Here was a film centred on a lesbian relationship but directed by two male movie nerds, a product of the post-Tarantino irony boom in which a gay relationship was used as a shock tactic to make an otherwise traditional crime flick stand out from the crowd. But in the wake of Larry Wachowski’s gender transition to Lana, the film’s gender politics have been reassessed. Now ‘Bound’ can be appreciated for what it is: a heartfelt, quietly subversive, wonderfully entertaining thriller having a whale of a time flipping genre conventions on their backs and watching them kick. TH

25. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Michelle Williams

Imagine John Waters directing a teen take on ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and you’ve got a rough idea of this genius pray-the-gay-away satire, in which Natasha Lyonne’s pom-pom princess is sent away to re-education camp when her parents and friends suspect she’s a little that way inclined. The cast is flawless – Michelle Williams, Melanie Lynskey, Julie Delpy and RuPaul butching it up as a camp counsellor in a ‘straight is great’ t-shirt – and the use of colour is eye-frazzling. If you’ve not seen it, look forward to a night of pleasure. TH

21. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo

On the surface, Lisa Cholodenko’s sunny, heartwarming comic drama about family life doesn’t seem very unusual. There’s something familiar, even conventional, about its take on parent-teen tensions and infidelity. In a sense, however, it’s the film’s sticking to convention that makes it sweetly subversive: its portrait of a lesbian two-mum household in Californian suburbia demonstrates how any variety of family can fracture and unite along much the same lines. Also, who wouldn’t want Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as their mums? It’s a ‘love is love’ film made before the catchphrase took off, and a lot less mushy than that makes it sound. GL

20. Pride (2014)

In 1984, when the miners went on strike people got together all around the UK to raise money for the miners and their families. One of the biggest fundraisers was a group of gay and lesbian campaigners in London – who saw the harassment of the miners by Margaret Thatcher’s government as mirroring their own persecution. Calling themselves LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners), they set off from London in two minibuses and a clapped-out campervan to a village in South Wales carrying buckets of loose change raised in gay clubs. In 2014 that story was turned into the gorgeous, biggest-hearted Brit film ‘Pride’. CC

19. The Boys in the Band (1970)

A decade before he sparked outrage with ‘Cruising’ (in which the leather scene supposedly nudges Al Pacino towards homicide), director William Friedkin presented this portrait of a group of New York friends on the cusp of liberation. Set around a birthday party, it’s one of the first features dealing with gay life on its own terms, including copious boozing, relationship strains and lacerating self-recombination. It’s noteworthy for some electrifying performances, transplanted from the stage – playwright Mart Crowley adapted his own hit play – and location footage shot at Julius, now the oldest surviving gay bar in Manhattan. BW

16. Fox and His Friends (1975)

Cast: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Peter Chatel, Karlheinz Böhm

‘Fox and His Friends’ might just be the unstoppable Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s most lacerating, mordant and righteous takedown of postwar bourgeois hypocrisy (and Lord knows there’s some competition). The enfant terrible of radical German cinema stars in his own 1975 feature as a working-class gay boy who wants love, craves acceptance and happens to have won the lottery — the cue for his merciless exploitation by more savvy acquaintances. As well as being a trenchant case for class consciousness, it’s a bruising reminder that people can share your sexuality without giving a shit about your welfare. BW

6. The Killing of Sister George (1968)

Six years after delivering the 1962 Grand Guignol camp classic ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’, director Robert Aldrich was back at it with this towering exercise in macabre lesbian psychodrama. Beryl Reid wolfs down the scenery as June, an actor known and loved as sweet Sister George in a TV soap but in real life a boozed-up monster given to molesting nuns in taxi cabs. Her behaviour threatens both her work and her relationship with pliable Childie (Susannah York), yet Reid maintains our sympathy. The film includes scenes shot at real-life legendary London lesbian club the Gateways. BW

5. All About My Mother (1999)

Pedro Almodovar’s filmography practically constitutes an LGBT cinema canon in itself. But this rich, ripe, wrenching Oscar winner from 1999 may represent his most generous Valentine to the community. It’s also the ideal bridging point between the messy, manic high camp of his earlier career and his later, more refined embrace of melodrama and ‘women’s cinema’. Cecilia Roth is Manuela, a grieving mother searching Barcelona’s colourful queer scene for the transvestite who unwittingly fathered her late son. If that sounds like a lot, Almodovar isn’t afraid to overload his film, incorporating pregnant nuns, stage divas and the Aids crisis into a heady stew. It’s a film that finally celebrates the togetherness of outsiders. GL

4. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

For years, ‘playing gay’ was seen as a brave move for young male movie stars (what did Hollywood think: that straight women would get all confused and suddenly stop fancying their boy-crushes?). ‘My Own Private Idaho’ is the film that conclusively disproved that lazy assumption. River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves play a pair of rent-boy drifters on the streets of Seattle – and still the tweenies swooned and put their posters up on the walls. Gus van Sant’s film is dreamy, earthy and pretentious in the best sense, and both leads are impossibly beautiful. TH

2. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

‘We have come a long way,’ Hilary Swank said on stage at the 1999 Oscars, brandishing the Best Actress prize she’d just won for starring in Kimberly Peirce’s tough-minded but profoundly compassionate biopic of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man murdered for living his truth in the American Midwest. It sounded self-aggrandising to some, but Swank was right: Peirce’s film was one that opened minds and hearts to the concept of trans identity at the turn of the millennium, dramatising Teena’s identity crisis with unsentimental frankness and shivery sensuality. (The latter most present in an aching romance with Chloe Sevigny’s trailer-park dreamgirl.) And while trans activists continue to decry the casting of a cis actor in the lead, Swank’s bruised, many-layered performance remains astounding. GL

1. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

It made over £140 million worldwide, which means that Ang Lee’s muscular yet delicate cinematic interpretation of a slender Annie Proulx story will be hard to beat as the highest-grossing gay romance of all time. It’s something of a miracle that it reached such a summit – in addition to scoring eight Oscar nominations – without compromising the subtle, laconic sadness of Proulx’s prose. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the tragedy-bound love story as strapping sheep-herders in 1960s Wyoming. Lines like ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ immediately entered the all-time quote list. And to this day, no one can look at a flannel shirt on a hanger without getting misty-eyed. GL

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