18 Homage to Thomas Mann at the Berlin Gay Museum—June
19 German Green Party and Gay Federation Criticize Pope’s Views on Gays 6/05
20 The Pope and Gay Marriage–Readers Reactions to Pope’s Criticism 6/05
January 3, 2003
German TV set to screen gay Blind Date
A gay version of Blind Date is being screened for the first time in Germany. The episode of Herzblatt features Bielefeld bachelor Markus, 31. He has to chose between Andreas, 29, from Cologne, Patrick, 25, from Wiesbaden and Maik, 28, from Duesseldorf. Markus said: "I hope the fun factor is as big as the romance factor. After all, there is the chance of actually finding somebody."
He says his ideal partner would be attractive, faithful and smart. "My friends think it’s great for me to go public like that, and my boss even collects newspaper clippings about the show." The announcement of a gay Herzblatt surprised many viewers, since the programme is produced by the conservative Bayerischer Rundfunk television station. Host Joerg Pilawa says he considers the all-male version nothing extraordinary. "Fortunately, lesbians and gays are an integral part of today’s society. If our audience likes the show, we may consider a woman seeking woman version."
March 15, 2003
The Musical Canadian Boys of Germany–Edmonton singer fronts Marilyn’s Boys, hitting it big in Europe
by Sandra Sperounes
One look at the pop charts says it all. Boy bands are out. Except in Germany, that is. Marilyn’s Boys are so out, they’re in.
Led by Edmonton’s own Yves Steinhauer, Marilyn’s Boys are the first openly gay boy band to hit Germany’s airwaves. Their first dance single, I Give You The Stars, was released in January and is in high rotation on Viva, the country’s version of MuchMusic. The five boys – including one from London, U.K. – are now touring with one of Germany’s biggest pop stars and winning male and female fans across the country. "Germany is open," says Steinhauer, who moved to Munich in 2001. "It’s not conservative at all when it comes to those issues. (Our sexuality) is not that big of a deal." A popular gay boy band is not as far-fetched as some might think. Remember the Village People? How about Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the leather-clad Brits behind Relax and Two Tribes?
Most fans knew those groups were gay – or at least some of their members – but it wasn’t talked about or part of their strategy to sell albums. Even as late as 1999, Steven Gately of Britain’s Boyzone didn’t reveal his homosexuality until the group’s popularity was established. But with the success of TV shows like Queer As Folk and Will & Grace and new music acts like Tatu, Russia’s faux lesbian pop duo, it’s becoming more fashionable to play up sexual orientation. "For marketing’s sake, we wanted to be called a gay boy band," says Steinhauer, 26, who only came out two years ago. "I think it’s important, because often people wonder and with a lot of boy bands, there’s always someone who is gay but it’s a secret. With us, it’s open. But eventually, we want to be known as guys who can sing."
Steinhauer, who used to sing with choirs in Edmonton and Philadelphia, joined Marilyn’s Boys in August. Actually, he didn’t join. He was chosen through a series of auditions across Germany. "My roommate was dragging me there. When she told me about it, I thought, ‘What? I’m not going to go.’ She told me to do it for fun so, two days later, we went. I had no expectations. That’s my philosophy. I did my best, I had fun and they took me." He laughs: "For me, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my dancing. I have good rhythm but I think it was my voice. I can honestly say it was my voice."
Born in Luxembourg, Steinhauer’s mother died when he was eight, his father when he was 14. A year later, on a school exchange in Philadelphia, his host parents decided to adopt him and his older brother, Mike. In 1992, the family moved to Edmonton, where Steinhauer studied at Alberta College and sang with the Shiloh Mass Choir. "I consider Edmonton my home town. It was the first city I felt like I could settle in." Still, Steinhauer decided to forgo music and move to Munich, where he planned to go to translation school. Instead, he ended up joining Marilyn’s Boys, albeit reluctantly. "I was hesitant as well as happy. I didn’t know if it was my thing. But when the band was together and I saw the guys in the group, I realized this could go somewhere. Not to be proud or anything, but they picked the five best." His family is ecstatic.
His brother, Mike, still lives in Edmonton and designs book covers for NeWest Press. "Once Yves came out, that’s when it all happened," he says. "The whole thing is very funny and I’m very excited by it. You know those teeny magazines? I was in Munich and he was in one called Popcorn. I bought two copies." Marilyn’s Boys – named after Marilyn Monroe, of course – are now working on their full-length album, which could be released in North America. "It is a dream come true but I like to stay in touch with reality," Steinhauer says. "I won’t say I’m skeptical, but I like to be hesitant. There’s a couple of guys in the group that think we’ll be number one. I don’t think that way. I like to take it step by step. I’m definitely excited. My dream has always been music." .
SIDEBAR: Keeping The Beat, Out Of The Closet Marilyn’s Boys are not the first gay musical artists but they’re one of only a few mainstream acts to use their sexual orientation as a marketing tool. Tatu, two Russian girls who are billed as lesbians, are currently seducing North America with their single, All The Things She Said, and a sexy video which includes a shot of the two kissing. In the past, drag queens RuPaul and Divine also scored success. But other artists – including k.d. lang, and Melissa Etheridge – have been slower to come out of the closet. . Elton John, who is now in a long-term relationship with David Furnish, even married a woman for a few years to quell rumours. . In 1998, George Michael was forced to come out after getting caught with his pants down in an L.A. public washroom. He was charged with lewd content. He then went on to revel in his sexuality, mocking the arrest in the video to Outside. . Metal lord Rob Halford announced his homosexuality on MTV in 1998, a few years after leaving Judas Priest.
2 May 2003
Eastern gays seek Berlin refuge
by Ray Furlong, BBC, Berlin
The rainbow flag of gay pride flutters gently in a spring breeze outside the HT café in Friedrichshain, a hip district of eastern Berlin. Inside, the techno mingles with snatches of German and Russian conversation. It’s Tuesday night, and the Russian "stammtisch" is getting under way – a regular social event for Russian-speaking gay men. "If there was different public opinion in Latvia then I would go back for sure," says Vadim, an ethnic Russian from Latvia. "But at this point I can’t imagine my life there." Vadim says that at home only his mother knows about his sexuality. "Everybody in Berlin knows that I’m gay, but I would never tell anyone in Riga that I live with a man," he says.
The "stammtisch" is a German concept, a place for the pub regulars to sit. This event was also organised by a local, Kai Stromberg. Kai, a database expert, often travels to Russia on business and started the meetings to keep up his language skills. But he also points to a paradox–while gay men from Russia come here for the liberal atmosphere, they are often still afraid to "come out" – wary of reactions from the wider Russian community in Berlin, which numbers about 100,000 people. "They are often afraid to visit gay bars because they might be spotted by another Russian,’ he says. "But even if, due to their Russian roots, they are inhibited in comparison with Germans they are still definitely much freer. This is certainly not economic migration, as many politicians like to claim."
Model for emancipation
There are historical precedents for the large gay Russian community in Berlin. In the 1920s, when they were part of the wider post-revolution diaspora, it became fashionable for drag stars to adopt Russian pseudonyms. "The situation was very liberal at that time, so many gays and lesbians among the exiles found a new way of living here," says Karl Heinz Steinle from the Berlin Gay Museum – believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. He says Berlin now also serves as a model for gay and lesbian communities in former communist countries seeking to build up structures of their own, and that Germans are trying to help them achieve emancipation at home. "The first Christopher Street parade in Russia, in 1992, was financed by Berlin gay organisations," he says.
"Another example is the Campaign Against Homophobia in Poland, which is being built up with the help of the German Green Party." This Polish campaign points to the ongoing battle for public attitudes towards homosexuality in East European countries about to join the European Union. Jozef, a dance teacher from Slovakia, discovered he was gay shortly after coming here 13 years ago and decided to stay. Although Jozef says he does not consider himself an "exile" he stresses the importance of the small, everyday things that make life different here. "It’s no big problem to hold hands with someone on the street here in Berlin. But I certainly, certainly could not do that in Slovakia. I would be a bit afraid about how people react." Like Vadim, at home he has only told his immediate family he is gay; they would not like other people to know, he says.
July 2, 2003
Germany plans memorial to gay victims of Nazis
Berlin – Tens of thousands of homosexuals killed or persecuted by the Nazi regime are to be commemorated in a central memorial in Berlin under plans announced by Germany’s centre-left coalition on Wednesday. The Social Democrat-Greens coalition launched a motion in parliament to create the memorial in the Tiergarten park near the city centre with the support of the Berlin city government. ”The homosexual victims of National Socialism have so far received little consideration in the commemorative culture of the Federal Republic,” Green Party manager Volker Beck and SPD parliamentarian Johannes Kahrs said in a statement.
If approved, the memorial would be the latest in an often controversial series of German monuments to victims of the Third Reich, many of which, including Berlin’s still-unfinished main Holocaust memorial, have been held up by protracted disputes. The Nazis maintained a relentless campaign of persecution against homosexuals, sending thousands to concentration camps where they were forced to wear pink triangles to identify them and where an unknown number were killed. Their fate was highlighted earlier this year when the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington held an exhibition on the subject which travelled to a number of American cities.
1 August 2003
German gays condemn Vatican
Cologne – Germany’s Gay and Lesbian Association (LSVD) has condemned the Vatican’s attack on same-sex marriage, calling the edict "despicable". "These harsh words are hurtful to gay and lesbian Catholics in Germany who find themselves in contradiction with church law," said LSVD spokesman Klaus Jetz Thursday in Cologne. Under German law which came into effect two years ago, same-sex partners are permitted to register their unions with local authorities. While not granted full equality with married couples, these recognised partnerships have some limited rights, such as visitation privileges when one partner is in hospital. In a 12-page document published in Rome Thursday, the Vatican calls on Catholic politicians to voice their opposition publicly and vote against legislation that legitimises same-sex marriages. Pope John Paul II is said to be particularly concerned about the spread of legislation that runs contrary to the Church’s view of the family as "a monogamous marriage between people of different sexes". – DPA
7 August 2003
Catholic parish pays up for gay wedding
Neuss – A court in Germany Wednesday ordered a Roman Catholic congregation to compensate two gay men who were not allowed to hold their same-sex wedding reception in the church hall. Attorneys for the church said the congregation in the Cologne suburb of Neuss had been misled by the couple.
Only after the church had accepted EUR 300 for use of the hall for a "wedding reception" did clergy learn that the happy couple consisted of two men. Saying the Catholic Church does not recognise homosexual marriage, the parish priest refused to permit the event to be held. The Neuss court judge agreed that the church had the right to determine who uses its premises. But she said it had no right to cancel the event and then also keep the EUR 300.
November 13, 2003
Gay Nazi victims to get memorial
Berlin – Germany will build a national memorial to homosexuals persecuted and killed under the Nazis, complementing a memorial to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, a parliament committee decided today. Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.
Meanwhile, the president of Germany’s parliament said today that a company that co-owned the maker of poison gas used by the Nazis to exterminate millions of Jews would continue to participate in construction of the memorial. "We have decided to continue construction of the Holocaust Memorial, that is with all companies that have received contracts so far and have been building it so far," Wolfgang Thierse told reporters.
Work on the 15-year-old Berlin project was stopped last month after complaints that an anti-graffiti coating being used on concrete slabs was supplied by the Degussa company. Referring to Degussa, Thierse said that the majority concluded that companies involved with the memorial so far should continue "even if these firms are connected with the Nazi regime in the worst possible way." The bill to build a separate memorial to persecuted homosexuals in Berlin passed the lower house’s culture committee with the support of the governing Social Democrats and Greens, who also have the majority on the house floor.
The conservative opposition Christian Democrats opposed the measure. "Homosexual victims of Nazism have got too little attention in the past in Germany’s culture of remembrance," Greens legislators said in a statement. Architects will be asked to submit proposals for the design. Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after the Second World War because of the continuing stigma – and because the law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969.
The German parliament last year issued a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason the pardon took so long was because supporters linked it to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 military deserters, a move many conservatives opposed.
April 15, 2004
Gay Turks tearing down walls in Berlin Coming out can still be perilous, except for one night a month
by Deborah Cole, (AFP) Senior Culture Writer
Two men with black moustaches and muscle shirts dance cheek-to-cheek as a group of drag-queen belly dancers mount the stage. A rousing mix of Turkish, Arabic, Greek and Israeli music throbs from the speakers. "Gayhane (Gay Space)," the monthly party for Berlin’s burgeoning gay Turkish community, has grown so fast since it was founded six years ago that its venue in the diverse Kreuzberg district can barely contain the partygoers.
A winding line of lesbians, gays, transvestites and transsexuals outside the SO36 venue has become a fixture the last Saturday night of each month on Oranienstrasse, the main drag in Kreuzberg. Organizer Hakan Tandogan, one of the renowned cross-dressing belly dancers, says the queue out front is a sign that at least for one night a month, gays have an accepted public role in Germany’s large Turkish community. "If we were a few streets north or south of here, I’d have my face beaten in," said Tandogan, dressed in a revealing black lace number with earrings as big as saucers.
"Here, I feel free and safe." Over a vodka tonic at SO36 as the party was starting, Tandogan explains the battle he and other gay Turks have fought for acceptance. "In the beginning – we’re talking eight years ago – everybody led a double life," he said, referring to gays passing themselves off as straight, often in the context of a marriage, and living out their homosexuality in secret. "But the more there are of us who have come out, the easier it is for people to see they are not alone. Growing up, I thought I was the only one."
Tandogan is part of a growing number of homosexual Turks who consider Germany – home to 2.3 million Turkish immigrants – something of an oasis where they can live openly. The number of Turkish gays and lesbians in Germany who are "out" is estimated at up to 15,000. But the count of those still in the closet is thought to be far higher. Although there is a tiny homosexual minority in Turkish cities such as Ankara and Istanbul, gays who know the scene say the deeply conservative society considers homosexuality at best a disease. Many in Germany’s Turkish community – most of whom are descendants of guest workers who arrived in the 1960s – come from rural regions like Anatolia where being openly gay would be unthinkable.
Hakan Tan, a journalist who moved to Germany at the age of 14 and is still in close contact with his family in Turkey, said it was unrealistic to hope a predominantly Muslim country could match Western Europe in its sexual tolerance – yet. "You can’t expect Turkey to be as far along as Western Europe. The gay and lesbian movement has only existed there for the last 10 or 12 years. It’s all pretty new," said Tan, 37, who had his coming-out in Germany two decades ago. The German scene now has all the fixings of a community – websites, AIDS help groups, magazines and even its own float at Berlin’s giant annual gay pride parade.
But as rosy as things can seem in anything-goes Berlin, Turkish gays and lesbians say they still are hit by discrimination on several fronts. "We still face racism in the (gay) scene," Tan said, lamenting that Turks are often viewed as "pickpockets or call-boys." "There are still loads of gay bars that don’t even let Turks in the door," Tandogan added. He said Turkish gay men in particular are also often fetishized in the German gay scene, falling into the category of the "exotic lover" to be seduced but never considered a potential partner. And for many, there is still the threat of severe reprisals from relatives who learn they are gay, including violence, expulsion to Turkey and forced marriage, said Deniz Guvenc, a lesbian who works with a Berlin-based self-help group for homosexual Turks.
30 April 2004
German gay marriage laws strengthened
Berlin – Germany’s so-called gay marriage laws have been strengthened following a ruling by the nation’s federal labour court this week. In handing down its judgement, the court said that public employers must pay the same location allowances to homosexuals in registered in a life partnership (officially known an ‘Eingetragenelebensgemeinschaft’) as married. In their ruling, the judges indicated that they did not see a difference between a registered life partnership and marriage when it came to remuneration in the public service with the court accepting that a ‘Eingetragenelebensgemeinschaft’ also meant family status. A leading member of the parliamentary Green Party, Volker Beck hailed the judgement as a "big break-through".
The judgement followed a case brought by a male nurse who claimed the higher location allowances paid to his married colleagues. Like marriage, the court said, registered gay partnerships are a long-term relationship with their disillusionment requiring a judicial decision. Introduced in August 2002, the gay marriage law was an attempt by Germany’s Social Democrat-Green Party coalition government to bring gay relationships into line with straight couples.
Conservative lawmakers in parliament have refused to accept provisions of the gay marriage law, so that it falls short of equality with heterosexuals in some major areas, notably taxation. But it does provide key rights such as relating to hospital visits and taking over apartments in the event of the death of one partner. The law is also important for gay foreigners who wish to live in Germany. A piece of paper saying you are a part of an ‘Eingetragenelebensgemeinschaft’ can guarantee an unlimited residence permit (unbefristete Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and help with arranging a work permit.
24 July 2004
German opposition leader acknowledges his homosexuality–calls for more gay rights
Berlin – Gay rights could become an election issue in Germany after an opposition leader acknowledged his homosexuality for the first time and urged greater equality for same sex couples. In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, liberal Free Democrats leader Guido Westerwelle said on Saturday that gay couples should have the right to adopt any child and not, as in a law proposed by the government, only the legal child of one partner. They should also be entitled to the same tax breaks as married couples, he said.
Westerwelle has attended a number of public engagements in recent weeks with his partner and clearly implied he was gay in the interview. But he sought to play down the political consequences of coming out, a move Der Spiegel said could lead to a "clash of cultures" with the conservative Christian Social Union party of Edmond Stoiber, a potential coalition partner at national level. "I can’t do anything if people are happy or not about my life. I don’t know if my life will mean more votes in big cities or if it possibly will mean less in rural regions. We will never know that," Westerwelle said, according to a text of the interview released ahead of publication on Sunday.
Der Spiegel noted some CSU members viewed homosexuality as perverse and cited Stoiber once saying Germany could talk about devil worship if it put gay partnerships on a par with marriage. Germany has allowed same-sex partnerships with some legal rights since 2001 but they do not go as far as marriage. Draft legislation presented by the government this month will extend gay partners’ rights, but Westerwelle dismissed the proposals as half measures.
He said he had already made it clear to Stoiber that Germany’s advances in gay rights could not be reversed. "That goes also for the next federal elections (in 2006). The FDP will never back any political attempt to return society to the 1950s. On the contrary, we want to achieve more progress," Westerwelle was quoted as saying. The FDP held the foreign ministry portfolio from 1969 to 1998 in a variety of coalition governments and is most likely to seek the same ministry in any future government.
Germany’s next general election could come early should the ruling Social Democrats lose control of North Rhine-Westphalia state in a regional vote next May, Westerwelle said. Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit has become one of Germany’s most popular politicians since outing himself as gay just before running for office.
28 July 2004
Germany registers 6,000 gay couples
Berlin – Local authorities in Germany have registered some 6,000 gay unions under ground-breaking legislation that went into effect three years ago recognising gay partnerships, the government announced Wednesday. The announcement came amid moves by the country’s centre-left coalition government to expand gay rights to permit gay partners to adopt each other’s children. That legislation is expected to be enacted by the end of the year without having to be ratified by the Bundesrat upper house of parliament which is controlled by conservatives who oppose the bill.
The number of registered gay unions has declined in recent months pending passage of the new legislation, a spokesman said. Germany’s gay partnerships law went into effect on 1 August 2001, granting gay couples some limited rights regarding hospital visitation and joint property ownership but stopping short of granting them tax breaks enjoyed by conventionally married couples. Wednesday’s announcement comes amid a new debate about gay rights spawned by the coming-out last week of the head of a major national political party. Free Democratic Party (FDP) head Guido Westerwelle, widely tipped to be Germany’s foreign minister in a centre-right coalition government with the Christian Democrats, last week acknowledged his homosexuality. Westerwelle called for even broader gay rights, including the right for gay couples to adopt children who are not the offspring of their partners.
July 6, 2004
Today, over 100 gays and lesbians have taken part in a demonstration, organised by Maneo, Berlin’s gay emergency hotline and victim support. A petition with around one thousand signatures was presented to the ambassadors’ secretary in front of the embassy.
The director of Maneo, Bastian Finke, had the opportunity to speak personally to the ambassador, Dr. Andrzej Byrt inside the embassy. There he could explain to the ambassador the purpose and the aim of the demonstration, and make clear that the protests wanted to show solidarity with Poland’s gays and lesbians. Finke emphasized:“ It is totally unbelievable and not acceptable that a demonstration in which citizens of a European Union member state demand equality available to them by the laws of the EU, is affected so much by a radical right wing anti-demonstration, that it cannot take place.”
With interest the ambassador took note that Maneo would develop and support different initiatives to pave the way for an exchange with the official Polish authorities and the human rights organisation Kampagna. The protest was directed against the ban on the “Equality parade”, planned for the 11 th June, because of the comments of the mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, in which he labeled the gay-lesbian parade as “sexually obscene,” “a danger for the public moral” and as one that would degrade religious sentiments.
17 November 2004
Opening of the Permanent Exhibition at Berlin Gay Museum
We are glad to announce the opening of our permanent exhibit on Monday December 6th at 7 pm at the 19th anniversary of the Schwules Museum: Self-awareness and perseverance–Looking back on 200 years of Gay History Permanent exhibition at the Schwules Museum. We now can present an overview of gay history in Germany with a special focus on Berlin. Covering the period 1790 to 1990, the display will reveal the historic foundations of contemporary gay pride. In our new galleries of ca 250 square meters we show about 800 exhibits that are mostly from our own collections and also from Berlin private collections.
The permanent exhibition is being realized with funding from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin and the patronage of the governing mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, who will open the exhibit with a speech. The exhibit includes memorabilia about the female impersonator Bobby Walden, ca 1900, star photo postcard, Berlin, private collection. Also, Don Whitman, Friendship, 1950ies, photography, Berlin, private collection.
Opening hours: daily except Tue 14 – 18 pm, Sat 14 – 19 pm. Contact person: Gerrit Rohrbacher T +49-30-69 59 90 50 F +49-30-61 20 22 89 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (www.schwulesmuseum.de)
December 16, 2004
Gay retirement home to open in Berlin
A retirement home exclusively for gays will open in Berlin in 2006, the first establishment of its kind in Europe, its founders said on Thursday. The retirement home will be located in the west of the German capital in the Nollendorfplatz area, which is popular with the homosexual community.
" Around 110 apartments and 40 with medical assistance" will be available, one of the heads of the project, Hans-Juergen Esch, told AFP. The home "will enable us to live out our retirement in dignity with like-minded people and to organise ourselves in an active way," the founders said on their Internet site. " We will have a team at the ready to meet our needs in an active and comprehensive manner," they said. The establishment, where couples will be able to move into two and three room apartments, will also be open to transsexuals. Lodging will cost 400 to 800 euros (530 to 1,070 dollars) per month.
A health centre, terrace and apartment for guests will also be installed at the "Magnus-Hirschfeld House", which is named after one of the late pioneers of Germany’s gay movement. Building will begin in early 2005. According to Esch, Berlin is home to around 75,000 homosexuals and lesbians aged over 65.
January 24, 2005
Crowds pay respects to German designer: Thousands lined the streets to pay respects to flamboyant fashion designer Rudolph Moshammer. He was killed by a man who says the designer failed to pay him for sexual favors.
Thousands of people lined the streets in Munich, Germany, on Saturday to pay respects to flamboyant fashion designer Rudolph Moshammer. He was killed by a man who says the designer failed to pay him for sexual favors.Approximately 10,000 people turned out to watch his funeral procession through the streets of Munich to the cemetery, with many onlookers throwing flowers at the hearse, the BBC reported. The procession, which was televised, stopped for a moment of silence in front of the designer’s
boutique.Moshammer, 64, was found strangled in his Munich villa on Jan. 14. A 25-year-old Iraqi man, identified as Herisch A. by the Deutsche Welle newspaper, has been arrested for the murder.The popular German celebrity’s designs were known for extravagance, and he created several costumes for Las Vegas legends Siegfried & Roy. He also designed clothes for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (news – web sites) and opera tenor Jose Carreras.Moshammer’s personal style included a dark bouffant wig and the constant companionship of his Yorkshire terrier, Daisy.
According to the German newspaper Bild, the designer left his Munich villa to his dog who may live there until she dies, cared for by his former chauffeur.
February 11, 2005
Berlin cheers gay porn documentary
by Erik Kirschbaum
Berlin – A documentary about the lives of aging porn actors that throws a harrowing spotlight on the gay film industry in Los Angeles has opened the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival to an enthusiastic reception. One of many films at this year’s Berlinale examining sex and pornography, "Cycles of Porn – Sex/Life in L.A. Part 2" by German filmmaker Jochen Hick takes its audience on a riveting journey into the world of low-budget sex films. It tracks a group of young gay actors hoping for stardom in their industry who live together in an apartment filled with omniscient Internet web cameras and contrasts their wide-eyed ambitions with three men now retired from making porn films.
A follow-up project to his heralded 1997 documentary "Sex/Life in L.A." that had a 15-fold return on its $30,000 (16,000 pounds) budget, Hick said he was hopeful "Cycles of Porn" would find even more buyers, including television networks in Europe. " We found that gay actors do it more for the adventure or to do something really wild because it’s ridiculous how little they get paid," said Hick. "By contrast, I think there are very, very few women doing porn films for fun."
The Berlinale, one of the world’s leading film festivals after Cannes and Venice, has made the vastly profitable pornography industry one of the major themes this year. A documentary "Inside Deep Throat" about the 1972 film "Deep Throat" that shocked many and is estimated to have grossed $600 million after costing $25,000 to make will be screened in the Panorama section on Sunday.
Hick won the Berlinale’s "Teddy" gay film award in 2003 for his documentary "The World of Rural Queers" that portrayed the isolated lives of four gay men in rural southwestern Germany.
MOMENTS OF HUMOUR
Hick, who got half of his $80,000 budget for "Cycles of Porn" from German state film board subsidies, said segments of explicit gay sex scenes may shock some viewers but that hardly anyone has walked out of screenings. Viewers cheered on Friday. Women and heterosexuals have especially praised it, he said. He has a less explicit version for public television buyers. " People say that once they’re into the film they love it," Hick said. "Women have told me they love this film."
Not without its moments of humour, as when actors are momentarily unable to perform as required, the film shows actors collecting their modest $150 per film paychecks. It illuminates a world where drug abuse is prevalent and men die young. " The percentage of those doing drugs is huge," Hick said. "You feel sorry for the poor film actors, but then you think ‘My god, you are old enough to decide what you’re doing’."
While Cole Tucker, a hard-bodied former porn star in his mid-40s, has found a new career in real estate, Kevin Kramer toils as a clerk renting videos rather than starring in them.
Bavaria State Seeks to Stop Federal Gay Adoption Rights
The state of Bavaria has filed a lawsuit in Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in an effort to prevent homosexual couples from being allowed to adopt children.
by Christine Böhringer and Markus Verbeet
When two Bavarian lesbians set out to start a family, they wanted a sperm donor, not a father. When they describe what the father did to help them have their baby, they call it "friendly assistance." Today their three-year-old daughter calls them "Mama" and "Mami." And under new legislation enacted in Germany at the start of the year, the two hope to finally obtain equal parental rights to their child. "Mami," who stroked her partner’s belly during the pregnancy, has filed a petition to adopt the child.
But then another man came into the picture, throwing a wrench into this modern family’s chance at happiness. He’s Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). His state government is taking a case to the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest court, in an attempt to reverse the new law, which permits homosexual partners to adopt children, as long as they satisfy certain requirements. The Bavarian officials are trying to preserve what they call the "traditional trinity" of the German family — father, mother, child.
Guido Westerwelle, leader of the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP), has characterized Stoiber’s move as nothing short of a "renaissance of narrow-mindedness." Stoiber, in turn, is convinced it is his duty to rescue the German constitution. For the benefit of the child, he says, the state should prevent people from becoming adoptive parents when their living situation "is incompatible with the guiding principles of the constitution and with the role of mother and father." In other words, adoption should be reserved for married people.
Ironically, single homosexuals are by no means barred from adopting children. German singer Patrick Lindner, for example, is crazy about his adopted son ("Daniel is like my own flesh and blood," he says). He and his partner, Michael Link, raised the boy together until they separated a few weeks ago.
Since January, gays and lesbians in Germany now have an additional option: If one partner already has a child, the other can become that child’s adoptive parent. This so-called "stepchild adoption" comes with a host of conditions. Among other things, the first partner must be the child’s natural parent, and the child’s other natural parent must consent to the adoption. In each individual case, social workers complete a study to ensure that the adoption will not harm the child.
Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber: Critics call his plan a "rennaissance of small-mindedness".
For these reasons, the new legislation will likely apply to only some of the estimated 10,000 to 30,000 children currently being raised by gay and lesbian partners. One possible qualifying scenario would be a situation in which one partner already has custody of a child from a previous heterosexual relationship; another would be one in which two women use a sperm donor to conceive.
"Even if one were to agree with the CSU’s erroneous belief that this type of situation is damaging to a child, the adoption doesn’t exactly create more damage," says Volker Beck, leader of the Green Party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament. Indeed, Beck and other supporters of gay and lesbian second-parent adoption are convinced that it can only be beneficial to the child’s well-being. After all, it gives the child a second person to exercise custody and, if necessary, be required to provide child support.
But the issue that’s at stake for the Bavarian state government is one that’s been at the center of a cultural battle for years. Should same-sex partners enjoy the same rights as married couples? The legislation the Bavarians are contesting is the penultimate step on the road toward equal treatment of homosexual couples. The first step came in 2001, when Germany passed legislation giving homosexual partners recognition and rights similar to marriage. The last step, of course, would be to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children with no blood relationship to either partner, something the Spanish parliament enacted into law just last Thursday. In Germany, the FDP has been calling for such legislation for some time. But the Bavarian government is staunchly opposed, and in filing its recent lawsuit it is attempting "to put a stop to the red-green (Social Democratic and Green Party) coalition government’s attempt to take the next step in allowing full adoption of children by same-sex couples."
One of the proponents of such further-reaching gay and lesbian adoption legislation is Nina Dethloff, Director of the Institute of Family Law at the University of Bonn. Professor Dethloff believes that lawmakers must recognize the reality that "rainbow families" are now part of German society.
But others remain skeptical. Wassilios E. Fthenakis, Director of the Bavarian State Institute of Early Childhood Education, sees "no reason to question the child-rearing abilities of same-sex couples," and he’s convinced that homosexuals are neither better nor worse parents than heterosexuals, just different. But Fthenakis, a psychologist, has reservations about granting full adoption rights to gays and lesbians, because the children of homosexual parents are still stigmatized by society.
Once again, it’s up the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to rule on the matter, even though the fundamental aspects of the issue have already been sufficiently addressed and clarified — not with the authority of the Federal Constitutional Court, but with the expertise of the Bundestag’s academic services department. According to a report it issued last August, stepchild adoption does not constitute "a recognizable violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which specifically protects families and children."
It’s safe to say that this wasn’t exactly the kind of conclusion the man who commissioned the report was looking for. He’s Peter Gauweiler, a politician and member of the CSU — the same party seeking the ban on the adoptions.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Homage to Thomas Mann at the Berlin Gay Museum—June 1st to September 5th 2005
26 May 2005
We coridally invite you to attend the opening of our upcoming exhibit: Applause – a must! Homage to Thomas Mann on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Exhibition from June 1st to September 5th 2005 Schwules Museum, Mehingdamm 61, D – 10961 Berlin
Opening: Tuesday 31st May at 7 pm
Press preview: Tuesday 31st May at 6 pm
As part of the museum’s homage series, the exhibition’s the curator Wolfgang Theis casts a critical but friendly eye on the life and work of Thomas Mann (06. June 1875 – 12. August 1955).
Thomas Mann’s attraction to his own sex was hardly a secret to the educated urning of that era. His novella "Death in Venice", which appeared in 1912, became required reading in the homosexual curriculum. Thomas Mann never lived out but rather sublimated his homosexuality. This cultural achievement would produce an extensive work rich in homosexual allusion and reference.
Above all, in times of social suppression his work would give reassurance to the homosexual identity. Standing at the centre of the exhibition are the diaries of Thomas Mann. This part of the exhibition celebrates the overflowing happiness that is produced by the late "fulfillment" of repressed desires. It depicts Thomas Mann bravely acknowledging a homoerotic passion that he refuses to hide from posterity. The diaries reveal his emphatic acknowledgement of his homosexual desires.
On display are exhibits from the estate of Heinrich Mann lent by the Berlin Academy of Arts. The German History Museum of Berlin has provided busts of philosophers and poets. The Film Museum of Berlin has loaned us photographs and posters from the film versions of Mann’s work. Further exhibits originate from the Monacensia Literary Archive and Library of Munich and from private collections.
The Museum is also grateful to the Fischer Publishing House of Frankfurt for the loan of valuable documents.
Speakers: Barbara Kisseler, state secretary for cultural affairs, senate for sciences, research and culture, Berlin.
Wolfgang Theis, curator and director Motive: Rinaldo Hopf: Thomas Mann – watercolor on book pages, 2005
Opening hours: daily except TUE 2 – 6 pm, Sat 2 – 7 pm Admission: ˆ 5,00, concession ˆ 3,00
Schwules Museum Ausstellungen Archiv Bibliothek
Mehringdamm 61 D – 10961 Berlin
T +49-30-69 59 90 50
F +49-30-61 20 22 89
June 8, 2005
German Green Party and Gay Federation Criticize Pope’s Views on Gays
The German Green Party and a major gay rights group have criticized a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in which he said gay marriage was “based on a trivialization of the human body.”
The Green Party and Lesbian and Gay Federation have broken the silence in Germany among groups that disagree with the Pope’s stance on social issues. Green parliamentarian Volker Beck said that Pope Benedict XVI’s attitude toward homosexuality was “marked by theological mercilessness and the haughtiness of the Pharisees.” Manfred Burns, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Federation, called Benedict’s remarks on Monday an “insulting sermon of hate.” Benedict had told Italian Catholics that gay marriage involved a “trivialization of the human body.”
“ Gay marriage is an expression of an anarchic freedom, which falsely tries to pass itself off as the true liberation of man… man is not just his body, and that which is biological, is not just biological, but an expression and fulfillment of his humanity,” the Pope said.
Continuing John Paul II’s mission
Benedict’s position is not radically different from his predecessor’s, Pope John Paul II: although gay marriage is theologically unfounded, discrimination against gays is also sinful. John Paul was the heavy target of criticism by the Lesbian and Gay Federation. It called on German bishops to distance themselves from the John Paul’s ideas on homosexuality in his last book, Memory and Identity, which the gay advocacy organization called “inhuman writings.”
Until now, German political groups have been careful not to criticize Benedict XVI publicly. Although many Germans disagree with his stance on issues regarding sexuality, public sympathy has been strong for Benedict, the first German pope since 1523. Since he took office almost two months ago, Benedict has not focused his speeches on sexuality, but rather on encouraging peace between nations and reaching out toward Protestantism and non-Christian religions. Those ideas are not controversial among many Western European Catholics; but in issues of sexuality, their attitudes tend statistically, world-wide, to be more libertarian.
une 10, 2005
The Pope and Gay Marriage–Readers Reactions to Pope’s Criticism
Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke out against gay marriage, calling it a “trivialization of the human body.” Germans criticized him for that and DW-WORLD readers seem split on the matter:
=I am a believer myself and no church is going to dictate to me that I must now suddenly be anything else but gay, because I was born that. I feel that anyone should have the right to be what they truly are and here in South Africa we at least have a constitution that guarantees that. Why can the world not allow consenting adults to live their lives the way they are — provided that it does not harm anyone and does not involve children? — Pieter Niemand, South Africa
=I totally agree with Pope Benedict XVI on gay marriage, and for that matter, Pope John Paul II, and every other pope since Peter. There is no moral or theological justification for the marriage of two people of the same sex. It is an anathema. Homosexuality is sin, just as fornication and other extra-marital sex is sinful. Marriage, by definition, is the joining of a male and a female. — Michael Murphy
=I believe that the Catholic Church is still in the middle ages. The world has changed and the church needs to change to align itself with what is going on in the world. I think gays should be allowed some sort of blessing/civil ceremony, if people’s reactions to a marriage are so strong. They should be allowed to adopt children. They just want what we all want, life, love and togetherness in trust and love. — Lee Ann G., US
=Any couple who want to marry should be allowed to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, religious and spiritual beliefs/practices, culture, etc. — Nicole Raisin Stern, US
=I fully agree with the position of the Catholic Church in the question of gay marriage. However, I don’t agree with the position of the Catholic Church regarding homosexual orientation. The Catholic Church believes that homosexual orientation is not a sin, I believe that homosexual orientation is a sin. But I also believe that homosexuals deserve to be respected in their way of life — that is that they should not endure unjust discriminations, and I don’t believe that banning gay marriage is an unjust discrimination. — Esteban Rodriguez, Costa Rica
=The more I hear of this Pope, the more I am considering becoming a Catholic. — Chuck Reichert
=I definitely disagree with the pope’s views on same-sex marriages and homosexuality. The Pope should focus on the real problems in the world and the real problems in the Catholic Church. I feel like the church using homosexuals as a red herring to distract us from issues such as the child sexual abuse scandals in the United States. The Vatican immediately silences anyone who disagrees with the pope’s stance on homosexuality and other social issues. The Vatican should discuss homosexuality and same-sex marriages rather than silence and bully those who disagree with them. Also, if the Catholic Church truly believes that homosexuals should not be discriminated against, then maybe they should teach tolerance and stop trying to block the Brazilian UN resolution that is meant to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. — Yasser Al-Saadi, Canada
=Pope Benedict is as wrong on this issue as his predecessors were in sanctioning slavery for a great many centuries. I am a Catholic but on this issue the Church needs to understand that the passages in Scriptures traditionally interpreted as condemning homosexuality are based on a pre-modern understanding of heterosexuality as the status of all people. — Thomas Murphy
=As a psychologist and philosopher, it is obvious for me that the right to marry will do a lot of good for many gay men and women, and therefore for the well being of modern societies. The words of Benedict show that no serious reflection has occurred among Vatican theologians, who have been repeating the same thing for decades. — Pierre Pelletier
=As a non-Catholic Christian I totally support the position of Pope Benedict on the issue of gay marriage. I do not care what non-Christian religions do, but acceptance of gay marriage in the Church is an intolerable evil. It is no less an evil than the acceptance of adultery, bestiality or any other sexual sin. God has set boundaries for us Christians and we have a responsibility to remain within those boundaries. This issue is absolutely not about mercy. — Charles Reichert, Canada
=I wrote a letter, in October 2000, to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation of the Doctrine and Faith, previously named the Office of the Inquisition, showing that a careful reading of the Official Roman Catholic Catechism could support Gay and Lesbian Marriage. Section 2349 of the Catechism quotes St. Ambrose, the bishop that converted St. Augustine: "There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others….This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church." Infertile married couples are allowed "conjugal chastity" If the Roman church permitted Gay and Lesbian couples to marry, they would be under the same rule. — Lisa Rodke
11 August 2005
Opening of new presentation: Elisabeth Leithauser (1914-2004), journalist
We cordially invite you to attend the opening of our upcoming presentation:
Elisabeth Leithauser (1914-2004), journalist
Biographical display in the permanent exhibition shown from 17.8. – 27.11.2005
Schwules Museum, Mehringdamm 61, D – 10961 Berlin
The Gay Museum participates in this season of commemorating the end of WW II by paying tribute to a journalist of the first hour, Elisabeth Leithäuser. In Summer 1945 she joined the Berliner Rundfunk, a radio station licensed by the Russians. Her decision, three years later, to switch to RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) was politically motivated. She initiated a political youth program, wrote radio plays, provided a forum for contemporary issues and especially women’s concerns. Leithäuser explored lesbian love from an early age and lived with women friends, though she married twice and had a daughter.
In the early post-war years she had several likeminded colleagues forming a discrete yet supportive network. In the 1950s while employed at the liberal daily newspaper Telegraf, Elisabeth Leithäuser had a regular column as Frau Renate. She also organized popular excursions that were featured in a book on the paper’s 10th anniversary. Essentially, Leithäuser was a non-conformist with progressive convictions. As a Young Communist she undertook action against the new Nazi regime and was tried in 1934 for high treason. Her group was acquitted thanks to a sympathetic police officer who supplied a false but favorable testimony. In Berlin, where she went to live with her girlfriend soon after the trial, the Gestapo still kept an eye on her. Their interest in her politics and involvement in lesbian circles prompted her to withdraw into strict privacy while working freelance as a secretary.
During the war Leithäuser attended lectures at university, but acquired most of her skills through learning by doing. A male friend introduced her to journalism and broadcasting. Aged over 50 she made a radical switch and led a psychiatric rehabilitation clinic. In the 1970s Elisabeth Leithäuser joined the women’s liberation and lesbian movement; later she welcomed the introduction of registered same-sex partnerships. In the last few years of her life Leithäuser was among those interviewed by Claudia Schoppmann for a publication on lesbian life in the Nazi era.
The Gay Museum presents an overview of the main stations in Elisabeth Leithäuser’s life through photos and documents. The display is part of the permanent exhibition, Self-awareness and Persistence – 200 years of history. It belongs to the basic concept of this exhibition that individual biographical components are exchanged at regular intervals to shed a light on homosexual women and men with a wide range of strategies and modes of living. Speakers: Claudia Schoppmann, historian Karl-Heinz Steinle, historian
Opening hours: daily except TUE 2 – 6 pm, Sat 2 – 7 pm Admission: € 5,00, concession € 3,00 Illustrations per request or at: www.schwulesmuseum.de/presse/elisabeth_leithaeuser Contact person: Gerrit Rohrbacher Schwules Museum Ausstellungen Archiv Bibliothek Mehringdamm 6- D, Berlin
11 October, 2005
HIV soars for Germany’s gay men
by Ben Townley,
Gay men in Germany are still bearing the brunt of the country’s HIV/AIDS problem, according to new figures. Overall HIV figures soared by 20% in the first six months of this year, according to figures from the government’s disease centre, the Robert Kock Institute. Gay and bisexual men accounted for nearly 60% of the new cases according to the figures, with the disease centre fearing the message of prevention is failing to reach a new generation of gay men. According to the statistics, men who sleep with men are now at double the risk of contracting HIV than those of 12 years ago, according to Reuters Health.
The leaning of figures towards gay men mean that men in general are more than 7 times more likely to contract HIV in the country, compared to females. And although there are warnings that younger men are failing to be hit by the message of safer sex, some believe the statistics point to apathy throughout the ages. The majority of those men living with HIV are now aged between 25 and 45. The numbers of new HIV diagnoses continues to rise across the EU, including both western and eastern regions.
Responding to what many HIV campaigners are terming a ‘crisis’, the German government has said it will look into new developments to target gay men and ensure the ever increasing rate of HIV is halted. "The German health minister considers this a serious development and says the rise in HIV infections is worrying," ministry spokesperson Dagmar Reitenbach said in a news conference, according to Reuters.
by Ben Townley
The design of a memorial dedicated to the thousands of gay men killed in the Holocaust was unveiled Thursday in Berlin. The memorial, which is set to be built in the coming weeks, was revealed on the eve of Friday’s international Holocaust Memorial Day. The design is the first time the German capital has an official memorial to gay victims of Nazi persecution, although memorials are already established in Amsterdam and San Francisco.
The German parliament approved the memorial in 2003 and a spokesperson said the construction would begin "as soon as possible," according to press reports. The memorial is a concrete slab that will show a video inside. It is likely to be situated close to the recently unveiled memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is to remember those who helped rescue people from genocides, primarily in the Second World War, but also in other mass genocides since.
The true number of gay men killed during the Nazi "final solution" is not known, since laws forbidding homosexuality were kept in Germany long after World War II ended. An estimated 15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps during the Nazi era, but some believe as many as 600,000 could have been killed. Unlike other groups, the ongoing stigma facing survivors of the camps meant few survivors came forward to tell their story. Those who did spoke of torture, beatings and many of those convicted being mauled by dogs.
12 April 2006
Lesbian and Gay Youth Meeting in Munich, September 2006
We, the community of gay and lesbian youth groups in Munich, will organise an international meeting of young Gays and Lesbians here in Munich this September.
For this purpose we are trying to get in contact with Lesbian and Gay youth groups.
http://www.365gay. com/Newscon06/ 08/080706germany .htm
August 7, 2006
German Court Refuses to Deport Lesbian to Iran–rules for Iranian lesbian
Berlin – A German court said Monday that it has ruled that an Iranian lesbian cannot be deported to her homeland because she risks facing punishment there for her sexual orientation. The 27-year-old woman, whose name was not released, traveled to Germany in September 2003 and applied for asylum. The woman argued that she felt excluded from society in the Islamic republic and wanted to "live out her homosexuality openly without having to fear persecution, " the Stuttgart administrative court said.
The court found that the chance of "disproportionate or discriminatory punishment of a homosexual relationship between women is very high in Iran … because such a relationship is an absolute breaking of taboos, even worse than between men." It argued that the plaintiff also risked punishment for her refusal to wear a head scarf.
September 17, 2006
Berlin Gay Mayor Swept Back Into Office
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Berlin – Berlin’s openly gay mayor had little difficult retaining office Sunday. Klaus Wowereit and the Social Democrats won 31.4 percent of the vote, ensuring the party will remain in control. The win is credited directly to Wowereit. Under the Social Democrats both unemployment and the city’s debt have skyrocketed. The jobless rate in Berlin is move 17 percent and the city owes nearly $70 billion. Nevertheless, Wowereit’s personal popularity has remained high.
Going into this weekend’s election almost 60 percent of Berliners in a recent poll said they supported Wowereit as mayor, while just over 20 per cent backed conservative candidate, Friedbert Pflueger. Almost an unknown when he was selected by the party to fill the mayoralty in 2001 he captured the hearts of Berliners when he came out and declared at a party convention that year "I am gay, and that’s a good thing." The revelation shocked some party members but did little to influence voters one way or the other. Since then he has characterized himself as the politician who is gay rather than the gay politician.
While his popularity gained strength in Berlin the Social Democrats have dropped nationally and lost the chancelorship. Many now within the party are looking at Wowereit as a future leader. Wowereit is seen as a consensus builder who can unite the various factions of German politics.
Of his ambitions for the future he’s playing his cards close to the vest, but acknowledged in a recent interview in the news magazine Stern that "I would like to have more say than I have had in the last five years." But if he does have his sites on federal politics he’ll have to wait until party leader Kurt Beck, who has little public recognition, bows out or is pushed out. If he were to become chancellor it would make Wowereit the fist openly gay man to lead a country in modern times.
September 19, 2006
Is Germany Ready for a Gay Chancellor?
by David Crossland
Berlin’s popular gay Mayor Klaus Wowereit has become a more powerful force in German politics since he was re-elected on Sunday. Berliners like him because he embodies the city’s tolerant and cosmopolitan image. Media commentators are now speculating that he could even become chancellor one day. But the country’s homosexual lobby group has its doubts.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit (r) hugged his partner Jörn Kubicki after initial results showed he had won re-election on Sunday.
Embracing your wife or husband for the cameras after winning an election is standard procedure for politicians, just like kissing babies. It was no different on Sunday for Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit who gave his partner Jörn Kubicki a firm, fond hug on stage at a Social Democrats meeting as party workers chanted his nickname: "Wowi, Wowi!"
Conservative challenger Friedbert Pflüger had tried unsuccessfully to make political capital out of Wowereit’s homosexuality during the campaign, telling a rally: "Berlin deserves its own First Lady for a change!" The jibe didn’t work. Pflüger’s conservatives didn’t have a chance, falling 2.5 percentage points to 21.3 percent. Wowereit’s center-left SPD gained 1.1 point to 30.8 percent, winning him a second five-year term as top representative of Germany’s largest city.
His policies weren’t popular in his first five years. He cut wages in the public sector and slashed housing subsidies to tackle the city’s staggering €60 billion debt, and he failed to make big inroads into the unemployment figures, still high at 17 percent.
Yet voters credited him with enhancing Berlin’s image as a hip, tolerant, cultural city. He has wooed international film-makers to make movies in Berlin, and under his watch the city has increasingly become a magnet for artists, fashion designers, writers and high-profile exhibitions. Tourism is also doing well.
Wowereit, 52, something of a party animal who says he’s always in a good mood, often used to be pictured boogying the night away at society bashes. He has since tried to cultivate a more serious image, but that hasn’t stopped him from making guest appearances in the soap opera "Berlin, Berlin!" and the film comedy "Alles auf Zucker." He also regularly attends Berlin’s Christopher Street Day gay pride parade. For the last two years he has penned an official welcome to a fetishists’ convention in Berlin attended by thousands of leather and rubber-clad S&M fans. Conservative politicians said he was contributing to a "moral degeneration." But Wowereit dismissed the critics as "small-minded" and said he was happy to have more tourists spending money in the cash-strapped city.
Now, after his second election victory, "Wowi" has said he wants to start taking on a bigger role in national politics. His supporters claim he has the makings of a chancellor. Commentators say his re-election has undoubtedly given him more clout in the SPD, which shares power in a "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
Politicians’ private lives no big deal
German media are already speculating about the prospect of a homosexual at the helm of Germany. "Will Wowi Be the First Gay Chancellor?" asked mass circulation daily Bild in a banner headline on Tuesday. It’s true that homosexuality isn’t a big deal in German politics. Wowereit sailed into office in 2001 despite outing himself during the campaign with the phrase: "I’m gay and that’s a good thing!" The mayor of the northern port of Hamburg, conservative Ole von Beust, is gay, as is the leader of the opposition liberal Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle.
German voters are less interested in their politicians’ private lives than is the case in Britain or the United States. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was on his fourth wife and ex-foreign minister Joschka Fischer on his fifth, but hardly anyone batted an eyelid. Nevertheless, Renate Rampf, spokeswoman for the German Federation of Lesbians and Gays, has her doubts whether Germany is ripe for a gay leader. "It’s still a handicap. Many people wouldn’t want their political leader to be gay," she said. "It would be harder for a gay man or woman to become chancellor candidate than a heterosexual person with the same capabilities."
Rampf said Wowereit’s emphatic and positive outing had contributed a lot to the general acceptance of homosexuality. But she said there was still a north-south divide in Germany with the liberal, Protestant north tending to be more tolerant than the conservative, Catholic south.
However, an opinion poll published earlier this month suggests Wowereit scores well nationwide. Richard Hilmer, director of the Infratest-dimap polling institute, said the mayor had come joint first with Brandenburg Premier Matthias Platzeck in a national survey of how Germans assess the political work of the country’s 16 state premiers. "But how Herr Wowereit would score as a candidate for chancellor is a different question," said Hilmer.
Too soon for Wowi
Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said: "German society has been transforming itself for a long time now and prejudice regarding sexual orientation is on the wane. Besides, people still strongly identify with parties rather than people." He cited Merkel, Germany’s first woman chancellor, as an example of how the country has changed. She is Protestant, childless and hails from the former communist east, and still managed to become nominated as candidate for the western, Catholic, male-dominated Christian Democrats. And she got elected, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
Regardless of whether the European Union’s largest country is ready for a gay leader or not, the question is likely to be academic for the next eight years. At the moment, the SPD’s next candidate for chancellor in the 2009 election is almost certain to be its chairman Kurt Beck, a stout, avuncular bear of a man who couldn’t be more different from the cosmopolitan Wowereit. Yet he’s equally skilled at winning elections — although he does it with congenial back-slapping at wine festivals in his native Rhineland-Palatinate rather than by welcoming Hollywood stars and fetishists.
"Wowereit would get his chance in 2014 at the earliest," said Neugebauer.
September 23, 2006
Berlin’s gay mayor to retain power after vote
Berlin – Gay mayor Klaus Wowereit will remain in power after his Social Democrats captured 30.8 percent of the vote on Sept. 17, slightly ahead of the center-right Christian Democrats, who received 21.3 percent. The Left Party took 13.4 percent of the vote, while the Greens improved on their results from three years ago, receiving 13.1 percent. Wowereit, who is popular with voters for his fun-loving personality, said he expects to create a coalition government, Agence France-Presse reported.
"We have options,"” Wowereit told AFP. “"We are going to have negotiations with both [the Left and the Greens] to see with whom we can govern best for the next five years."” Wowereit, 52, has won praise for improving museums and other services, drawing more tourists than any European cities except Paris and London, Bloomberg News reported. His name has even surfaced as a possible Social Democrat candidate to become German chancellor. Lingering economic problems, a 17 percent unemployment rate and rising budget deficits continue to plague the German capital, however.
Bavarian conservatives move away from homophobia
By Joseph Zeitlyn
The conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the dominant party in Bavarian politics for years has for the first time acknowledged the validity of same sex relationships. The position is not whole hearted however with the party still not supporting same sex marriages or adoption. The spokesman for the party, Deutsche Welle reports, said: “the CSU wanted its new position regarding gay relationships to reflect today’s reality”.
The deputy party chief reiterated the party line of applying human rights arbitrarily on a radio interview, “We want to show that we respect the values which are lived in these partnerships” but; “that only extends to a certain point”. The statements however are a small step forward in comparison to the open homophobia stressed by previous generations of leaders. Bavaria under the CSU was the only state in Germany that took the issue of gay marriages all the way to the federal court in an attempt to block peoples rights to marriage.
Indeed it still blocks the right to marriage for same sex couples in official registry offices. The move towards slightly more tolerance could be compared with this countries conservatives; attempting to capture more of the centre ground with the CSU making significant losses in several big cities in recent years.