Gay Germany News & Reports 2007-09

1 German Boy Is Youngest Transsexual At 12 Years Old 1/07

2 From: YazBerlin 5/07

3 German Parliament Protests after Moscow Pride 6/07

4 Berlin memorial to persecuted gays 6/07

5 New documents reveal extent of Nazi persecution of gays 7/07

6 More Germans Respect Lesbian TV Host After Coming Out 11/07

7 Gay Nursing Home Opens in Berlin 1/08

8 Gay Holocaust memorial to be built in Berlin 2/08

9 Glad to be gay and grey in Berlin’s new old people’s home 3/08

10 Berlin Pays Tribute to Gay-Rights Activist Persecuted by Nazis 5/08

11 Mayor of Berlin unveils memorial to gay victims of Nazis 5/08

11a Interview with Klaus Wowereit Berlin’s Gay Mayor by Tim Pinckney 6/08

12 German Lutherans could elect first gay bishop 7/08

13 German court rules forced divorces for trans people unconstitutional 7/08

14 Gay Nazi victim memorial vandalized 8/08

15 Joy, and concern, over gay housing project 10/08

16 Gay political leader pledges to cut German aid to homophobic countries 12/08

17 Berlin memorial to gay victims of Nazis vandalized 12/08

18 City Of Temptation…Berlin 8/09

19 High court proclaims gay adoption legal 8/09

20 City Of Temptation – Berlin 9/09

21 Germany Has a Gay Minister — Yäwn!

22 Opening of the New Haeberle-Hirschfeld Sexology Archive in Berlin 10/09

23 Germany gives pension rights to gay civil partners 10/09

24 Exploring Cologne 11/09

25 Gay Games seeks contributions to fund athletes 12/09

January 30, 2007 –

German Boy Is Youngest Transsexual At 12

by Josephine Roque – All Headline News Staff Writer
Germany (AHN) – A boy formerly known as Tim, now called Kim, became the world’s youngest sex change patient at 12 years old. He had been diagnosed as transsexual by doctors and was given potent hormone injections to trigger the development of features such as breasts.

Tim had harbored deep feelings of claiming to be "in the wrong body" and rallied for the treatment. Now, Kim is 14 years old and legally registered as a female. She is said to look like a typical girl of her age who likes dressing up. Although not identified publicly, Kim’s father, called Lutz P., told the German publications Der Spiegel and Stern that as a child, Kim played with Barbie dolls, wore dresses and insisted that he was a girl. He said that Kim had been terrified when the first signs of puberty started to set in.

Dr. Bern Meyenburg, the head of a clinic for children and adolescents with identity disturbances wrote in his diagnosis: "Kim is a mentally well-developed child who appears happy and balanced. There is no doubt of the determined wish, that was already detectable since early childhood. It would have been very wrong to let Kim grow up to be a man. It is rare to have such a clear-cut case."

Dr. Achim Wuesthof, an endocrinologist specializing in children and adolescents, said: "To the best of my knowledge, Kim is the youngest sex change patient in the world." German law dictates that two independent psychiatrists must confirm a child’s transsexuality to approve a sex change. Legally, Kim will undergo the final stage of the transformation which involves the surgical removal of the male genitalia when she turns 18.

May 2007 –

From: YazBerlin

Turkish Lesbian, gays, bisexuals and Transsexuals/Transgender are arranging this summer for the first time a meeting which will be arranged every year from now on. This year “YazBerlin” (SummerBerlin) will be from June 18th – June 22nd in the association rooms of GLADT. We expect participants from all around Germany and Europe (including Turkey ).

All information about the meeting (including this years program and the signing form) are available on YazBerlins self made website: ( note: this website is no longer operational) (Turkish, German, English). For any other question you can contact the YazBerlin Team from Monday –Thursday: 030/26 55 66 33 Or any time: We would be very happy if many people could participate in the meeting between the Motz Street festival and the Berlin CSD. So we greatly appreciate if you send this email to other interested people.

For GLADT – YazBerlin Team

June 1, 2007 – Gay Russia

German Parliament Protests after Moscow Pride

German parliament president criticizes lawmaker’s detention at Russian gay rights protest Germany’s parliament president expressed concern to his Russian counterpart Wednesday over the weekend detention of a German opposition lawmaker at a gay rights demonstration in Moscow. Green party lawmaker Volker Beck has said police beat him and others and took their passports away Sunday, in what he said authorities called a "security measure." Parliament President Norbert Lammert, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, voiced "the dismay of the Bundestag," or lower house of parliament, in a letter to Russian speaker Boris Gryzlov, a parliament statement said.

The demonstrators tried to present a letter signed by 40 European lawmakers to the office of Moscow’s mayor, appealing at the city’s ban on a march they wanted to conduct. Lammert said that should be viewed as "free expression of opinion." He said he hoped a Russian parliament working group on the protection of minorities’ democratic rights would look into the case.

Marco Cappato, a European Parliament deputy from Italy, was also among those detained on Sunday.

4th June 2007 – PinkNews

Berlin memorial to persecuted gays

by Amy Bourke
A memorial to gay people persecuted and murdered by the Nazis will be complete later this year, the German government announced today.
The tribute to forgotten victims will be situated on the edge of Tiergarten park, near to a memorial for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

The memorial will take the form of a gray concrete slab, with a window to allow visitors to view a video. There will be two alternated videos which show either two men kissing or two women kissing. Originally, the plan was for a video of just two men, but that proposal drew heavy criticism from people who claimed that lesbians were being excluded. Its design echoes Peter Eisenman’s Berlin memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims, a vast field of more than 2,700 slabs.

The German parliament approved the construction of the memorial in December 2003. A statement from the office of the culture minister confirmed that the tribute "should be completed this year," according to Associated Press. Under the Nazi regime, 15,000 gay people were convicted as criminals and up to 15,000 were deported to concentration camps. Few survived. The laws used against gay people in Germany remained on statute books until 1969. But the German parliament of 2002 issued a formal pardon for any gay people convicted by the Nazis.

July 12, 2007 – Earth Times

New documents reveal extent of Nazi persecution of gays

by DPA
Hamburg – Thousands of marchers will be holding a gay rally outside a landmark department store in downtown Hamburg this summer, celebrating the fact that in Germany the mayors of the two largest cities, Berlin and Hamburg, are gay and that same-sex couples can form legally recognized unions. But few of these marchers will be aware of newly released documents revealing that the Gestapo staged a lightning raid on this very department store 70 years ago this summer, hauling off about 40 store employees on suspicion of being homosexually oriented. Many of those detainees ended up in concentration camps.

So gay pride in a number of cities in Germany means a mixture of jubilant parades and solemn walking tours for a new post-liberation generation of gay men and lesbians who are discovering a hitherto unpublicized dark chapter of Nazi persecution. After German unification, hundreds of thousands of case histories were released and historians have been sifting through them. Their findings are just now being published. And the findings have shocked even many historians who knew that atrocities had occurred, but were surprised by the extent of them. The Gestapo launched a systematic crack-down on gays in the mid- 1930s. They actively entrapped gay men.

The Gestapo created a vicious protection racket that allowed gay bar owners to remain in business, on condition that they handed over names of customers on a regular basis. Landlords were bribed to inform on tenants. If someone at work didn’t like a bachelor co-worker, all he had to do was to go to the Gestapo and suggest a sexual advance had been made, and the next day the co-worker would be gone. It mattered little whether there was any truth to the allegations. Everyone knew that Nazi ideology demanded procreation to produce a Master Race of blond and blue-eyed Aryans. Anybody who didn’t get married and sire lots of kids was already practically a criminal. Being a bachelor automatically made a man a suspicious character in Nazi Germany.

Paradoxically, and cruelly, gay men were offered the alternative of "voluntary castration" with vague promises of leniency. They would undergo botched operations that left them with oozing wounds. And they would still end up in concentration camps. The macabre walking tour in Hamburg starts in front of the city’s biggest and most venerable department store, Alsterhaus, on the city’s main street. English writer Stephen Spender described in detail the pleasures of cruising for "seafood" (sailors) in Hamburg port-side gay bars around 1930. It was also at Alsterhaus that the gay pogrom in Germany started exactly 70 years ago, in the summer of 1937. Gestapo men in leather trench coats entered the store during business hours and rounded up about 40 gay employees, who were hauled off in vans waiting out on the street – where this year’s gay pride rally will be held.

What followed was weeks and months of "protective custody" and transfers to mental asylums for "curative treatment" and eventual sentencing to concentration camps. Many were still wearing their pink triangle patches on their prison uniforms as late as 1946 – because post-war courts had upheld their Nazi-era convictions for "unnatural behaviour," despite the fact that all other Nazi-persecution convictions were dropped. Some men were still in prison in the early 1950s. The Alsterhaus department store raid was just the beginning. Raids occurred with growing frequency in the late 1930s.

The newly revealed documents show that the raids in Hamburg were repeated all throughout the Reich. In all, 54,000 gay men died at the hands of the Nazis in Germany, 7,000 of them in Nazi death camps. The gay historical walk through Hamburg takes you past one-time gay bars and gay-owned businesses, past the Gestapo headquarters and past a publishing house that specialized in gay magazines. With Prussian thoroughness, the Nazis documented every detail of the lives of those they rounded up. Those documents provide chilling insights into a hitherto unknown story. One of the most chilling cases was that of Carl Bruns and Heinrich Roth, a gay couple who ran an upscale men’s clothing shop in downtown Hamburg – right across the street from Gestapo headquarters. Bruns and Roth were arrested in 1940 and, after months of "pre- trial detention," they were sent to concentration camps near Hamburg. By some miracle, both men survived until the May 1945 when the camps were being liberated by Allied forces.

That’s when the final tragedy struck from Bruns and Roth.
Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army in early 1945, and the pictures of skeletal camp inmates shocked the world. In response, Heinrich Himmler issued an order to all camp commandants that they were to ensure that no camp inmates should ever fall into the hands of Allied forces. He didn’t specify what they should do, leaving it in the hands of camp commandants. Some commandants at Dachau and other camps, began gassing all surviving inmates so that none would be left alive. Others began evacuating their inmates. Thus Bruns and Roth were forced to leave their camp near Hamburg on a forced march to the Baltic Sea, 100 kilometress away, where the converted cruise liner Cap Arcona was at anchor.

This was in mid May 1945. Hitler was dead. The Allies were advancing on all fronts. Everyone knew that the war was over. All the inmates had heard the news. British forces had dropped leaflets saying they would be in Hamburg within hours. And yet these men were sent on a Death March to the sea. Stragglers were machine-gunned to death. Others collapsed and died of exhaustion. Bruns died along the way. Roth made it to the Baltic Sea docks where the Cap Arcona was waiting and he was herded aboard along with thousands of other inmates.

It was May 19, 1945. The British RAF was conducting intensive air raids to pave the way for ground forces, which were only a few miles away. RAF fighter-bombers had been told that Nazi officials were seeking to flee Germany aboard a big ship disguised as a refugee vessel. The RAF planes came in and bombed and strafed the Cap Arcona, setting it ablaze and sending it to the bottom. Those inmates who managed to dive into the water were either killed by the bombs and strafing from the planes or else were machine-gunned by Gestapo men as they tried to climb ashore.

A handful found shelter in reeds along the shore and were found shivering in the water by British soldiers a few hours later. The Cap Arcona had been the last bombing raid of the war in Europe. Schildt, the haberdasher from Hamburg, didn’t survive it.

November 21, 2007 –

More Germans Respect Lesbian TV Host After Coming Out

The recent announcement by nationally known TV host and former news anchor Anne Will that she is a lesbian has not damaged her image, a new survey showed. On the contrary, some respondents said they liked her more. In a survey commissioned this week by the newsmagazine Stern, 16 percent of Germans questioned said they liked television talk show host Anne Will even more since she announced over the weekend she was in a lesbian relationship. Only seven percent said she appealed to them less.

Will had appeared at a public event over the weekend with Miriam Meckel, a media professor who is also a member of Deutsche Welle’s broadcasting board. Posing for pictures, Will confirmed that Meckel was her partner and, all smiles, added: "We want to keep our private life private." Most of the people surveyed said they were indifferent to her announcement. Around two-thirds, or 64 percent, said they liked her just as much as before. Over 500 people were polled.

Both are media-savvy Will hosts a prime-time political talk show on German public broadcaster ARD. The 41-year-old is also the former news anchor of "Tagesthemen," ARD’s premier newscast. She and Meckel, who is 40, have appeared at public events together for the past five years, but have never spoken about their relationship in public. Meckel is also a TV host, for a commercial broadcaster, and from 2001 to 2002 was state secretary for media and government spokeswoman for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. She is currently the director of the Institute for Media and Communication at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

21st January 2008 – PinkNews

Gay nursing home opens in Germany

by Gemma Pritchard
Europe’s first gay nursing home has opened in Berlin. Berlin’s gay mayor Klaus Wowereit is publicly supporting the ground-breaking project, which culminates years of planning and fund-raising. The newly built, four-storey nursing facility in the Pankow district of the German capital can accommodate 28 patients in state-of-the-art rooms with private bathrooms and enough space for some of their own furnishings.

"The idea was first proposed at the Gay and Grey Forum in Cologne in 1995 and we began drafting plans in 2001, and it is truly amazing that it has taken all these years to become a reality," Christian Hamm, a Berlin-based architect and nursing home board member told DPA. "So we are even more pleased and proud that we have finally been able to open Europe’s first full-service nursing facility for elderly gays and lesbians."

Furnishings and decor are very important in a gay environment, says Hamm. "When you are old, the last thing that you want to do is to have to hide. And you certainly don’t want to give up your identity and live in some hostile environment, possibly sharing a room with someone who despises you." Hamm and his associates in Berlin have ambitious plans not only for the nursing home but also for an assisted-care retirement centre specifically for homosexuals, a place that will allow gays to grow old surrounded by other gays.

The nursing-care facility is just part of a $10,000,000 (£5, 120, 590) old-age complex which will one day offer residents spacious apartments, a café and function room facilities. In addition, the post-modern design by Christian Hamm envisions a health-care centre with physicians, therapists and a wellness gym is also incorporated into the plan. Potential residents are already signing up and have expressed delight at the prospect of living out their twilight years in a gay- friendly environment.

"I wouldn’t like to be in a heterosexual environment all the time," one applicant told DPA. "Elderly people like to talk about their children and their grandchildren, for instance. A large number of homosexuals do not have children and find it hard to join in. For us, talking about the grandkids is awkward." In the mid 1990s it seemed homosexuality had been generally accepted in Germany. But surveys revealed that many social workers did have a problem with it, particularly in former East Germany, where homosexuality was discounted as a "symptom of decadent capitalist imperialism." Researchers were shocked to find that directors of senior homes said things like: "There is no homosexuality here."

The turn came only after 2001, when the centre-left government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder enacted gay-union legislation which gave homosexual couples many of the same rights and privileges as married couples. The idea for a gay old-age home came from Hamm, 45. A long-time gay activist, Hamm says the greying generation of older gays in Germany have find themselves alone.

"They have no children or grandchildren," he says, "and as they grow older they find themselves with no close relatives to support them when they are no longer able to take care of themselves." Mayor Wowereit, 54, who was elected in June 2001 after telling Berlin voters, "I’m gay and that’s good," has actively supported the project and says it dovetails into his vision of Berlin. "Berlin is a gay-friendly city, a city of tolerance," the mayor says. "And I represent our city with this message. Berlin has the biggest gay and lesbian scene in Germany and we welcome gays of all ages."

4th February 2008 – PinkNews

Gay Holocaust memorial to be built in Berlin

by staff writer
A multi-media memorial to the thousands of gay men who died in Nazi concentration camps should be ready in a matter of months. It is being constructed opposite the main Holocaust memorial for Jewish victims in Tiergarten Park in Berlin at a cost of 600,000 euros (£450,000). The government agreed to the design last week, four years after the memorial was agreed in principle. Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen have designed a grey concrete slab, with a window to allow visitors to view a video.

There will be two alternated videos which show either two men kissing or two women kissing. Originally, the plan was for a video of just two men, but that proposal drew heavy criticism from people who claimed that lesbians were being excluded. Its design echoes Peter Eisenman’s Berlin memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims, a vast field of more than 2,700 slabs. The German parliament approved the construction of the memorial in December 2003.

Between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were held in concentration camps by the Nazis as members of an "anti-social group." Historians estimate that 60% of them died while incarcerated. After the war gay men were not recognised as victims of the Holocaust and many were re-imprisoned by the authorities because of the sexuality. They were denied the reparations and state pensions available to other groups. In 2002 the German government formally pardoned homosexuals imprisoned by the Nazis. As well as an estimated six million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Roma people died in Nazi concentration camps.

A memorial to them will be constructed later this year.

March 17 2008 – The Guardian

Glad to be gay and grey in Berlin’s new old people’s home

by Jess Smee
A fluffy yellow bedspread is severely tucked around the hospital-style bed, there’s a wheelchair-accessible shower and a token pot plant. At first glance, the Asta Nielsen Haus in Berlin looks like the average old people’s home. But this is a pioneering facility – the first in Europe to cater exclusively for gays and lesbians.

"We just want people to be able to speak freely of their pasts. They shouldn’t have to worry about reactions or prejudices," says Kerstin Wecker, who runs the centre. "It’s simple really: no one should be shocked to go into a man’s room and see a picture of another man. No one should have to explain themselves to others at this stage of life."

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the city’s northern Pankow district, the home, which takes its name from a Danish film starlet, has space for 28 residents. Half of the care assistants working there are also homosexual – something a survey of potential residents showed was a priority. Aside from an automatic acceptance of their past, the home is run like any other, Wecker says. "We don’t want to be exotic, just a slice of everyday life."

The idea of a gay-only project for elderly people was first mooted at a "gay and grey" congress in Cologne in 1995. It reflects fears among Germany’s first openly gay generation about what will happen when they are too frail to care for themselves. "At the moment, most gay and lesbian residents keep themselves hidden. Imagine one gay person in a home of 100 people. It can be lonely and isolating," says Christian Hamm, who is on the board of the organisation behind the care-home plan. Hamm and his associates are now drawing up plans for an assisted-care retirement centre for gay people in another Berlin district.

And that is just what the Asta Nielsen Haus wants. Its organisers are proud to be trailblazers, but hope that it won’t be long before their project is seen as nothing unusual. "We don’t want to be the only one," says Wecker. "We hope this idea takes off."

07 May 2008 –

Berlin Pays Tribute to Gay-Rights Activist Persecuted by Nazis

by DW staff (ncy)
Berlin renamed a stretch of the Spree River in honor of a gay-rights activist persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s as the city’s biggest hospital opened an exhibition devoted to the sex researcher. A stretch of the Spree River in central Berlin was named after gay-rights activist and sexual researcher Magnus Hirschfeld in a dedication ceremony on Tuesday, May 6.
On the same day 75 years ago, the Nazis plundered his offices and later burned hundreds of his books.

Hirschfeld had founded the world’s first institute dedicated to fighting discrimination against homosexuals. He went into exile in France and died there in 1935. The stretch of river bank named after Hirschfeld is near his former institute.

"A first step"
According to Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) and the Mitte district of Berlin, where "Magnus-Hirschfeld-Ufer" is located, a bronze monument to Hirschfeld will also be erected along the river. The Charite hospital also commemorated Hirschfeld with an exhibition which opened on Tuesday at its Medical Historical Museum. Called "Sex Burns," the exhibition focuses on Hirschfeld’s work and his persecution by the Nazis. The tributes to Hirschfeld are "a clear acknowledgment for gays that persecution has taken place and that reparation is necessary," said the head of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association, Alexander Zinn, said at the dedication ceremony.

"That is a first step in the right direction," he said. The Nazis declared homosexuality an aberration.

May 28, 2008 – PinkNews

Mayor of Berlin unveils memorial to gay victims of Nazis

by Tony Grew
The first openly gay Mayor of Berlin has opened a new memorial in the city to the homosexual victims of Nazi oppression. Klaus Wowerit was joined by representatives of the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) and the federal minister for culture and media. Although there are several memorials to the gay victims of the Holocaust, "the Berlin memorial has an important symbolic value" ILGA-Europe said in a statement.
"It is in the centre of the city from where decades ago the policies of extermination of homosexual people along with such groups as Jews, gypsies, Jehovahs witnesses and political dissidents, was conceived and the deadly orders were given."

It is estimated that 45,000 to 100,000 German homosexuals were arrested under Nazi rule between 1933 and 1945. Up to 10,000 of them died in concentration camps. Many survivors, far from being liberated, were transferred to prisons. The laws used against gay people in Germany remained on statute books until 1969. It was only in 2002 that the German parliament issued a formal pardon for any gay people convicted by the Nazis and in 2003 it approved the construction of the memorial.

The homosexual victims of Nazi Germany remained excluded from the public process of remembrance of past injustices until recent times and were denied compensation for their suffering under Nazi rule. "This is symptomatic for a society that did not abolish unjust verdicts, but partially continued to implement them; a society which did not acknowledge a group of people as victims, only because they chose another way of life," said Mayor Wowerit. The new memorial is situated in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park, close to the Brandenburg Gate and opposite the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. It consists of a four metre tall grey rectangular block. One side has a small opening through which viewers can see a black and white art film scene of two men kissing. A simple kiss could land you in trouble, reads the inscription.

During the opening ceremony, Linda Freimane, a member of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said: "Today, our continent is a safe place to live if you are homosexual – safe in comparison with many other places on our earth, where homosexuality is still considered a punishable crime. Europe has come a long way in its battle for the right of each individual and in dealing with its history of discrimination. Today, in many European countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people along with other vulnerable groups enjoy the protection of their state against prejudice, discrimination and violence. In many places in Europe same-sex partners can register their partnership or get married, in some countries the state also supports our wish to become equal parents. We have not yet reached full equality, but we sense the political will to get there. But this is not enough. You must now also be the ones who do not stay silent when other countries, which have already entered the EU or are knocking on its door, violate the rights of their own citizens. Please remind homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist and sexist political leaders that they too belong to a Europe, which is built on the assumption of each individual’s right to freedom, dignity, and respect and to seek his or her own happiness. And please, do not forget all those LGBTI people around the world who live in fear and despair, who face persecution, humiliation, imprisonment and death for simply being who they are. I hope that the present and future mayors of Berlin and members of German governments will remember to bring their foreign guests to this memorial when they show them the beautiful city of Berlin."

June 2008 – From: Passport Magazine

Interview with Klaus Wowereit Berlin’s Gay Mayor by Tim Pinckney

The new catch phrase for Germany’s capital city is “Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin,” which translates into “Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin.” Clearly the hope is that everyone planning a European expedition will enthusiastically chant the eager new motto for this enigmatic city. It’s a safe bet. With its pulsating energy, extraordinary history, and its unending devotion to all things artistic, Berlin should be on every European traveler’s radar as a destination not to be missed. This dynamic city has an equally dynamic leader in Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit. Native born and bred, this warm and vibrant man is in his second term, having been first elected in 2001 and enthusiastically re-elected in 2006. It is noteworthy to mention that before his first campaign began, Wowereit proudly stepped up and informed the people of Berlin, “ich bin schwul und das ist auch gut so—I am gay and that is a good thing.”

As it turns out, it is a wonderful thing for the city of Berlin. Certainly the LGBT population of any city that suddenly finds itself with a gay mayor would see cause for celebration. Wowereit is quick to point out that “my policies are intended to serve all of the people of Berlin. I am here for everyone. At the same time, of course, I do have opportunities to help minorities, including gays and lesbians. The fact that the head of the government of a metropolis like Berlin is gay is quite important to the LGBT community in Germany, and apparently internationally as well.” For a city like Berlin to have as its mayor an out gay man, it would seem that certain responsibilities to his community would logically be implied by that visibility. The Mayor states, “I wouldn’t necessarily refer to ‘responsibilities’ in this regard, since most of the LGBT community’s concerns are concerns I share on a personal level. That community, of course, expects me to be especially active in responding to homophobia. For instance, I have been very clear in my statements about the ban on pride parades in Eastern European cities like Moscow and Warsaw. Berlin is an open and tolerant city, and I’d like to see the same climate elsewhere, too.”

When Wowereit welcomed an international gay sadomasochist fetish party to his city in 2005, the distributed program for the event included a letter from the mayor stating, “Berlin is a tolerant and open metropolis. We are proud that people from different backgrounds and with different preferences feel comfortable here and party together.” Not surprisingly, conservatives did not embrace this warm mayoral reception and the Mayor’s judgment was called into question. Wowereit stood firm, stating, “There’s no question it is a flamboyant scene, but that is also Berlin…and as long as there is nothing forbidden happening, I expect tolerance.” Wowereit effortlessly personifies the hip, sophisticated, and tolerant image that pervades the city of Berlin. He has been actively involved and instrumental in raising the international profile of Berlin, tirelessly promoting culture and tourism. Although the city still faces high unemployment figures and mountains of debt, residents praise Wowereit for creating and encouraging the welcoming atmosphere in the city.

“Berlin is an open and tolerant place, and I cultivate this atmosphere, not only because I want Berlin to be this way, but because our city benefits enormously from it. We have economic problems, and we need more jobs. The fact that Berlin is a magnet, especially for young people from all over the world who end up making their visions a reality here, has given us new, creative economic sectors like music, design, fashion, architecture, and art.” Berlin, which will celebrate 20 years of reunification in 2009, continues to develop and change. Housing is affordable, creativity is celebrated and encouraged, and it seems to be the ideal place to start a business. Wowereit says on his website. “We are going to roll out the red carpet for those firms which move to Berlin. We have commercial properties at attractive prices to meet every need. For the smallest businesses and for the self-employed the local authorities will make subsidies available.” Tourism also continues to prosper. In fact, with the exceptions of London and Paris, Berlin currently draws more visitors annually than any other European city.

Wowereit was born and raised here, in an area on the southern outskirts of West Berlin. He states, “As you know, Berlin was a divided city back then. I studied law and had an early interest in politics. I was very impressed by Willy Brandt, the former Governing Mayor of Berlin, German Foreign Minister and Chancellor, and the head of my party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and I joined the SPD. Becoming a member of the borough council in the borough I lived in was the beginning of my political career. Later, I was elected to Berlin’s state parliament. When the coalition government made up of my party and the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) collapsed, I became the SPD candidate for the office of Governing Mayor of Berlin.” Much of Wowereit’s success can be attributed to his obvious devotion to the people of Berlin. “I see myself as a politician from the left, but it has always been important to me to work for pragmatic goals aimed at really helping people, rather than building castles in the air.“

Now comfortably into his second term, Wowereit says, “I’m more experienced this time around, and I’m no longer surprised to hear myself being addressed as ‘Governing Mayor,’ the way I was at the very beginning,” he says with a smile. Although Paris also has a gay mayor, an out and vocal elected official would most likely be a larger issue in other countries—including the U.S. “My being gay is not especially emphasized in meetings with hosts, stakeholders, or ordinary citizens. However, there are still a few incorrigibles out there who express their homophobia in hate mail, for instance. I use legal means to respond wherever possible.” Wowereit’s enthusiasm and commitment are contagious and his unending affection for his hometown is genuine. “…my Berlin is far more than a vibrant pulsating city. It is also the local ‘villages,’ the quiet corners, the neighborhoods. Here one can pause a while, here one can be heard, here people are there for one another. Berlin is such a loveable and livable city. This does not happen by itself and it must not be taken for granted, as we Berliners know all too well.”

Thought by many to be the birthplace of gay liberation, Berlin offers a seemingly endless array of attractions that would pique the interest of any vacationer. Berlin Tourism has an incredibly comprehensive website which is very gay user-friendly. Wowereit states, “Berlin is open, tolerant, creative, and international. Those are attributes that are important to others, too, but especially to LGBT visitors from all over the world. We have a huge LGBT community here and a huge range of services and attractions targeting this group.”

As Mayor of a prominent international city, Wowereit travels frequently for business. For personal vacations, he has very few travel necessities: “Particular destinations aren’t all that important. What I need is rest and a place to play golf….(And) If it’s a personal trip, I of course prefer to be traveling with my partner.” As for the future, Wowereit hasn’t thought past his days as a popular elected official. “I still enjoy what I’m doing, and there are still a lot of projects to be accomplished…I’d like to see Berlin become a thriving city on the economic level, too, and a city that offers high quality of life to all levels of society.”

July 4, 2008 – PinkNews

German Lutherans could elect first gay bishop

by Adrian McBreen
A gay clergyman in Germany is standing for election as Bishop of Schleswig. Horst Gorski, 51, is a member of the Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD). There is one other candidate in the July 12th election. If chosen he could open a schism within the EKD, claim some leading conservatives. 30% of Germans are members of the church. Some of the 23 member churches in the denomination bless same-sex couples. Ulrich Ruess, a Hamburg pastor, told Die Welt newspaper: "Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle."

If elected he would become the first gay bishop in the EKD, which is a federation of regional Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant churches. His election could create a rift similar to those caused by the question of gay clergy and same-sex unions in several other worldwide faiths, most prominently the Anglican Communion. However Maria Jepsen, who was elected as the world’s first female Lutheran bishop in 1992, said she did not believe relations with other churches would suffer if a gay bishop were elected.

Gorski is a widely respected theologian who founded a centre for gay and lesbian pastors. Launching his candidacy in Kiel this week, Gorski spoke about religious values and made no reference to his sexuality, reports Reuters. Gorski previously stated there had been initial misgivings about his homosexuality when he took up a post as an archdeacon, "but after a few years it was no longer an issue." His main concern today, he said, was that the Church should find a language that communicated with people.

July 24, 2008 – PinkNews

German court rules forced divorces for trans people unconstitutional

by Tony Grew
A ruling by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has been hailed as a major victory for the trans community. The law at present says that anyone who has been certified as transsexual will only be allowed to change their sex on their birth certificate if they are unmarried. In August 2001 Germany legalised registered partnerships for same-sex couples but this law does not apply to them, only to marriage. A trans woman who underwent surgery in 2002 and has been married for 56 years did not want to break up her happy marriage, which had produced three children, in order to change her birth documents. Today the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the present law is unconstitutional and gave the German government until August 2009 to change it.

Germany introduced the "law on the change of first name and determination of gender identity in special cases," known as "Transsexuellengesetz," in 1980. In the UK, under the Gender Recognition Act, if a Gender Recognition Panel grants an application it must issue a gender recognition certificate to the applicant. If the applicant is married, the certificate is to be an interim gender recognition certificate. (4) Schedule 2 (annulment or dissolution of marriage after issue of interim gender recognition certificate) has effect.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the fact that an interim gender recognition certificate has been issued to either party to a marriage is a ground for that marriage being voidable. Proceedings for dissolution on this basis must be begun within six months of the issue of the interim certificate. In Scotland, on account of differences in marriage law, the grant of an interim certificate will provide a ground for divorce, rather than make the marriage voidable.

August 18, 2008 – PinkNews

Gay Nazi victim memorial vandalized

by Rachel Charman
The Berlin memorial to gay and lesbian Nazi victims has been vandalised. Having only been erected on 27th May, a viewing window in the memorial and a fence around it were broken on 16th August. Gunter Dworek, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) told that the attack was revolting, an outrage and a scandal. He said a protest will be held at the memorial on Monday against the vandalism to draw attention to on-going discrimination. The memorial was opened by Berlin’s first openly-gay mayor, Klaus Wowerit, and representatives of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

Of the memorial, an ILGA-Europe spokesperson said: "The Berlin memorial has important symbolic value. It is in the centre of a city from where decades ago the policies of the extermination of homosexual people along with such groups as Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political dissidents, was conceived and the deadly orders were given."

More than 50,000 gays and lesbians are believed to have been convicted under the Nazis due to their sexuality. Up to 10,000 of them died in concentration camps. Many survivors, far from being liberated, were transferred to prisons. The laws used against gay people in Germany remained in the statute books until 1969. It was only in 2002 that the German parliament issued a formal pardon for any gay people convicted by the Nazis.

October 28 2008 –

Joy, and concern, over gay housing project

• Organisers of German project reject ‘ghetto’ tag
• Tenants found for 55 of 70 flats in Cologne

by Kate Connolly in Berlin
Gay men and women in Germany are being invited to live in an exclusive housing development, in a unique project that aims to make them more visible in the community.
Villa Anders ("Alternative Villa") in the working-class district of Ehrenfeld in Cologne will offer gay Germans the chance to live together in a discrimination-free environment, say the organisers, the Gay and Lesbian Living Association (VSLW). The €6.7m (£5.3m) project will receive some state support, but is essentially meant to be self-financing in what developers have recognised as a commercially viable enterprise. So far, tenants have been found for all but 15 of the 70 flats, which they are expected to move into by the end of 2009.

Jens Lidy, 41, a theatre and television director, said he felt liberated by his decision to move from his home in a suburb of Cologne to a flat in the complex. "As a gay person, I’ve spent my life playing a sort of hiding game, making sure the neighbours didn’t know I was gay, because I never knew how they would react," he said. "I leaped at the chance to move into Villa Anders, because I feel I can finally be myself among people who have had a similar experience." His new flat boasts a balcony, and a view on to the project’s leafy green courtyard. But what makes it most attractive for Lidy, he says, is the opportunity it gives him to live as an individual in a community.

Cologne is home to the largest gay and lesbian community in Germany. It is also considered one of the most tolerant of European cities. Some have questioned why the development is necessary, and whether it will have the effect of separating the residents from the rest of the community. "I don’t buy the ‘ghetto’ arguments," says Stefan Jüngst, a spokesman for the project. "The point is, this puts us in the middle of the community. In many European cities, like Warsaw or Moscow, this sort of thing would not be possible – because there’s so much homophobia that the place would be firebombed within days."

Villa Anders follows several similar but unsuccessful projects in other German cities. A retirement home for gay and lesbian singles and couples was also opened in Berlin last year. Jüngst said the aim had been to make the project as multi-generational as possible, but it had been difficult to attract over-60s, who were meant to fill 30% of the places. "Older gay men in particular have been fearful of becoming the targets of violence," Jüngst said. The number of attacks in Cologne in the past few years had been rising, he added.

The biggest challenge had been to work with the neighbours to overcome prejudices, Jüngst said. "It is known that lots of projects like this have failed over the last 15 years largely because of local opposition," he said. "So we have taken the view we need to work closely together – inviting the neighbours to breakfast and meetings to discuss their concerns." While the residents will have their own individual living spaces, they will be encouraged to mix together socially, and younger residents will be encouraged to help older tenants with shopping and other care issues.

December 10, 2008 – PinkNews

Gay political leader pledges to cut German aid to homophobic countries

by Staff Writer,
An openly gay politician in Germany has said that if he is appointed Foreign Minister next year he will cut aid to countries that discriminate against women or sexual minorities. Guido Westerwelle is leader of Germany’s opposition Free Democrats and the current Leader of the Opposition in the Bundestag. His party, which is centre-right but socially libertarian, is expected to take a junior coalition role in Angela Merkel’s government after next year’s general election.

The position of Foreign Minister normally goes to the leader of the junior coalition party. The next German Federal Elections are scheduled for September 27th, 2009. Ms Merkel’s CDU is expected to be retain power. If chosen Mr Westerwelle, 46, would be the first out homosexual Foreign Minister in German history. "The great majority of the population has absolutely no problem with my private life," he told Stern. "It would be good if our foreign policy would bring this spirit of German tolerance to other countries."

Mr Westerwelle effectively came out at Angela Merkel’s 50th birthday party in July 2004, when he brought along his partner to an official function for the first time. He is more controversial in Germany for his views on lower taxes, a smaller state and cutting back the benefits system than for his sexual orientation. Gay activist Peter Tatchell recently called for all international aid to be stopped for, "viciously homophobic countries like Jamaica, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Iraq and Nigeria."

The UK government is opposed to cutting aid. International Development minister Gareth Thomas told "I do not think you should penalise the people of a country for policies that are not appropriate. We need to continue to engage with countries and be willing to raise difficult issues with them. We have to help them with those issues, as well as being blunt on occasion about issues around AIDS."

December 16, 2008 –

Berlin memorial to gay victims of Nazis vandalized

Berlin(AP) – Berlin’s memorial to gay victims of the Nazis has been vandalized for the second time in four months. Berlin police say a window on the outside of the memorial has been broken, probably with a stone. The window allows visitors to see inside the concrete memorial and view a video of a same-sex couple kissing The memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten park was inaugurated in May and suffered similar damage to the same window in August. A protest held after that attack to denounce intolerance and homophobia drew more than 100 people including Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit.

August 2009 – Passport Magazine

City Of Temptation…Berlin

by Rich Rubin
Some cities are all about sightseeing, rushing from museum to museum, monument to monument. Some, on the other hand, are about life. Berlin falls into the latter category. Not that there aren’t sights and museums, for there are plenty in this dynamic and ever-changing metropolis. Ultimately, though, what you’ll love about Berlin is the capacity of its residents for indulgence. Berliners are all about the good life: shopping, eating out, going to a concert, play, or ballet. Strolling down Unter den Linden, from the grand Brandenburg Gate, toward the Opera House and Museum Island, I notice a sign: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Berlin.” That sums up for me the way Berlin sees itself—as the perpetually tempting city of indulgence.

Open Siegessäule, the “queer Berlin” magazine, and you’ll see under “Bars and Cafes” 129 listings. Add in 40 or so regular or occasional parties, and you can see what an overwhelming task it is to explore the nightlife scene in Berlin. Gay life here isn’t all about bars and clubs, though. How many European capitals have an openly gay mayor? A monument to gay/lesbian victims of the Holocaust? A gay museum? The GLBT presence here is so strong, so integrated into the fabric of the city, that Berlin has become Europe’s new gay mecca. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of Berlin (and I’m speaking not just geographically) that doesn’t have a significant gay presence. The city’s gay population is thought to number over 300,000. There’s even an imbiss, or fast-food stand, with a rainbow flag on it; where but in Berlin would you have a proudly gay-owned kiosk selling French fries and currywurst?

As we prepare to explore the city, let’s first orient ourselves to Berlin’s many neighborhoods. With distinctive personalities and atmospheres, the city’s different areas make a trip here like a visit to many worlds in one. Twenty years after the fall of the Wall, what was formerly East or West hardly makes a difference, though it’s a convenient starting point.

You’re likely to spend a lot of time in the Mitte, the center of Berlin’s arts and culture and a former East Berlin nabe. (We’ll orient ourselves from this section in the city’s center as mitte means “middle.” To the north of Mitte lies Prenzlauer Berg, a once-alternative and now increasingly upscale neighborhood full of bars, restaurants, and shady plazas. To the south of Mitte you’ll find Kreuzberg, home to much of the city’s Turkish population and more than a few gay night spots. To the west of Mitte is Schöneberg, which is traditionally considered “gay central.”

When the Wall fell, the action moved to the former East Berlin (not surprisingly) as rents were cheap there, attracting artists and bohemian types. Twenty years later, things are starting to even out, and you’ll find some of the more voguish areas springing up in the West as well. To add to the confusion, east and west were always boundaries that were more political than geographic. Parts of Kreuzberg, for instance (which was in West Berlin) actually lie to the east of the Mitte. Confused? Don’t be. It’s easier than it sounds, and a truly spectacular network of subways, buses, trams, and trains makes journeys within the city easy.

So let’s check in. Berlin is well-known as among the most affordable of European capitals (though that’s starting to change), and a nice hotel room here can be had for a fraction of the cost of a similar spot in, say, Paris or London. Even the Adlon Kempinksi, right in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, with its luxurious rooms, Michelin-starred restaurant, and roster of mega-celebrities, can be booked without tremendously serious damage to your wallet. I also love Lux 11, with apartment-style, high-design lodgings in a perfect Mitte locale (it’s a member of Design Hotels). Ackselhaus, a newer entry in the design sweepstakes, is on lovely Kollwitzplatz and features themed rooms from “Maritime” to “Rome” to “Movie.” Alexander Plaza’s simply-designed and comfortable rooms are complemented by a super-friendly staff and great position on a quiet street right off Alexanderplatz, making it a winner for convenience and low-key comfort. One of the latest exciting developments: the “hetero-friendly gay hotel” Axel, which many know well from Barcelona, has opened a spot in Berlin. Located in the middle of Schöneberg, it has the modern look and a friendly, helpful staff. If you need a break from the bustle of the city, check in at Schloss Cecilienhof, the last royal palace built in Germany and now a lovely hotel located in Potsdam (just 45 minutes from Berlin).

Once you’ve checked in, don’t linger, for there’s far too much to see in Berlin. You might start at the Museumsinsel, the island in the Spree River that holds an enviable selection of museums. I could spend all day (and I actually have) in the Pergamon. Its collection of archaeological wonders is unrivalled, lit in soft, filtered natural light and labeled with (mostly) bilingual signage. You’ll see Roman mosaic floors, ancient pottery, bronze and alabaster statuettes, glass vases, gold, silver, and bronze jewelry. The true showpieces are the room-sized displays: the amazing Ishtar Gate, with its deep blue tiles bordered in gold and green and a series of prancing animals, and the Pergamon altar, painstakingly re-constructed from the many fragments found in this ancient Greek city. It’s far from the only museum on the island, though, and you’ll want to take in everything from the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian collections of the Altes Museum to the classical and Byzantine art, and coin collection of the Bode Museum.

Meanwhile, the Bauhaus Archive pays tribute to this influential design movement that began in Germany ninety years ago. It features models and photos of Bauhaus-influenced buildings and a wonderful collection of design objects from starkly functional chess sets and a 1922 brass candelabrum to a series of alternating shelves designed by Walter Gropius (the father of Bauhaus), and a Mies van der Rohe chair of tubular steel and wicker. You’ll also want to check out the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, at the point where one passed (if permitted) between East and West Berlin. In this twentieth anniversary year of the Berlin Wall’s fall, there’s a special poignancy to the stories contained in the museum, which you can take in before experiencing the many other displays and tours around town devoted to the anniversary.

Berlin also has the only Gay Museum I know about, and it’s a fascinating collection of the often-troubled GLBT life in this country. Historical panels teach us that homosexuality was punished by death in this area until 1740. We learn about Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who coined the term “Uranian” and wrote tracts on homosexuality in the 1860s. We read about the first gay organization founded by publisher Max Spohr and GLBT history giant Magnus Hirschfeld. We see Berlin’s eminence as “queer capital” of Europe in the 1920s, the crushing effects of the Nazis, the reawakening of the movement and gay subculture in the 1950s, and the eventual abolition (in 1968) of Paragraph 175, which had outlawed homosexuality. It’s an interesting and educational glimpse into the waxing and waning of GLBT culture in Berlin.

Also in the Kreuzberg area is the stunning Jewish Museum, which is housed in a spectacular Daniel Libeskind-designed building. The museum tells the story of Jews in Germany and worldwide with an inventive and striking series of exhibits, including holographic displays about Jewish life. From the famous philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of the composer and a great scholar in his own right, to the great 18th-century salons for artistes hosted by Henriette Herz, the Mendelssohns, and others, it’s a comprehensive display of Jewish life. As I read the long timeline of indignities (philosopher Immanuel Kant’s 1798 declaration that Jews are “vampires of society,” composer Richard Wagner’s 1850 statement decrying the “Jew-ification of modern art,” 1882’s first International Anti-Jewish Congress in Dresden, twentieth century movements by student fraternities to ban Jews), I’m amazed at the boldness in presenting so brilliantly this sobering history.

Berlin is not a city to shy away from its unsavory past, and as I walk down the street from the famous Brandenburg gate I encounter a field of stelae that comprises the block-long Holocaust Memorial. Set unflinchingly right at the heart of the city, it’s an almost unbearably moving monument: narrow walkways rise and fall among the stones, with room enough for only one to walk (it was designed that way to make you contemplate the horrors in solitude). It’s amazing that the city used an entire city block for this stunning monument, which achieves its power by removing you from the modern world around you, surrounding you with starkness, and making you think.

Just across the street, at the entrance to Tiergarten Park, you’ll see a slightly off-kilter cube set by the side of the path. Read the sign, which proclaims that this newest of memorials (inaugurated in 2008) honors the GLBT victims of the Nazis and stands as “a lasting symbol of opposition to enmity, intolerance, and the exclusion of gay men and lesbians.” Look through the window cut in the cube’s side. A video shows two beautiful young men standing in front of a tree-filled background that could be the very spot where you’re standing. The blond one whispers in the darker one’s ear. They smile. They kiss, lightly at first and then deeply, romantically, passionately. As I watch this beautiful video, I remain fixed in place as if I too have become the stone from which these two stirring monuments are carved.

I hope all this sightseeing has stimulated your appetite, because you’ll definitely want to explore Berlin’s dining scene. With its firmament of Michelin-starred restaurants (many at surprisingly affordable prices), Berlin is a gourmet’s dream, but you don’t have to eat in a fancy spot to find wonderful dining. In the Mitte, I love the relaxed elegance and perfect food of two-starred Fischers Fritz, where I savor such inventive classics as papaya/swordfish salad and wild char fillet with chicory and cabbage. I also love the creative cookery and lovely rooftop location of Weinbar Rutz, from a starting tuna sashimi and scallop/paella salad to the saffron-mascarpone ice cream accompanying the chocolate soufflé. If you want to support a GLBT business when dining out, there’s no restaurant on earth gayer than More. With a location at the heart of the Schöneberg gayborhood, More features and an interior of deep red and a diverse menu that includes everything from creamy pumpkin soup and tuna or beef carpaccio to tender chicken in a subtle, creamy sauce. On lovely Savignyplatz, Drei is a down-to-earth, friendly spot with great food like leek/salmon pasta or potato-crusted salmon, and nearby Brel offers a French bistro menu and feel. There’s a similarly casual atmosphere at Fellas in Prenzlauer Berg. Here you’ll find wood tables, lighted square panels, tiny hanging fixtures, and a menu that includes balsamic-tinged pike perch fillet as well as pork medallions in green peppercorn sauce. Nearby Café November provides a homey feel, with cream walls, wood tables and chairs, candles, and outside seating in nice weather.

While you might find it difficult to pull me away from the designer boutiques and fascinating little stores of the Mitte, I’ll always pause for lunch at Susuru, a fab little noodle shop at the heart of this hopping district. Here, I always take a seat at the large center table and enjoy a broth filled with udon noodles and vegetables or curried chicken. A few doors away is my favorite dinner spot, the modern Japanese restaurant Shiro I Shiro. I dig into a rich, flavorful, melt-in-the-mouth tender cod, its taste intensified by a marinade that’s been caramelized onto the fish. My seafood chawan mushi starter is weird and wonderful, a broth base beneath a half-solid, half-liquid tofu layer in which are embedded scallop, prawn, and shiitake. Dessert? An assortment of wonders: apple/ginger strudel, a tiny glass of chocolate sauce and a slightly larger one of zabaglione flavored with umeboshi (plum wine), or a mound of deeply-flavored sesame ice cream. It’s bold, simple, and amazingly good, which is pretty much the case with everything at Shiro I Shiro.

Another feature of Berlin’s dining scene is the large assortment of coffeehouses and breakfast spots. Prime among these is Prenzlauer Berg’s Anna Blume, where the amazing pastries are supplemented by three-tiered breakfast trays laden with everything from smoked fish to cheese/meat assortments. Café Berio is the perfect Schöneberg breakfastery, where muscled denizens of the ‘hood throw caution (and gym-going) to the wind and indulge in over-the-top breakfasts. For mid-day perkups, I love Café Cinema, the oldest coffeehouse in the Hackescher Höfe neighborhood (the höfe, a series of courtyards with fascinating shops, is well worth a visit). Down the street at tiny Coffein Bar, where the staff is friendly and the surroundings no-nonsense, the coffee strong and indispensable. In Prenzlauer Berg, gay-owned Gagarin is a fun little bar/café with an odd Soviet theme (like the space age picture with Russian symbols on the wall), eclectic furniture, and outdoor tables in the shadow of a huge water tower.

I can see why Berliners need so much coffee and all-day breakfast, as the nightlife scene is truly overwhelming. While there are gay bars scattered throughout town, you’ll find a different feeling depending on the neighborhood: Schöneberg tends to be the most gay ghetto-ish, with an often older, more leather-ish, and less alternative feel, while Kreuzberg is the center of the bohemian and the anarchic. Meanwhile, Prenzlauer Berg is a bit alternative but increasingly upscale, and Friedrichshain is pure party central. Within each of these areas, though, are places that defy the generalities.

That’s because this is a city where boundaries and distinctions blur: a gay bar doesn’t necessarily attract only a gay crowd, and a non-gay bar can have a majority gay clientele on any given night. As guide Henrik Tidefjärd of Berlinagenten leads me through the abundant nightlife, I begin to understand what he means when he declares, “In Berlin the party will always go on.”

You might start in Schöneberg at Hafen, a cozy spot with one wall of mosaics, one covered with furry stuff, and a male crowd mainly in their forties packing the spot on weekends. Ring the bell at Tom’s Bar, where the fortyish male-only crowd is on the prowl, whether it’s to meet and go elsewhere or make use of the dark room (yes, there are still plenty of dark rooms in Berlin). Check out the leather scene at Prinzknecht or an even more fetishistic crew at Mutschmann’s, and you’ll begin to see where Berlin gets its reputation. As Henrik says, “Berlin is a leather city. It’s a hardcore city.” Yet if this is totally not your scene, there’s plenty for you to explore here too. There is, for instance, the casually upscale and appealing Heile Welt, one of Berlin’s few gay cocktail bars, with a thirty-and-up, almost exclusively male clientele, and a lounge-y, designer feel with elegant décor.

There’s a very different feeling in Kreuzberg, whose anarchic spirit is a great one for nightlife. It’s the most freewheeling part of the former West Berlin, and walking down the street past signs for Pastanesi, Doner, and Türk Kahvesi, you’ll see that you’re in “Little Istanbul.” In the heart of this are some of Berlin’s most appealing gay bars, and there’s nothing more Berlin than seeing a young gay crowd gathered practically next door to a group of older Turkish guys sipping coffee from tiny cups.

One of my favorite spots in town is here: Möbel Olfe, a bar located in a former furniture store (a jaunty group of armchairs on a slanty shelf protruding from the wall pays homage to the building’s former incarnation). Here you’re in a different world from the leather-bound or oh-so-chic environs of Schöneberg, with the concrete pillars, weird lighting fixtures that look like metal bra cups interspersed with blue and red lights, and pipes in the ceiling. The crowd is young and friendly, mixed male and female, and I get the feeling they’re going to be here most of the night.

Down the street lies Bierhimmel, with its rainbow bench outside and fab hanging disk/shell lamp, a cute and comfy café drawing a nice crowd, again mixed by gender as is the Kreuzberg way. Just a few doors down is the must-see Roses, where the kitsch never ends and the crowd packs the two rooms with a fun and friendly spirit. The décor consists of fur ceilings, amber chandeliers, metallic fringe, angel pictures, and any other piece of kitsch you can imagine packing the walls and ceilings. The crowd is mixed, young, and flirty. I get at least a dozen smiles the minute I walk in (and I’m a few years older than most of them, though there are plenty of representatives of all generations). It is, to quote Henrik, “flippy.”

At SO36, a crowd of rooster comb-haired and much-pierced young people gathers outside this spot that was one of the pioneering punk clubs in Berlin. They also host a monthly event for Turkish gay people that’s one of the few in the city catering to this significant group in the population. You’ll also find the annual (and fabulous) Wigstöckel here. Only in Berlin would a club go from punk to gay Turkish to transgender, but then, that’s just the way things are here.

You’ll see this phenomenon nowhere so clearly as in two Eastern Kreuzberg locales that aren’t strictly gay but attract a huge gay summertime following: Club der Visionäre, located in an old boatshed and drawing a mixed crowd of drinkers/sun worshippers, and Badeschiff, a river barge transformed into a huge urban swimming pool/party spot. In the nearby Friedrichshain area, the main street, Simon-Dach-strasse, is lined with bars. Here you’ll find a more student-y spirit, tons of places for inexpensive foods, cafés, bars, and in summer so many crowds on the street and at the cafés’ terraces that you’d think you were in the midst of a carnival. The main gay spot here is Himmelreich, a friendly place that almost doesn’t seem like a gay bar when you step in, as the crowd is so diverse. Then you notice the two young women in black with lips locked, the buzzed haired and muscle shirted guy speaking with his breathtakingly blond young friend, and you figure it out.

In addition to the bars, there’s an enviable lineup of parties: Klub International is the first Saturday of the month with dancing in a Russian-style cinema on Karl-Marx Allee, one of the biggest see-and-be-seen spots for a mainly young crowd but drawing fashionistas of all ages (mainly male). Berlin Hilton occurs at NBI in Prenzlauer Berg on Wednesdays, well-known around town for having THE most beautiful boys (in a natural beauty, not ultra-glam way), and shows starting around 1 A.M. that can be kind of, well, out there (“Bjork x 100,” quips Henrik). Also in Prenzlauer Berg is the tiny cabaret/club Zum Schmutzigen Hobby, where a variety of weekly events occur under the oversight of the infamous Nina Queer.

There’s GMF, a tea dance at Club Weekend on Alexanderplatz, which is the most popular Sunday action, with a rooftop terrace in the summer. There’s Panorama Bar on weekends, set in an abandoned power station that looks like a cross between Studio 54 and Bladerunner, and attracting a crowd that’s about 30-40% gay. Starting at midnight and lasting till 6 P.M. (yes, P.M.) the next day, it’s one of Berlin’s hottest events for a huge assortment of people: fashion victims next to students next to drag queens next to someone who could be your grandfather.

You can see why Berlin’s nightlife is considered (now as well as historically) the stuff of legend. After all, points out Tidefjärd, “When the world was in a depression in the 1920s, where did they go to party? To Berlin.” That could apply to this city in general, where you’ll find sleepy-eyed people wolf down huge breakfasts at 4 P.M. and the streets are always throbbing with activity. It’s the vibrancy, the pleasure, the (for lack of a better word) “buzz” that makes Berlin special, and always has. It’s a haven for the bohemian, the artistic, the alternative. While there are some pockets of great beauty, some fascinating new architecture, and a lot of parks and plazas, it’s not the most gorgeous city you’ll ever see. What’s more important is a dynamism that’s palpable. It’s not a reaching out with open arms kind of city, but rather one that says “what we have here is great, and you can enjoy it too if you like.” It’s fast-paced yet somehow laid back at the same time, with a leave-you-alone attitude that’s also reminiscent of New York, and a sarcasm that locals refer to as the “Berlin mouth.” It’s so live-and-let-live that you can do, or be, anything you want. That’s an admirable quality for a city to have.

26 August 2009 – The Local

High court proclaims gay adoption legal

Germany’s highest tribunal has affirmed that gays and lesbians have the right to adopt their partner’s children, overturning a lower court ruling. The Federal Constitutional Court decided in favour of a woman in the southern city of Schweinfurt who wanted to adopt the now three-year-old child of her female partner, with the consent of the father and social services.

The lower court had argued that such a move would be unconstitutional because it placed the rights of the partner of a parent above those of a biological parent. The constitutional court rejected this argument on Tuesday, saying that life partners who assume the role of a parent to a child have the right to formalise that role.

"The earlier decision failed to consider the fact that the role of a child’s parent is not only determined by his or her biological progenitor but based on the social-familial community caring for the child," it said. German lawmakers cleared the way in 2001 for gays and lesbians to register "life partnerships" – a step short of legal marriage – and to subsequently adopt their partners’ biological children.

But homosexual couples in Germany do not have the right to adopt children to whom they have no relation, unlike in several other European countries such as the Netherlands and Spain.

September 2009 – Passport Magazine

City Of Temptation – Berlin

by Rich Rubin
Some cities are all about sightseeing, rushing from museum to museum, monument to monument. Some, on the other hand, are about life. Berlin falls into the latter category. Not that there aren’t sights and museums, for there are plenty in this dynamic and ever-changing metropolis. Ultimately, though, what you’ll love about Berlin is the capacity of its residents for indulgence. Berliners are all about the good life: shopping, eating out, going to a concert, play, or ballet. Strolling down Unter den Linden, from the grand Brandenburg Gate, toward the Opera House and Museum Island, I notice a sign: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Berlin.” That sums up for me the way Berlin sees itself—as the perpetually tempting city of indulgence.

Open Siegessäule, the “queer Berlin” magazine, and you’ll see under “Bars and Cafes” 129 listings. Add in 40 or so regular or occasional parties, and you can see what an overwhelming task it is to explore the nightlife scene in Berlin. Gay life here isn’t all about bars and clubs, though. How many European capitals have an openly gay mayor? A monument to gay/lesbian victims of the Holocaust? A gay museum? The GLBT presence here is so strong, so integrated into the fabric of the city, that Berlin has become Europe’s new gay mecca. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of Berlin (and I’m speaking not just geographically) that doesn’t have a significant gay presence. The city’s gay population is thought to number over 300,000. There’s even an imbiss, or fast-food stand, with a rainbow flag on it; where but in Berlin would you have a proudly gay-owned kiosk selling French fries and currywurst?

As we prepare to explore the city, let’s first orient ourselves to Berlin’s many neighborhoods. With distinctive personalities and atmospheres, the city’s different areas make a trip here like a visit to many worlds in one. Twenty years after the fall of the Wall, what was formerly East or West hardly makes a difference, though it’s a convenient starting point.

Read Entire Article Here

September 30, 2009 – Foriegn

Germany Has a Gay Minister — Yäwn!

Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s new vice-chancellor and foreign minister, is very popular and openly gay. And nobody in Germany cares.

by Cameron Abadi
For more than 50 years, the tabloid daily Bild — currently Europe’s best-selling newspaper — has served as both a reliable barometer of Germany’s conservative movement and a steady vent of its populist id. The editors have never felt compelled to question their winning formula: The conservative parties’ current talking points go above the fold, the naked "Page One Girl" below it. The self-appointed guarantors of all that is traditionally Deutsch aren’t much interested in the finer points of sensitivity training.

And in that way, the tabloid might have been expected at some point this week to express ambivalence, if not disapproval, of the fact that the country’s newly elected vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, is gay. Instead, though, Bild waved a white flag on one of the fronts of the country’s decades-long culture war. As part of its gleeful coverage of the victory of the country’s two main conservative parties in Sunday’s election, the newspaper paid its respect to Westerwelle in the form of a sentimental page-one profile of his boyfriend, complete with a trashy headline: "His Boyfriend Makes Him Strong!"

Taking its cues from voters, Bild’s editors didn’t wring their hands over Westerwelle’s sexual orientation, nor did they sensationalize it as a novelty. For one thing, it wasn’t news: The chairman of the FDP, the free market Free Democratic Party, hadn’t hidden his sexual orientation during the campaign — his partner, event manager Michael Mronz, was often on stage with him at his rallies — and no one he encountered on the trail seemed inclined to make an issue of it. Being a gay politician in Germany, it seems, is well on its way to being utterly normal, even banal.

Germany’s ready public acceptance of homosexuality is the product of recent sea changes both in the character of society and in the letter of national law. For much of western Germany’s history, neither the CDU, the Catholic-dominated Christian Democratic Union, nor the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), with its focus on the industrial working class, had much interest in setting up protections for gays. In eastern Germany, the ruling communist party dismissed homosexuality as "contrary to the healthy mores of the people." Nazi-era laws that criminalized homosexuality remained in force in East Germany until 1958 and in West Germany until as late as 1969.

Change didn’t come easy. The gay-rights movement that began organizing in earnest in West Germany in the 1960s — part of the student-driven backlash that wanted to interrogate and overcome the country’s Nazi past — elicited strong conservative resistance. For decades, the polarized camps faced off in homes, universities, and city streets in a tense stalemate. When Helmut Kohl took office as chancellor in 1982 at the head of a "black-yellow" coalition between the CDU and the FDP, he promised a "moral-spiritual revolution" that would return the country to its traditional understanding of public morality and decorum. What that amounted to, during his 16 years at the head of German government, was periodic populist agitation against politically correct cultural liberals in the arts and academia. Certainly, it was unthinkable that a gay man would gain a major portfolio in the Kohl-led coalition that governed until 1998. (Westerwelle, as a high-ranking FDP official, was involved in the Kohl government, but didn’t come out of the closet until 2004.)

How, then, has the tide turned so dramatically in Germany in favor of acceptance of homosexuality? On the legal and political side, the gay-rights movement was fortunate to have found an amenable political home in the late 1970s in the fledgling Green Party. Although dismissed by the establishment in their early years, the Greens came into power in 1999, together with the SPD, with a clear and focused agenda to update German law to better reflect society’s present-day values.

In addition to reform of immigration and citizenship statutes, the Greens pushed through a law recognizing same-sex partnerships and also rooted out the final remnants of legalized discrimination against gays in the German military. These efforts were passed with the support of the left-leaning SPD and Westerwelle’s free market, culturally liberal FDP. Westerwelle, for his part, blasted the Catholic Church for its "19th-century worldview" in response to a call by the Vatican to campaign against the gay-marriage law.

Germany’s religious landscape also factors into the relative serenity with which its society addresses homosexuality. In a country where 30 percent of the population considers itself atheist, it is hard to drum up fervor against sexual orientation: To that extent, reunification with East Germany — which was predominantly atheist, according to communist ideology — has made the country, as a whole, a friendlier place for gays. Moreover, Germany’s institutionalized Lutheran Protestant church, to which another 30 percent of the country adheres, is considerably more liberal than most evangelical Protestant denominations in the United States. Germany’s Lutheran church allows gays to become priests, and in some instances, blesses same-sex marriages.

Even the CDU, the traditionally Catholic mainstay of conservative West Germany, isn’t as obeisant to Rome as it once was. Chancellor Angela Merkel — head of the CDU, albeit one who was raised by a Protestant pastor in East Germany — did not hesitate to criticize German-born Pope Benedict XVI when he reinstated excommunicated bishops who had denied the Holocaust. No one in the CDU felt inclined to agitate against fellow party member Ole von Beust when he outed himself during his first term as mayor of Hamburg. And the last CDU candidate to run for mayor of Cologne saw no contradiction in referring to himself both as a gay man and a "serious Catholic."

Indeed, once politicians come out of the closet, German voters tend to be concerned less about their private lives than about their other personal qualities. It’s no coincidence that those who have unabashedly staked claim to their sexual preferences have usually earned bonus points among the public. "When a politician deals openly with his homosexuality, he comes across as more authentic," says Werner Patzelt, a political science professor at Dresden Technical University.

There’s still a city-country divide in Germany when it comes to acceptance of homosexuality. Gays still have a harder time in Bavaria, where traditional adherence to the Catholic Church in small towns is very strong. It’s not surprising then that the first major public official to come out of the closet was Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin, the city where Germany’s live-and-let-live ethos is strongest. Wowereit didn’t mince words in his unabashed 2001 coming out. "I’m gay," he declared, "and that’s a good thing!" He has also earned admirers for the way he has managed to fend off political rivals who have tried to make an issue of his homosexuality. When his latest CDU challenger, Friedbert Pflüger, suggested Berlin deserves to have "a first lady," Wowereit shot back that at least he was in a steady relationship, whereas Pflüger was in the midst of a divorce.

It’s not for nothing that, after charming the capital city, Wowereit is being handled as the potential next chancellor candidate from the SPD. Bild, of course, likely won’t be extending him an endorsement. But, it won’t be his sexual orientation that’s standing in the way — just the fact that he’s a Social Democrat.

October 11, 2009

Opening of the New Haeberle-Hirschfeld Sexology Archive in Berlin

On October 12, Prof. Haeberle’s print Archive (his library and collections) became accessible to the public at the new centrally located university library of Humboldt University in Berlin. The Archive, now entirely the property of Humboldt University, offers a very large number of historical and current sexological books and journals in several languages as well as collections of original documents (photos, letters, postcards, newspaper clips, diaries, artifacts, audiotapes, films, videos, CDs, DVDs etc.), making it now one of the most important sexological resources in the world. The archive is named after the current professor E.J. Haeberle and the pioneering sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld.

Also see the Archive News

The new central library of Humboldt University contains 2,5 million books and other media on location,1250 working stations, and a large, terraced main reading room extending over 5 floors as well as more secluded desks along the windows which allow easy access to the close by subject holdings. Group study rooms and carrels offer ideal conditions for those who prefer teamwork or who work on individual research projects. Readers have access to a wide range of digital resources and services. In addition to the workstations provided by the library and the computer and media service a comprehensive wireless LAN allows laptop users to move freely through the entire building. A fully equipped digital imaging service is run by specially trained staff. This up to date information and communication infrastructure is completed by seminar and conference facilities, parent child spaces and open communication areas.

The Archive is one of several special collections housed in the large rare book division on the building’s 6th floor. Users can enter with special permission and read their chosen material in a large research reading room. There are also individual reading rooms for students and researchers working on larger projects. Some parts of the Archive’s collection are restricted to qualified scholars.

October 22, 2009 – PinkNews

Germany gives pension rights to gay civil partners

by Jessica Geen
Germany’s high court today ruled that civil partners of government employees are eligible to receive the same pension rights as their straight married counterparts. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the country, heard the case of a Hamburg public servant who had been in his job since 1991. The public-sector pension company VBL had refused to consider him in the same way as a married person, despite the fact he had been in a civil partnership for eight years.

Under VBL’s stance, he would have received €74 less each month than a heterosexual married man, while his partner would receive no surviving dependants’ pension if he died. The court ruled today that VBL’s position was unconstitutional. According to The Local, the unnamed man’s lawyer Dirk Siegfried said: "I see this as a very big step for the equality of homosexual marriage not only for employee pensions, but in many other areas too."

In August, the same court confirmed that gay and lesbian people can adopt their partner’s children, overturning a previous court ruling. It rejected the argument that to allow the female partner of a child’s mother to adopt would undermine the rights of the other biological parent. A recent study revealed that 6,600 children in Germany are being raised by gay and lesbian parents. However, gay or lesbian people or couples cannot adopt children they are not related to.

Social Democrat politicians, including Germany’s Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, have called for a change to the law. Gay and lesbian couples can register their partnerships and their rights include most of those of marriage, including the possibility of stepchild adoption, but they are denied the same tax benefits.

November 2009 – Passport Magazine

Exploring Cologne

by Rich Rubin
If cities fall into two categories, “love at first sight” and “grow on you slowly,” Cologne is of the second type. While the cathedral—a Gothic wonder spanning six centuries of building—is immediately impressive, the city itself takes a little time to work its magic. You know it’s going to happen, though, even as you walk along with some doubts creeping into your mind. As I stroll through the modern streets of this German gay mecca, I think: “I’m going to love this city. I don’t yet, but I’m going to.”

That’s because much of what’s wonderful about Cologne (Köln in German) is a matter of experiencing, not seeing. There really aren’t many “sights” in the city. Well, there are some amazing museums, quite a few in fact, but except for the cathedral there are no “must see” tourist attractions. Actually, the best parts of the city lie away from the established tourist zones, and the more time you spend simply strolling, discovering a little café here, a fun bar there, a fabulous restaurant, or a unique little shop, the more you become enamored of this appealing town.

For gay visitors, there couldn’t be a more welcoming city on earth—how many other places offer a “pink card,” designed especially for GLBT travelers that provides free public transit and gives discounts everywhere from gay bars to boat tours to fetish shops? Annual gay festivals range from July’s Christopher Street Day to November’s Bear Pride. The city’s famous Carnival with a noticeable gay contingent is usually held in February and is one of the most prominent in Europe. While a metropolis like Berlin might have greater numbers of bars, Cologne is the unofficial “Gay Capital” of Germany.

This will be particularly true next year, when the city hosts the Gay Games, which run from July 31 to August 7, 2010, enabling an immensely gay-welcoming city (and one devoted to gay sports, with the largest GLBT sports club in Europe) to celebrate its gay-friendliness. Notes Ingo Schneider, volunteer media coordinator for the Games, “I want to engage myself in showing the world how easy it can be to be out, and here in Cologne it’s totally easy.” For the Gay Games (Germany’s first and Europe’s second, after Amsterdam) they’re expecting 12,000 sporting/cultural participants which will make it, Schneider proudly points out, larger than the Beijing Olympics, and an additional million spectators. With 34 sports in 28 venues, there will be no lack of events to watch (most of them free), and none more than fifteen minutes from the city center.

Read The Entire Article

31 December 2009 – Fridae

Gay Games seeks contributions to fund athletes

by Federation of Gay Games
The international Federation of Gay Games seeks to raise an additional US$20,000 to send another 10 athletes and artists from Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, and Sri Lanka (on top of the 34 who have already secured funding) to the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.

The following is a press release issued by Federation of Gay Games on December 29, 2009: Thirty four lesbian & gay athletes from countries as diverse as South Africa, China, Chile and The Philippines have even greater reason to celebrate the New Year. The international Federation of Gay Games has awarded scholarships to these 34 sports & cultural participants so they can attend and participate in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, from July 31 to August 7, 2010.

Ten additional deserving applicants from Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, and Sri Lanka have been approved, but won’t be able to go to Germany unless US$20,000 in additional scholarship funds are raised. (Games Cologne is separately funding some athletes from Eastern Europe.)

“Many of these athletes face challenges that most of us will never experience,” said Paul Oostenbrug, co-chair of the FGG Scholarship Committee. “Where being openly gay or lesbian can risk life or limb, participating in the Gay Games may seem like a luxury. But the experience is extremely moving for them, and offers our scholarship athletes a chance to learn how the LGBT sports movement can be a vehicle for change in their own community. Without a full scholarship, participation would be impossible.”

Gay Games scholarships include travel, room and board, and waived registration fees, plus special leadership and organizational development programs designed to help participants build local capacity for LGBT sports & cultural programs. The FGG’s Scholarship Fund works in cooperation with the host city scholarship program. For the 2010 Gay Games, Games Cologne is separately funding as many as 200 participants from Eastern Europe. There were more than 100 scholarship recipients at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

Approved and funded scholarship athletes are from countries like South Africa, Argentina, Chile, China, Jamaica, Kenya, Philippines, Taiwan, and Brazil, and include the Chosen FEW, the South African women’s soccer team that won people’s hearts – and a bronze medal – at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. The 10 athletes on the waiting list are from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.

The ten (10) “waiting list” applicants have been notified that their applications were approved but that the FGG lacks the funding to be able to bring them to Germany. The FGG has redoubled its efforts to secure the funding and is asking individuals and companies to make a donation to the FGG Scholarship Fund so that the final group of athletes on the waiting list can be fully funded. If more than $20,000 is donated, additional scholarships may be awarded, or the FGG will use the funds to support Games Cologne’s efforts in Eastern Europe.

“We ask that everyone with the ability to donate make a contribution this holiday season,” said Oostenbrug. “US$30 pays for one night’s housing. US$250 covers one person’s participation fees, and US$1,600 will fully sponsor one athlete.”

Contributions can be made online.