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German Culture: Gay and Lesbian Germany

An overview I History of gay rights in Germany I Gay Germany today

Gay Berlin I Gay Cologne I Gay Dortmund I Gay Frankfurt I Gay Gelsenkirchen I Gay Hamburg I Gay Hanover I Gay Kaiserlautern I Gay Leipzig I Gay Munich I Gay Nuremburg I Gay Stuttgart

An overview

Gay Germany.

A generally laid-back attitude towards sex in Germany makes the country a naturally attractive place for gays and lesbians to feel at home in. Germany, where people can sunbathe nude in the middle of the capital city; Germany, where it's de rigueur for men of whatever sexuality to parade as fat pouting dames on carnival night. Germany, where prostitution is legal and the age of consent is 14.

A place that can be this relaxed and funloving is unlikely to get overly puritan about how gay men and women get their pleasures. Gay couples holding hands and kissing in public generally fails to shock or, indeed, even attract special attention (except, it must be said, in certain parts of eastern Germany). It is renowned for its very out and flamboyant assertions of gay pride, particularly its huge Christopher Street Day celebrations in a number of German cities in June or July, the most famous ones being in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne.

First, a little background...

History of gay rights in Germany

Long, long before Western governments recognized gay rights as worthy of positive legislative action, late nineteenth century Germany was where the first revolutionary step towards the recognition and acceptance of homosexuality began. In 1897 the sex researcher Dr Magnus Hirschfeld (himself openly gay) founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich humanitäre Komitee). The Committee was made up mainly of gay professionals and its main aim was to fight 'Paragraph 175': an article of Prussian law imposed on a newly united Germany in 1871 by Wilhelm I that forbade sex between males. (Most constituent states of pre-unification Germany had liberal French-inspired laws that included no such strictures.) The Committee's work was supported by another pioneering researcher, Richard von Krafft-Ebing (who coined the term 'heterosexual'). While not gay himself, von Krafft-Ebing campaigned against the view of homosexuality as a disorder.

Hirschfeld's principal theory was the positing of an intermediate 'third sex'. Although this has been overtaken by the modern view of bisexual potential in all humans, the theory laid the basis for scientific recognition of homosexuality as something other than a disorder, and thus forms one of the milestones of the modern world.

Fast forward to ...

Gay Germany today

Officially, modern Germany has more than overcome the Sturm und Drang of the struggle Hirschfeld championed. East Germany decriminalized homosexual relations in 1968, and West Germany followed the next year.

On to the 21st century, and Germany is now one of the world's gay meccas. 2001 proved to be an annus mirabilis in gay German history with:
•the appointment in June of Klaus Wowereit as openly gay mayor of Berlin (who coined the now famous phrase: Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so, i.e. "I'm gay, and it's just fine that way.")
•the legalization in August of gay marriage and some (but still not all) of the associated legal rights for gay couples taken for granted by straight couples.

German gay city life

Berlin is the undisputed prime camping ground for German gay life with its estimated gay/lesbian population of well over a quarter of a million. The gay scene here caters for all tastes, from as tame to as hard sex and off-the-wall as you like.
-Schöneberg district - the Motz Straße-quarter around Noolendorfplatz - is traditionally where the night begins: 'traditionally' being reference, amongst other things, to the fact that it was home to the British novelist Christopher Isherwood whose Goodbye to Berlin inspired the film Caberet.
- Kreuzberg district - Oranien Straße and Mehringdamm (check out the Schwulesmuseum, i.e. Gay Museum on Mehringdamm 61)
-Prenzlauer Berg, especially around Gleim Straße and Greifenhagener Straße
-Friedrichshain, along Muhlen Straße

Christopher Street Day is Berlin's biggest gay event attracting over 400,000 partiers, and happens at the end of June - the same time as the World Cup matches in Berlin!
Berlin Lesbian and Gay City Festival - almost as big as Christopher Street Day and happening about a week before it - also during the World Cup matches in Berlin.

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Love Parade - Berlin's most famous party - and a very gay-friendly one - hopes to be back at the beginning of July 2006 after being cancelled in 2004 and 2005 for lack of funding. It is planned to coincide, of course, with the World Cup.

There are numerous regular publications for gays and lesbians in Berlin, most of which are available in gay bars and all of which can be found at Berlin Tourist Information. Here is a list of the main ones:
Gay and Lesbian Berlin
-Siegessaule: a free magazine named after the city's famous Victory Column. A well respected force in the city's general cultural life.
-Out In Berlin 2005/2006: published by Berlin Tourist Information
-Queer in Berlin: a free lesbian and gay magazine with a Berlin section
-Spartacus 2003/2004: international gay/lesbian travel guide.
Gay Berlin
-Sergej: free guide to Berlin for gay men.
-Berlin von hinten: gay guide to Berlin in both German and English.
Lesbian Berlin
-L-Mag: a magazine for lesbians
-Lesbisches Berlin - Die Stadtbegleiterin: a city guide for lesbians.

And for women to start with in Berlin:
-Begine Cafe Bistro Bar - for wimmin. Potsdamer Straße 139, in Schöneberg
-Pour Elle - Berlin's longest running lesbian bar. 10, Kalckreuth Straße, in Schöneberg.

Gay and lesbian information centers in Berlin
-Mann-O-Meter: information and advice for gay men at Bulow Straße 106, Schöneberg. Phone +49(30)216 80 08
Lesbenberatung: lesbian advice and counseling at Kulmer Straße 20, Schöneberg, Phone +49(30)217 27 53

Cologne Gay/Lesbian information
For what's on in Cologne's gay scene check out Gaymap, Cologne's gay/lesbian magazine, available at the Cologne Tourist Center, and Exit magazine at any gay venue.

Dortmund Gay/Lesbian information
Dortmund is the second biggest city in the Ruhr (next after Essen) and is famous for its six massive breweries. The city's gay scene is covered in:
http://dortmund.gay-web.de/ (German language only), and
Exit magazine, available at any gay venue.

Frankfurt Gay/Lesbian information
http://frankfurt.gay-web.de/csd/ German language only, but an easy-to-follow guide to Frankfurt's gay scene.

Gelsenkirchen Gay/Lesbian information
Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr valley, being a small town mentioned in very few guidebooks, has only two gay bars:
Havanna, Ida Straße 15, Tel. (02 09) 49 81 53
La Mirage (in the Fina-Parkhaus) Sellhorst Straße 6, Tel. (02 09) 20 11 06
but they look and feel little different from when they were established back in the 1970s - 'No place to spend an evening!' says an informed local.
The preferred option is to go to nearby Essen and/or Bochum - both only 15 minutes away by train.

Essen, the largest city in the Ruhr, has:
Cafe Dax, Viehofer Straße 49a, Tel. (02 01) 2 48 84 04: a large cafe-bar in Essen's city center where the pedestrian district starts, with large windows, where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Right next door to Cafe Dax is
Phoenix-Sauna, Viehofer Straße 49, Tel. (02 01) 2 48 84 03. These steam baths attract men of all ages (yes, young guys too, we are told!) and Wednesdays and Sundays are 'two for the price of one'.

Bochum has its own gay 'Bermuda triangle' of pubs, bars and restaurants. What makes the Bochum gay scene special is the fact that the musical 'Starlight Express' is a nightly fixture (and has been since 1988), meaning the number of guys out for fun is boosted by those involved in the musical. Venues in Bochum where you're likely to meet them:
Coxx, Ehrenfeld Straße 2, Tel. (02 34) 33 72 96. A pre-party venue where guys of all ages get together for a night of partying.
Freibad, Clemens Straße 2, Tel. (02 34) 31 21 35. A cocktail bar with especially cheap drinks on Thursdays.
Orlando, Alte Hattinger Straße 31, Tel. (02 34) 3 42 42. Being very mixed, however, you're less likely to make any significant hook ups here.

For parties in the Ruhr Valley (i.e. the cluster of towns that includes, besides Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Oberhausen, and Recklinghausen) as well as in Cologne, pick up a copy of Exit magazine at any gay venue.

Hamburg gay/lesbian information
Second only to Berlin's, the Hamburg gay/lesbian scene can also be a wild one. There are two main gay areas in the city:
St Georg district - just a little east of the central Hauptbahnhof railway station connecting to the airport. Lange Reihe and Steindamm are the two streets between and around which the gay scene is centered.
St Pauli - further to the west. St Pauli is the center of Hamburg's famously sleazy nightlife, through which runs the legendary sex strip of the Reeperbahn. The gay scene here is a little more mixed than in St Georg.

A starter for gay Hamburg
Pit Club (Pulverteich 17): big disco with the cruisy dark-roomed cafe Male upstairs.
Black (Danziger Straße 21): leather/rubber/uniform.
Cafe Gnosa (Lange Reihe 93): Hamburg's most famous gay cafe.
Wunderbar (Talstraße 14): a packed joint for the late night crowd.
EDK (Gerhardstraße 3): for the even later night crowd - starting around 4am.
Pulverfaß Cabaret (Reeperbahn 147): for drag and good fun.
Dragon Sauna (Pulverteich 37)

For more details of where to go and what to do check out:
Gay information centers in Hamburg
Magnus Hirschfeld Centrum, Borgweg 8. Tel 040/278 778 00. info@mhc-hamburg.de
Hein & Fiete (website in German only). Pulverteich. Tel 040-240-333 Mon-Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat 4pm-7pm.

Gay information magazines in Hamburg
hinnerk(German language only). Offices located at Steindamm 11.
yag. A new gay info mag that began in 2004.

Gay/Lesbian bookshops in Hamburg
Gay bookshop
Buchladen Mannerschwarm (website in German only) Lange Reihe 102. Open Mon-Fri 11am-7.30pm, Sat 11am-5pm. Tel.436093.
Lesbian bookshop
Frauenbuchladen Hamburg, Bismarckstraße 98. Open Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-4pm. Tel. 040-420-47-48. info@frauenbuchladen-hh.w4w.de

Hanover Gay/Lesbian information
Friends the Gaymap listings for gay Hanover.

Kaiserslautern Gay/Lesbian information
Gay listing for Kaiserslautern. Click on 'City Guide', then on 'Bars and Cafés', 'Clubs and Parties', 'Saunas and Cruising', or 'Sex Shops and Kinos'. In German but easy enough to follow for those out for some fun and friendship in Kaiserslauten.

Leipzig Gay/Lesbian information
Gay listing for Leipzig. In German but easy enough to follow for those out for some fun and friendship in Leipzig. Click on the top left 'City guide' link.

Munich Gay/Lesbian information
Munich is Germany's third largest city and as such has a thriving gay scene centered around Sendlinger Tor and Mullerstraße.
Gay information center in Munich
Gay Community Center at Mullerstraße 41, with its own bar Sub
Try Mrs. Henderson on Sundays for the drag show!
For details of what's on and where to go visit the Friends the Gaymap listing for gay Munich.

Nuremberg Gay/Lesbian information
Friends the Gaymap listing for gay Nuremburg.

Stuttgart Gay/Lesbian information
Gay listing for Stuttgart. In German but easy enough to follow for those out for some fun and friendship in Stuttgart. Click on the top left 'City guide' link.

Baden Baden Berlin Cologne Dortmund Dusseldorf Frankfurt Freiburg Garmisch-Partenkirchen Gelsenkirchen Hamburg Hanover Heidelberg Kaiserslautern Leipzig Munich Nuremburg Regensburg Stuttgart Trier Tubingen

Read here about the gay scene in Austria
Read here about the gay scene in Poland
Read here about the gay scene in Switzerland
Read here about the gay scene in South Africa
Read here about the gay scene in Ukraine
Read here about the gay scene in Japan.


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