Doing It In Berlin

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The Gay friendly German city of Berlin’s history go back more than 750 years. In 1701 Berlin became the capital of the kingdom of Prussia and in 1871 of the German Empire.

Going Nowhere Queerly-Doing It In BerlinAlthough Prussia was ruled by a gay king from 1740 till 1786 (Fredrick II), Berlin’s gay career only started a hundred years later. In the 1920s (the Golden Twenties) Berlin was seen as the city with the most lively and advanced gay subculture in Europe. That, of course, ended after 1933 when Hitler and the Nazis were given power in Germany. (A memorial for gays persecuted by the Nazi regime was opened in Berlin in 2008, long overdue after more than 60 years.)

After the end of World War II in 1945 and with the start of the cold war Berlin had been divided into West Berlin (controlled by the Western Allies) and East Berlin (controlled by the Soviet Union).

West Berlin, although an island in communist ruled East Germany (G.D.R.), became the gay capital of Germany again. Not only due to its population of about 3 million people, but partially also because the compulsory military service of West Germany (F.R.G.) didn’t apply to men in West Berlin, which attracted many men to move to West Berlin. After homosexual relations had been legalised in 1969, the gay scene and gay movement in West Berlin exploded in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 2001 Berlin got an openly gay Mayor, Klaus Wowereit from the Social Democrats. To prevent his outing by opponents during the election campaign he outed himself on a party congress with the legendary words “Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so” (I’m gay and that’s just fine).

Traditionally, there have been gay areas in the districts of Schöneberg and Kreuzberg (both in the western part of Berlin) as well as in Prenzlauer Berg (eastern part). Recently, the district of Friedrichshain developed as another area with a couple of gay-friendly clubs and restaurants. Most of the gay hotels, bars, cafes and shops in Berlin are located in the Schöneberg district (which had dance halls for men already back in the 1920s).

Annual gay highlights in Berlin are, among others, the Berlinale film festival in February (including the Queer Film Award Teddy), the Easter fetish week, the gay and lesbian street festival in Berlin-Schöneberg and the Gay Pride parade in June, and Folsom Europe in September.