Gay Life flourished in Berlin before the Nazis snuffed it out

milkboys Articles, History 4 Comments

Last year, close to 13 million people visited Berlin, twice the number of annual visitors recorded 10 years previously. The city is positively bursting at the seams. Not many years ago, a vast number of Berlin apartments stood empty; these days, a pervasive housing shortage threatens to get worse. Berlin is in. But Berlin is also a projection surface for dreams and desires, a promise of a different, freer, better life.

Now, this Berlin enthusiasm is nothing new. Close to a century ago – as the Weimar Republic was nearing its end – Berlin was already a vibrant metropolis the likes of which could not be found anywhere else in the world.

“The city looks to me like a scintillating gem,” the American dancer and singer Josephine Baker observed.  “These big coffee shops are like ocean steamers, and the orchestras are their machines that resound all over the place, keeping it in motion. The music is everywhere.”

Visitors both German and foreign, such as the two English writers W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, felt almost magically attracted by Berlin – by the city’s great size, by its rhythm, but most of all by its gay scene. “Berlin,” Auden remarked, “is a dream for pederasts.” And Isherwood, years afterward, expressed the city’s fascination most succinctly: “To Christopher,” he wrote, “Berlin meant boys.” Everything seemed possible; everything was possible.

As the capital city of the German Empire (the Second Reich, dissolved in 1919), Berlin was already the home of a multibranched, many-sided queer subculture. In the 1920s, Berlin could offer more than a hundred cafés, bars, and taverns that were mainly frequented by queer people of all stripes.

The writer Emil Szittya remembered a visit to a transvestite bar named “Mikado”: “At the piano sat the Herr Baron Sattlergrün, who however preferred to be called ‘Baroness.’” Another legendary spot was Silhouette, a small, permanently smoke-filled pub that did a thriving business well into the wee hours of the morning. While the guests ate chicken soup, a pale young man, wearing woman’s clothes and accompanied by a blind pianist, would sing melancholy songs; Marlene Dietrich and the composer Friedrich Hollaender were two of Silhouette’s regular customers.

In the evening hours, certain parts of the Tiergarten (the large park in the middle of the city) were turned into gay playgrounds; moreover, there were veritable gay brothels, camouflaged as bathhouses or massage parlors, where men could meet and have sex.

Read on…

Why Pride still matters

milkboys Articles, History 16 Comments

We made amazing progress over the last few decades when it comes to queer rights, acceptance & visibility. So much that some people might wonder if we really still need pride parades. Here are some arguments why we do:

1. Pride commemorates our history

In 1969, it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar, or for bars to serve LGBT people. The Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was one of the few places LGBT people could get a drink or hang out. Even there, life wasn’t easy: Police frequently raided the bar, issuing fines and violently arresting patrons. In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a black trans woman named Marsha Johnson struck back by throwing a shot glass at police officers.

This act of resistance, known today as the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicked off days of rioting as LGBT people rose up against the police system’s brutality and bigotry. A month later, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, helped plan the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March near the site of the riots. And while the LGBT civil rights movement has made great strides in the decades since then, we’re still far from true freedom and equality – which is why we should never forget where and how Pride celebrations started.

2. People are still attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity

Threats, violence and harassment against queer people happen every day, including during Prides. In a number of countries, events can’t go ahead without heavy police presence. In 2015, while 250 people were peacefully demonstrating during Pride in Kyiv, Ukraine, counter-demonstrators violently attacked the parade and left 10 people injured. In many countries, including in Ukraine, crimes perpetrated because of someone’s real or perceived or sexual orientation or gender identity are not prosecuted as hate crimes, and sometimes they’re not investigated at all.

Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have a devastating impact on LGBTI communities. The fear of being targeted pushes people to hide their identity. When attackers go unpunished it spreads distrust towards the police and the courts. What’s more, these hate crimes are under-reported, which means people don’t get the protection they urgently need.

3. Prides are an opportunity to challenge homophobic and transphobic legislation

LGBTI rights activists have been prevented from holding Pride events in Moscow, Russia, since 2006 – and following a decision of the Moscow City Court in 2012, for the next 100 years. In addition, a federal bill prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors was passed in 2013. In short, the law now bans LGBTI activism and support groups and punishes people for expressing their sexual orientation and their gender identity, including at Pride events.

However, some hope is emerging, as in recent years people in Saint-Petersburg were able to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The relentless commitment of Russian LGBTI activists to organising a Pride is not only about the event itself, it’s also a brave defiance against Russia’s unjust laws curbing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

4. Rights can never be taken for granted

Even in countries where in the past Pride events were allowed to go ahead, we cannot take things for granted. In Istanbul, the Turkish authorities decided to ban Pride, even though parades have taken place since 2003 without incident. Despite the ban, 5,000 peaceful participants gathered but were dispersed by police forces using tear gas, pepper-ball projectiles and water cannons. This appalling backlash is unfortunately one in a long series of harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, but it was still a shock in a country where last year’s Pride attracted up to 90,000 people.

5. Prides contribute to changing hearts and minds

Change is possible, even when homophobic and transphobic attitudes exist. When 70 LGBTI activists marched in the streets of Riga, Latvia, for the very first Pride event in 2005, they were met by over 2,000 counter-protestors, and many of them were attacked. Ten years on, more than 5,000 people took part in EuroPride 2015, with only 40 counter-protestors and no serious incidents reported. “The marchers as well as the people watching us were happy, many of them were waving hands,” said Rupert, an activist from Germany, who also took part in one of the first Prides in Riga.

Similarly, after being banned three years in a row, Belgrade Pride in Serbia took place successfully in recent years. In both instances the event went ahead peacefully and according to the organisers’ plan, with proper protection from the police. This sends a strong message to the local population as well as other cities and neighbouring countries. It demonstrates a commitment from authorities to uphold LGBTI rights and shows that activism can bring change.

6. Prides are empowering

Pride events aren’t about approval but acceptance. They are about human rights; they empower queer individuals to reclaim the rights and freedoms they are denied, and the public space they are often excluded from. Visibility is crucial, especially when the state and opposition groups go to considerable lengths to put LGBTI people at the margins of society.

Fighting shame and social stigma, and marching in the face of threats and violence – Pride parades are not only inspiring celebrations of difference but also a declaration of intent. Through these events, demonstrators assert that they will not to be intimidated, that they will continue to demand equality, and that LGBTI rights are human rights.

Before you knock it, just think about the middle school kid for whom going to a Pride event is a dream because they’re so excited to get to be themselves somewhere without fear of judgment. Think about the elderly gay man for whom pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Think about these people (and more) before you think solely about what Pride means to you.

Different from the Others

milkboys Films, History 2 Comments

In 1919 the first known film that was sympathetic to gay people was produced. A year later, it was banned. Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern) is a German movie about a relationship between a master violinist and his student.

Paul Körner, the violinist, is approached by a young man named Kurt who begs Paul to be his teacher. He accepts and their relationship develops.

Their families don’t understand their relationship, and Paul comes out to his parents by sending them to a doctor who explains that Paul is gay and it’s nothing to worry about. Homosexuality isn’t an illness, the doctor says, it’s just a normal variation of human sexuality.

This was 50 years before Stonewall. These ideas were revolutionary even during the brief social liberalization Germany experienced in the decade before the Great Depression, which is why public screenings of the film were banned a year after it was released.

The film goes on to discuss suicide among gay men, the pressure to be straight, and blackmail used against Paul.

Magnus Hirschfeld, a Jewish doctor and sexologist who rose to fame at the beginning of the 20th century and is remembered most as one of the first major gay rights activists and for founding one of the first gay organizations in the world, helped make the film. He devoted his life to trying to get the law the banned homosexuality in Germany repealed, and he believed that more education and scientific understanding could help society accept gay people.

The film was produced with the help of Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Research and 40 copies were produced, according to John Baxter’s book Carnal Knowledge. The Institute of Sexual Research was raided and closed when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and Hirschfeld spent the last few years of his life in France trying to continue his work before he died of a heart attack in 1935.

You can watch the film on YouTube.

The Mollies Club

milkboys History 5 Comments

Welcome to the molly house: How a gay bar survived and thrived in a deadly environment of 18th-century Britain.

In 1709, the London journalist Ned Ward published an account of a group he called “the Mollies Club.” Visible through the homophobic bile (he describes the members as a “Gang of Sodomitical Wretches”) is the clear image of a social club that sounds, most of all, like a really good time. Every evening of the week, Ward wrote, at a pub he would not mention by name, a group of men came together to gossip and tell stories, probably laughing like drains as they did so, and occasionally succumbing to “the Delights of the Bottle.”

In 18th and early-19th-century Britain, a “molly” was a commonly used term for men who today might identify as gay, bisexual or queer. Sometimes, this was a slur; sometimes, a more generally used noun, likely coming from mollis, the Latin for soft or effeminate. A whole molly underworld found its home in London, with molly houses, the clubs and bars where these men congregated, scattered across the city like stars in the night sky. Their locale gives some clue to the kind of raucousness and debauchery that went on within them—one was in the shadow of Newgate prison; another in the private rooms of a tavern called the Red Lion. They might be in a brandy shop, or among the theaters of Drury Lane. But wherever they were, in these places, dozens of men would congregate to meet one another for sex or for love, and even stage performances incorporating drag, “marriage” ceremonies, and other kinds of pageantry.

It’s hard to unpick exactly where molly houses came from, or when they became a phenomenon in their own right. In documents from the prior century, there is an abundance of references to, and accounts of, gay men in London’s theaters or at court. Less overtly referenced were gay brothels, which seem harder to place than their heterosexual equivalents. (The historian Rictor Norton suggests that streets once called Cock’s Lane and Lad Lane may lend a few clues.) Before the 18th century, historians Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant Ragan argue, sodomy was like any other sin, and its proponents like any other sinners, “engaged in a particular vice, like gamblers, drunks, adulterers, and the like.”

Read on…

19 Years Later

milkboys Articles, History 14 Comments

It has been 19 years since Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, died as a result of being beaten and tortured by two classmates who targeted him because of his sexual identity. His injuries were so severe that the person who found his brutalised body tied to a fence initially thought he was a scarecrow—a lifeless, human form meant to scare.

Since Matthew’s horrific death and the subsequent murder trials of his attackers, the US has taken small, but important, steps to protect queer individuals through legislation—including the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which made assaulting an individual because of sexual orientation or gender identity a federal crime. In 2013, President Obama also signed into law a reauthorizing of the Violence Against Women’s Act, which included added protections for LGBT victims of violence.

Yet 2017 has been the worst year on record for hate-related homicides of LGBTQ people in the US. In August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released a mid-year report that found that as of August 23, there had been 36 anti-LGBTQ homicides—the highest number NCAVP had recorded in its 20-year history of documenting this information. Three-quarters of these victims were people of colour; 19 were transgender or gender-nonconforming.

“This number represents a 29% increase in single incident reports from 2016,” the authors note. “So far in 2017, there has been nearly one homicide a week of an LGBTQ person in the US”

Cathy Renna is a longtime LGBTQ activist who spent more than a decade as GLAAD’s primary spokesperson, and actually travelled to Laramie in October 1998. She says how “extraordinary” it is to have a sense of “the change that has occurred because of the response to Matt’s murder and also how far we still have to go.”

On October 6, 1998—the morning Shepard was found, still alive but barely—Renna was living in Washington, DC. She’d just returned to her office after leaving a press conference announcing national advertising and advocacy against gay conversion therapy. Her phone, beeper, and email, which was still fairly new at the time, were lighting up with messages, she says. One of the people she spoke with was a friend of Shepard’s and the president of the LGBT student group at the University of Wyoming: They were feeling overwhelmed as media outlets began to converge on campus. The next morning, she jumped on an airplane and headed to Wyoming.

“The media and the community paid so much attention to this murder and was so motivated to action that it completely changed the way this issue was dealt with in American culture,” Renna says. “I spent a lot of time educating the media, both local and national, that were there about issues related to hate violence. The media were trying to portray this in a very sensational way … it was such a horrific case, and the reality was that this happens all the time. It had been happening for decades.” She clarified that gender nonconforming individuals and queer people of colour, especially, are often targets of violent crimes that go largely unreported in the media.

In the wake of Shepard’s murder and the subsequent coverage and activism, “there’s been an extraordinary amount of progress in terms of the education and awareness by so many,” she says. “However, with increased visibility can also come a backlash by those who are harboring anti-LGBTQ feelings. In a climate like the one we’re in now, not only do they feel emboldened, but they also feel they have permission to act on their hate and their homophobia and their transphobia. That is the reality of what the current administration has created.”

“It gives us an opportunity not to talk about Matt but to talk about all the other cases that did not get the attention that Matthew Shepard’s murder got.”

There’s evidence, she continues, not only in the political rhetoric used today but the actual policies and the actions that lawmakers are taking. For example, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently voted against a measure that condemned the use of the death penalty to punish people in same-sex relationships. And last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a guidance that would make it legal for any business to fire someone based on their sexual orientation.

“What happened to Matt is not unique. It happens all the time, and it mostly happens to those who are more marginalized,” Renna says. “That’s why I think it’s important we always go back and look at what happened to Matt—because it gives us an opportunity not to talk about Matt but to talk about all the other cases that did not get the attention that Matthew Shepard’s murder got.”

via Broadly

Pierre Joubert

milkboys Art, History 19 Comments

This is a collaboration post with the Destroyer blog, you’ll find an interview with Pierre Joubert over on his blog, go check it out!

Pierre Joubert (June 27, 1910 – January 13, 2002), was a famous French illustrator. He was closely associated with the creation of Scouting and could be called the father of the idolised image of the boy scout in France and Belgium.

He illustrated dozens of books and magazines with images of scouts and other lads in adventurous and escapist settings, shaping the daydreams of generations of young boys and teenagers.

(Some) History of Gay Sex

milkboys History, News & Opinions 10 Comments

British YouTuber Calum McSwiggan thinks that the lack of education about queer aspects of life, including sex, in many schools is something we shouldn’t just accept. So he started a video series called Gay Sex 101 in which he wants to tackle several aspects of non-heterosexual intercourse to fill the gaps of knowledge teenagers are often left with when it comes to this topic.

His first video, which you can check out above,  gives a (very short) overview of examples of romantic and sexual same-sex relationships throughout history. It’s obviously impossible to cover more than some basics during the span of an average YouTube videos and and if you know a thing or two about history you’ll be left with a strong desire to throw in some “But..”s and “Too be precise”s but his intent is obviously a good one and spreading some much needed information, no matter how basic, can never hurt.