What was the gay culture like in the 1990s

Germany archive

Christian ability

The author

Dr .; Specialized chairman for history at a grammar school in Kaiserslautern. Work in teacher training in Rhineland-Palatinate. Exhibition work and seminars focusing on the history of the GDR, (GDR) media and media history, the history of the Americans in Rhineland-Palatinate since 1945 and the history of history and politics lessons.

To this day, homophobia is a politically and socially relevant topic. Homosexuals had to fight for decriminalization and increasing acceptance in processes that lasted for decades. Christian Könne on the continuity of persecution and discrimination in the Federal Republic.

Demonstration in Cologne on the occasion of the 9th World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), 1987 (& copy Bundesarchiv, Bild 224-015-128-31, Photo: Ulutuncok, Guenay)

Continuation of the pursuit - continuities

In 1945 the National Socialist regime ended in Germany. However, when the system collapsed, neither the persecution of homosexuals nor their discrimination ended. As the historian Wolfgang Benz states, the persecution after 1945 "could not be compared with the repression before it, rather it was carried out within the legal framework of criminal justice and the discrimination consisted of silence, disclosure of ridicule and contempt." [1] The authorities as well as a large part of the population, who had to forcibly renounce numerous enemy images on Allied orders, were able to continue to apply their usual stigmatization, exclusion and persecution concepts here. The authorities persecuted homosexual men "in the most insignificant circumstances". [2]

The version of Paragraph 175, which was tightened up by the National Socialists in 1935, according to which a glance could be considered evidence of homosexuality, remained in force until 1969. [3] For example, at the end of the 1940s, a doctor who had previously been imprisoned in accordance with Section 175 was not registered as a “victim of fascism” but as a “criminal”. As a consequence of his prison sentence, he was "stripped of his state examination, which was tantamount to a work ban [as a doctor]." In addition, in 1948 he had to "pay another 350 marks for food costs for the penitentiary from 1936–1939." With an average monthly income of 184, 92 D-Mark, this was almost two months' salary. The following year the police asked "about his income" in order to have him - four years after the end of the National Socialist era - "pay the costs for the concentration camp: 1.50 DM per day". [4]

This example was not an isolated incident. Various studies have now proven the continuities with regard to the persecution of homosexuals. [5] The number of convictions fell - on an annual average - from 3,541 under National Socialism (NS) to 1,388 during the occupation, i.e. by around 60 percent. [6] With the end of the occupation, they rose to 2,642 judgments annually in the Federal Republic, almost doubling and almost 74 percent of the National Socialist persecution rate. Until 1965 the persecution in the Federal Republic was about four times as high as that in the Weimar Republic. [7] The castrations begun during the Nazi era were continued; later, interventions were also carried out on the brain. [8] Female homosexuality - like the presence of women in public life - was largely negated. Well-known patterns were followed here as well. [9] The low points with regard to the human rights of homosexuals include the early judgments of the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Constitutional Court, which thwarted all attempts to legally achieve equality for homosexual men and at least to soften the Nazi version of Section 175. [10]


In this situation it was extremely difficult to create a confident identity. That was not just true of the content one was striving for. Homosexuals who banded together often did so under the label homophile in order to cause less offense. [11] Attempts to re-establish one's own magazines were repeatedly rejected by legal authorities. [12]The circle was the only trilingual magazine for gay men. It was published in Switzerland from 1932 to 1967 for Germany as well and was "for many years the most important magazine that had set itself the goal of legal equality and social recognition [...]". [13]

In spite of everything, unlike in the GDR, a "scene" developed in western Germany in which homosexuals could find friends and partners. [14] For Hamburg, "18 flaps [that is, public toilets as meeting points] and 17 relevant bars" are known in the 1950s. [15] In the mid-1950s there were 15 bars in Cologne, and by 1969 there were 35. [16] Frankfurt am Main had six bars in the 1950s. [17] In Stuttgart there were four in the 1950s and 60s. [18] Since the 1950s there has also been a pub for lesbians there. [19] Six meeting points are historically documented for Ludwigshafen am Rhein in the 1960s. [20] In such places, especially outside the big cities, gay men and lesbian women also met - but often in significantly smaller numbers. Although these places were inconspicuous, they were all monitored by the police, threatened by raids and closure. [21] However, thanks to the gay stationing soldiers who were also there, they offered a previously unknown international flair even in the smaller towns. [22]

Morality and the State in the Cold War

The early socio-political course of the federal government was shaped by a specific concept of "morality" based on conservative, rigid ideas of the church. The Catholic Volkswartbund supported this. [23] The Federal Minister for Family Affairs Franz-Josef Würmeling (CDU) held, in times of the Cold War,
    "Millions of internally healthy families with righteously brought up children [...] as a safeguard against the impending danger of the peoples of the East with many children" for "at least as important as all military safeguards". [24]
Homosexuals, denigrated as "Moscow's new guard", were also seen as a threat to the state in the Federal Republic. [25] The well-known Nazi enemy images have now been supplemented by those of the Cold War. [26] The controversial government draft "E 1962" for a new criminal law was characterized by an "ultimately based on theocratic understanding of the state", which assigned criminal law the task of "forcing" the citizens to a moral "way of life. [27] In southern Germany, for example, under the influence of the Civil Code, state sanctioning of people's lives for moral and ethical reasons had already been abolished in the 19th century, was not found to be relevant to criminal law in the ministries. The majority of Germans did not meet the moral standards of the Bonn ministerial officials - on the contrary. [28]

Well-known psychologists, physicians and lawyers compared the Bonn criminal law proposals, which maintained the criminal liability of homosexuality, with the Nuremberg race laws of the National Socialists. [29] The German Juristentag and even representatives of the church spoke out against the drafts. Outside the Bonn ministries, lawyers, including 16 criminal law professors, were working on an alternative draft. In 1969, as part of the major penal reform, criminal liability for consensual homosexuality among men was removed.

The emancipation movements since the late 1960s

With the Great Penal Reform, which also made it possible for unmarried people to spend the night together - previously punishable as pimping - and allowed sex education magazines or magazines for homosexuals, a new era dawned in the Federal Republic of Germany - and not just for homosexuals. This, the Stonewall riots in New York's Christopher Street in 1969 and the film by Rosa von Praunheim, first shown in 1971, "It is not the homosexual that is perverse, but the situation in which he lives" formed the background for a homosexual movement that was establishing itself deliberately referred to itself as the gay and lesbian movement. [30] The first gay student group "Homosexual Action Group Bochum" was founded as early as 1970. In 1971 groups in Münster and West Berlin followed, among other places. [31] The first demonstration for homosexual rights took place in 1972 in the university city of Münster. By the late 1970s there were up to 70 groups. [32]

As women, lesbians saw themselves exposed to extensive discrimination, so many gathered under the umbrella of the women's movement, but continued public work together with the gays when they had common concerns. [33] The groups were engaged, but often divided on direction. [34] With information stands, film productions and demonstrations, they created visibility, aroused offense and attention, created publicity and awareness - initially among their own people, gradually also among the population. [35]

To make one's gayness public, as one of the slogans called for, continued to harbor dangers until the 1970s. Students were expelled from the universities for alleged misconduct on the basis of a conviction under Section 175. [36] Public servants were removed from service because of their homosexuality until the mid-1960s, and soldiers and teachers were even longer. [37] Important goals of the dispute were therefore areas that had particularly supported the previous discrimination. [38] After homosexuality had been exempt from punishment among adults since 1969, the protection of minors was increasingly and repeatedly pushed forward in order to prevent public education projects. In Ingolstadt, for example, an information table for a gay group was banned in the pedestrian zone in 1980, stating that “the general public rejects homosexuality as immoral”. In addition, "homosexual activity with minors" is prohibited according to Paragraph 175. From this, the regulatory authority concluded that "events on homosexual issues in public places [...] cannot be approved". [39] You didn't see it that way everywhere. Since 1979 people have been going public with demonstrations, the so-called Christopher Street Days (CSD), from Bremen, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich and West Berlin on a regular basis. With "Homolulu" a large meeting of several days was held in Frankfurt am Main in the same year. [40]

The first meetings of representatives of the emancipation movement and politics took place in 1979 in Berlin and Cologne. Participants were politicians from the SPD, FDP, the Bunter List and the DKP. The CDU had not sent a representative. [41] The first party in the Bundestag to demand the complete abolition of Paragraph 175 in its election manifesto was the FDP in 1980. [42] In the same year the Greens stood up for the rights of homosexuals, even though they were not yet represented in the Bundestag at the time. [43] In 1985 Herbert Rusche, previously a member of the emancipation group "Homo Heidelbergensis" and an openly gay candidate of the Greens, declared for the first time a member of the Bundestag in front of parliament that he was homosexual. [44] In the 1980s, however, the AIDS crisis became the overriding issue, and not just for gays. [45]

The AIDS crisis

At the moment when the second gay and lesbian movement had gradually questioned or dissolved prejudices and enemy images of deviance and delinquency, the successes were again jeopardized by the immunodeficiency disease AIDS. [46] Many of the victims of the disease were gay. This offered conservative politicians in particular a welcome opportunity to raise the mood against gays and to connect with old enemy images. The CSU politician Peter Gauweiler suggested "interning" HIV-positive people. [47] The Bavarian Minister of Education, Hans Zehetmair, considered a rediscovery of “ethical values” suitable “to thin out this degeneracy.” [48] The direction in which the argument went, not only in the CSU, was made clear by the CDU Federal Health Minister Rita Süssmuth (CDU) : "Does the epidemic have to serve to [...] unearth thought patterns that have been thought to be overcome and thus to remind of an oppressive chapter of German history?" Because of the statements from the conservative camp, Süssmuth publicly worried "whether our human achievements and democratic ones Customs are in jeopardy, whether humanity and tolerance could be forgotten ”. [49]

With great care and perseverance, Rita Süssmuth and the former Health Minister Heiner Geißler (CDU) succeeded in preventing the rhetoric of stigmatizing and being locked away. Instead, the federal government - in cooperation with the Aids-Hilfen - promoted a policy of removing taboos, public awareness and education, with which the Federal Republic was extremely successful in international comparison in prevention. [50] Süssmuth's slogan “Aids is everyone” was featured on posters across the country; the central motif was a condom as an indication of protected traffic. Sex education, that is, talking about sexualities of all kinds, saved lives. In the CDU, too, there were now significant voices that spoke sympathetically about sexuality and also discussed the subject of homosexuality in a broader public.

Different publics in the media

The media served all homophobic prejudices until the 1980s. [51] Homosexuality was amalgamated with pedophilia, crime and, during the Cold War, with contacts with the East and betrayal. [52] Magazines for homosexuals were founded in 1969. [53] In order to create their own publics, the Rosa Winkel publishing house was founded in 1975 and the Frauenoffensive publishing house in the same year. [54] Since many bookstores did not include the publications of these publishers in their assortment, gay and women's bookshops were founded, such as “Lillemores Frauenbuchladen” in Munich in 1975 and “Der Andere Buchladen” in Mannheim in 1977.

Since the 1970s, homosexuality has been reported on ARD and ZDF, sporadically and with an enlightening tone. [55] Enlightenment on television also caused offense, as letters to the editor to the film producers showed: "These characters of these subhumans [...] are useless in everyday life and were shot in the 3rd Reich!" [56]

The first gay character and the first gay kiss in 1990 in the early evening series "Lindenstrasse" were significant. But this led to the death threat against the actor Georg Uecker and "to a bomb threat against the entire production". [57] Nevertheless, the topic was now accessible to an audience of millions. The comics by Ralf König and the film "The Moving Man" from 1994, which had over 6.5 million viewers, conveyed images of a common, sometimes bizarre everyday life of homo- and heterosexuals. [58]

The gay movement also recognized that the private sphere was political - just as the women's movement had already formulated it for itself. The outings of TV entertainers Alfred Biolek and Hape Kerkeling by Rosa von Praunheim in 1991 showed the homosexuality of celebrities to an audience of millions. [59] With Klaus Wowereit's statement “I'm gay and that's a good thing” in 2001, a prominent SPD politician at the state and federal level confessed to his homosexuality, but still to avoid a “mendacious dirt campaign” in the media. [60 ] In 2003, as the most prominent CDU politician to date, the First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Ole von Beust, went public with his homosexuality. He also did this to counter political blackmail. [61] With Guido Westerwelle, the FDP provided the first German foreign minister to have entered into a civil partnership with his partner. [62] Since then, only the outing of ex-soccer professional Thomas Hitzlsperger in 2014 has caused a sensation in the media - in professional soccer, the subject of homosexuality is still subject to taboos. [63] The fact that the openly lived homosexuality of the TV entertainer Hella von Sinnen aroused comparatively less offense, indicates the continued existence of hierarchies geared towards masculinity. Overall, the outings show a "tendency towards the normalization of homosexuals in media perceptions". [64]

From personal memories to public commemoration

Parts of the international gay and lesbian movement were aware of the relevance of the story early on. [65] After seven years of preparatory work, the "Spinnboden lesbian archive" was opened in Berlin in 1980. The "Center for Gay History" in Cologne was founded in 1984. In 1985 the "Gay Museum and Archive" followed in Berlin. In 1999 the "Forum Homosexuality Munich" was formed. There will be with Capri, Invertito and Splinter published scientific journals.

In the historical area, museums and memorials have been and continue to set the pace for the depiction of queer history - that is, the diversity in sexual orientation - outside of the milieu from 1984 until today. In 2016 the German Historical Museum Berlin presented the exhibition "Homosexuality_en". German university history had paid little attention to this field of research for decades. In 1985, Richard von Weizsäcker, in his speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, was the first Federal President to name homosexuals as victims of National Socialism. But it was still difficult to find monuments in public spaces. For example, at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial “it took a decade before the Comité International de Dachau was able to decide in 1995 to allow the Association of Munich Gay Groups to set up a stone for the homosexual victims in the memorial room of the memorial.” Also the attempt Remembering Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin still caused "considerable problems" in the 1980s. It was not until 1995 that a memorial was erected on the sidewalk in front of the house. [66]

In 2000 the German Bundestag declared unanimously that it condemned “all forms of discrimination, hostility and violence against gays and lesbians” and regretted that “lesbians and gays were subjected to severe persecution in the past and are still confronted with discrimination today. “Therefore, the Parliament welcomes and supports“ initiatives that deal with the historical coming to terms with the Nazi persecution of homosexuals and the subsequent treatment of their victims. ”In addition, Parliament“ advocates greater public appreciation of the fate of homosexuals persecuted. ”[67]

But at that time the discussion about a central memorial for homosexuals murdered under National Socialism was already several years old. The decision to erect the monument did not receive approval from the CDU / CSU in 2003. The other parliamentary groups voted in favor. [68] On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the memorial for homosexuals murdered under National Socialism, in 2018 a federal president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, apologized for the first time to homosexuals for the injustice done to them by the state. The Federal Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation has been working in the field of queer memory and education policy since 2011.

school and education

In the 1970s, homosexuality was to be found in the curriculum of the CSU-ruled Bavaria as "abnormal behavior", in the CDU-ruled states of Baden-Württemberg and Saarland under "deviating forms". The SPD-ruled Hamburg and the CDU-ruled Rhineland-Palatinate spoke more neutrally of “sexual minorities”. Only in Rhineland-Palatinate was homosexuality even mentioned in the curriculum. Teaching materials used in Saarland and Lower Saxony pointed to the alleged "danger" of homosexuals. In materials for Rhineland-Palatinate alone, homosexuality was described as "socially tolerable", although "not desired". [69] In 1976, extensive material was published for the school, which, in view of the changes in society, basically dealt with the question of socially standardized roles for women and men as well as with the topic of homosexuality. [70]

Despite all the changes and the inclusion of the topic in the curriculum, there were only a few materials in the textbooks until 2017 to be able to depict sexual diversity in the classroom. [71] According to studies in 2017, however, between 71 and 75 percent of all people were in favor of their children being taught about sexual diversity and also about same-sex lifestyles at school. Six percent rejected this. [72]

From decriminalization to the third gender - decisions by the Bundestag and the Federal Constitutional Court

In 1994, Paragraph 175 was deleted in the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the legislative alignment after reunification. This was a consequence of the impunity that had existed in the GDR since 1988. In 1995, the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group submitted the first draft law aiming at marriage for same-sex couples. [73] The draft law was rejected in the recommendation of the Legal Committee of the German Bundestag in 1998. The discussion shows that at that time the CDU / CSU, SPD and FDP voted against the introduction of the right to marry for people of the same sex. PDS and Alliance 90 / The Greens supported this. [74] In 2000, the Bundestag unanimously overturned the convictions based on Section 175 from the Nazi era. [75] In the discussion about the “registered civil partnership” the red-green coalition made it clear in the same year that this was “a question of human rights and the Basic Law”. [76] Norbert Geis (CSU) justified the negative attitude of the Union, among other things, with the fact that one “cannot speak of a great social necessity” because it affects only a few people. In addition, there would be no “legal discrimination”. Most recently, Geis stated on behalf of the Union in the plenary debate that "society would not accept this kind of coexistence [...]". [77] Both of these contradicted the facts, as the surveys showed, among other things. The "registered life partnership" was introduced by the red-green coalition against the votes of the CDU / CSU, FDP, with a majority abstention from the PDS on August 1, 2001. [78] The CDU / CSU-led states of Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony sued before the Federal Constitutional Court and were subject. [79] In 2017, the introduction of a "marriage for all" with all votes in the parliamentary groups of the SPD, Greens and Left with two absent MPs against a majority rejection of 71 percent for the CDU and 82 percent for the CSU from In the same year, however, the parliament unanimously overturned the post-war rulings under Section 175. [80] In the same year, the introduction of the third gender as a positive gender entry was fought for before the Federal Constitutional Court. [81]

Survey results

In September 1949 there was a first survey on the view of the German population on homosexuality. 39 percent considered it a “disease”, 48 percent as a “vice” and 15 percent as a “habit”. Four percent saw homosexuality as a “natural thing”, three percent of those questioned were “undecided”. Personal sex life stood in the way of these publicly expressed assessments. Six percent of the men and five percent of the women stated that they had had their first experience with the same sex and 23 percent of the men - the women were not asked - confirmed that they had "come into contact with homosexual experiences" again later . [82]

In 1969, even before the abolition of criminal liability for adults, 46 percent of the Germans surveyed said that homosexual acts between men should continue to be criminalized. 36 percent were in favor of leaving homosexuality unpunished and 18 percent were undecided. [83] About five years after it was decriminalized, 19.6 percent of those surveyed said they reject homosexuality. 40.3 percent tolerated it and 40.1 percent accepted it. [84] The polls since 1997 showed that 59 percent of the population favored homosexual partnerships, among the 25-29 year olds it was 80 percent. [85]

The polls after the turn of the millennium also indicated that the population thought differently than many politicians of the Union parties. Eleven years before “marriage for everyone”, 64.9 percent of those questioned were in favor of it. In 2016, a year before the vote, as many as 82.6 percent of the population approved “marriage for all”. In the same year, 75.8 percent agreed that "lesbian and gay couples should be allowed to adopt children just like heterosexual couples." ] was only shared by a few ”, in 2017 almost 10 percent of those surveyed still said that homosexuality was immoral, and 18.3 percent that it was unnatural. In 2017, 80.6 percent of those surveyed confirmed that homosexuals and bisexuals in Germany are still discriminated or disadvantaged. [86] A study published in the Bundestag in 2017 showed that the suicide rate of LGBTI * adolescents is four to six times higher than that of the comparison group. [87] Homophobia will therefore continue to be a politically and socially relevant topic in 2018.


Changing established enemy images is very difficult and takes a long time. [88] Homophobic groups led and continue to deliberately cite prejudices against homosexuals in discussions. Homosexuals had to fight against these, as well as against the jurisprudence adopted from National Socialism, in decades of trials, a decriminalization and increasing acceptance. This happened repeatedly in the context of other phases of social change and education such as the 1968 movement or the AIDS crisis and with very different supporters. [89] It became clear that the discrimination of homosexuals was only a prominent aspect of a policy that aimed at a gender-role-normalized sexuality and way of life for everyone and thus contradicted - and stood against - the self-determination of all. It is no coincidence that the way in which the gay and lesbian movement was articulated is reminiscent of other "civic emancipation movements" such as the women's movement.

How to quote: Christian Könne: Homosexuals and the Federal Republic of Germany. Equal fellow human beings? In: Germany Archive, September 7, 2018, Link: www.bpb.de/275113