One of the world’s biggest LGBTQ celebrations, Berlin’s Christopher Street Day, is upon us, and with gay marriage having just been legalized in Germany in June, the city ought to brace itself for perhaps one of the most memorable Christopher Street Day festivals in the holiday’s history. And we need it.
Berlin’s first Christopher Street Day festival came about in 1979 as a sign of solidarity with and in memory of the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 where the homosexual community rose up against police assaults. These days the festival takes over the city streets and a parade runs through Charlottenburg, Neukölln and Mitte. As a place for growing inclusion and diversity, Berlin has become a mecca for the LGBTQ community, and the festival has adapted with it to expand the political agenda and represent more than just the gay community.
The things is, Berlin is sex. The city is famous for its hedonism, gay, straight, and everything in between. It might not be great for a relationship, but it’s certainly built for fun. The city has a long, long history of being a haven of openness via sexual exploration, and much of it can be traced back to the Weimar Republic and the Golden Era of the 1920s — and earlier as well. Berlin, once the imperial capital, managed to maintain its allure and vitality after the First World War, and it became a hub for creatives from around the world. Not much has changed, really.
There is a home in Berlin for artists, innovators, homosexuals, tech leaders, businesses, vagabonds, writers, and the straight-laced, and the city seems to have some sort of metaphysical nature that holds it as such. The city has seen many dark times, but it always seems to rebuild itself as a place of possibilities, exploration, and acceptance. And one could argue that this has a base in freedom of sexuality.
Just a few years before 1900, Berlin was relaxing its stance on homosexual bars, the first gay magazine Der Eigene was launched in 1896, one year later Dr. Magnus Hirschfield began a gay-rights organization, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, and in 1919 Hirschfield would birth sexual identity research for the world with the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin – Tiergarten. The institute was famous for providing medical and psychological assistance to people all across the sexual spectrum as well as the first forays into gender reassignment surgery.
An article in the New Yorker argued that Germany’s intellectual and romantic tradition has had a strong hand to play in the openness alive in the country. The need to delve into emotion, defy societal constrictions, and pursue truth invigorates the need and ability to discover and present one’s sexuality – repression of sexuality represses creativity. Germany can’t have that, and Berlin most certainly won’t let an obstruction of imagination go without a fight. With creativity, sexuality, and acceptance so deeply intertwined with one another, it is the support and furthering of them that provides a path for progression in the world.
Berlin is the cultural capital of Germany, and as Germany continues its growth as a leader in the international community, the importance of Berlin’s vibe of acceptance, curiosity, and innovation should not be underestimated. When one breaks down the extremism, nationalism, and isolationism that we see throughout the world today, it can be broken down into acts of suppression. Extremism in effect forces people and society to work within very narrow confines according to a specific viewpoint, and, among other ways, it often takes form through gender and sexual politics. The lack of openness and tolerance leads to both personal repression and societal suppression. This is in direct contradiction to the German tradition. Of course Germany has seen its falls into extreme conservatism at times, but it always seems to rise up again, with Berlin at the center.
At the moment Germany is at the top of its game, and Berlin is growing again as the capital of acceptance in the world. Artists and businesses from around the world are flocking in, gay marriage has finally been legalized, and the sexual freedom is seemingly unparalleled. We’re seeing a new Golden Era, and we need Berlin, now more than ever, to keep it rolling, and keep fighting the good fight. One fling at a time.
In collaboration with Black Label Properties.