Monday, August 01, 2016

New Book Explores What Gay Life Was Like From 1880 - 1945 in Berlin, Germany

Written by Shane, Editor of Stonewall Gazette

A new book by Clayton J. Whisnant "The Growth of Urban Gay Scenes, Berlin’s Gay and Lesbian Bars," from Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880-1945 tells the true stories of gay life in Berlin, Germany.

Read an excerpt here:
As early as the turn of the century, Berlin’s gay scene was attracting such notoriety that it frequently was mentioned in tourist literature, lifting up the city’s gay scene as proof of the evils of urban life and the dangers of modernity; in them, Berlin became the country’s Sodom and Gomorrah put together, a sure sign of the land’s degeneracy.

Clubs full of men wearing powder and rouge as well as shorthaired women dressed in tuxedoes offered images of a world seemingly turned upside down. For the general public, this world was bewildering—and quite possibly terrifying.

For Germany’s gay men and lesbians, though, Berlin represented promise. Its gay scenes offered exciting places to hunt for love and happiness. Christopher Isherwood, whose short stories based on his stay in Berlin eventually became the basis for the 1972 film Cabaret, with Liza Minnelli, put it simply enough: “Berlin meant boys.”

Magnus Hirschfeld, a Jewish German physician, sexologist and pioneering gay rights advocate, was well acquainted with Berlin’s scene and commented on the diversity among the bars. He observed that each bar “has its special mark of distinction; this one is frequented by older people, that one only by younger ones, and yet another one by older and younger people.” READ MORE