45. Transi Traum
Berlin, DE, ca. 2000er Jahre
“In our queer and „vertranstem“ [trans-ed] (important, not „vertanztem“ [over-danced], we would never do that) program we bend as gay hairdressers, hard leather guys, lesbian cunts, smart heartbreakers, German Ballermann men, as charming gentlemen, sexy rock stars, as boyband or girlgroup or harbor boys of every gender and music genre. […] Because if you are satisfied with two genders too early, you are to blame. ” So said the Kingz of Berlin, the dragking group of Toni Transit, from whom these shoes come, about themselves. They represent a form performance art which satirizes gender roles, done by FLTI* artists. Since 2000, the Kingz of Berlin have helped drag kings enter the mainstream with their shows, their parties such as the ‘Penis Night’, wide media coverage, even in the magazine Brigitte. “What we are trying to do,” they say, “is to contribute to gender confusion. The more confusion there is, the more openness there is, is the perspective we represent.”
46. Frau Poppe
Berlin, DE, 1980s
In addition to his emotional self-portraits (see object 4), Jürgen Baldiga also documented the Berlin drag, nightlife, and subcultural scene of the 1980s and 1990s. This striking and gravely beautiful portrait is of the drag performer Melitta Poppe, who in 1985 co-founded the legendary troupe Ladies Neid (a play on words that sounds like Ladies’ Night in English but translates more accurately to Ladies’ Envy). Described by Fabienne du Neckar as an “angel of Berlin’s drag history” (and with joking affection as “the hydrochloric acid of Western culture”), Poppe is known for her sharp-edged and political performances.
47. Teddy Award Statuette, awarded to Werner Schröter
Wieland Speck and Manfred Salzgeber
Berlin, DE, 2010
The Teddy Award is an independently juried award presented at the annual Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale). The award is given to films that are centered thematically around LGBT issues and stories. Since 1987, the award has been given in three main categories: feature film, short film, and documentary. Additionally, there is a Jury Award, and typically a Special Achievement Award. The latter is given to an individual who has contributed to the advancement and significance of LGBT cinema throughout their career. While the awards were given out each year, the Teddy Award did not officially become part of the Berlinale until 1992. Since its inception, the Teddy Award has been noted as an important award highlighting the importance and quality of queer cinema. In 2010, filmmaker, screenwriter, and opera director Werner Schröter (1945-2010) was honored with the “Special Achievement” Teddy Award just before his death. Schröter, known for his highly stylized films, was cited by Rainer Werner Fassbinder as an influence and collaborated with Rosa von Praunheim and Elfriede Jelinek in the 1980s before making a series of hard-hitting political documentaries.
48. Techno-Flyer Albums
Printed Flyers Pasted into Albums
Klaus Härlin (1968-1999) moved to Berlin in 1988, from the village of Hall, in Swabia, at the age of 20. Going either by Klaus or by his ‘tunte’ or drag name, Else Elsterhof, he became active in the “autonomous gay” or “anarcho-gay” scene in Berlin. He was one of the first residents of the still-existing “Tuntenhaus;” helping to found it in its Mainzer Straße location in 1990, and present for the project’s eviction (along with the eviction of many other alternative living projects) by the police in November 1990. This violent operation, involving thousands of police officers from several German states, was one of the largest in Berlin in the post-war period. Härlin moved with the Tuntenhaus to Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg, its current location.
Active in anti-fascist organizing and in the queer group of the PDS (the predecessor party to today’s Die Linke), Härlin was also an active participant in the vibrant techno scene of the 1990s. His personal papers, in the archive, contain (alongside documents of his political work and many personal photographs) hundreds of techno flyers. Some of the flyers he kept in photo albums, like the ones on display here. Queers have often kept these deeply personal private archives; the impulse to preserve and collect one’s own ongoing history is central to many queer subjectivities. Härlin died of AIDS-related illness on the night of the Love Parade, on July 11, 1999.
Photograph: Heinz-Peter Knes
Berlin, DE, 2005
The legend of Berlin as a gay techno wonderland was born with the fall of the Wall in 1989. There was the summer of love, the subcultures blossoming in abandoned buildings, the techno parties in warehouses in the center of the city. Cash poured in from other parts of the country as the Federal Republic of Germany later forged Berlin into the capital of the newly-unified state, worthy of a leading place in the new, liberal Europe. New queer subcultures took off in the city, which has always had a reputation as a wide-open town, someplace where sexual minorities could make a home. Eventually, the city began to see subculture as its brand: with its former mayor, Klaus Wowereit, openly gay, calling Berlin “poor, but sexy.” As a result, in the former East, techno became institutionalized: the roving anarchist fetish Snax parties having become the illegal club Ostgut and then, in 2004, Berghain (named after its location in the district (Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain), the world-renowned techno club, which now has the same tax status as an opera house. This flyer, from Berghain’s first year in operation, preserves some of the aesthetic of those first years.
The DJ Daniel Wang reported this, from Berghain’s opening night, in 2004: “It is not about delicate, rarefied beauty, or ironic wit, or sentimental nostalgia. It is about the human body, the present moment – stamina, bliss, perpetual motion. It is just a mass of people, drunk on beer or high on who knows what, struck with an irresistible urge to move, to shake, to touch each other’s skin. The space is a living, endlessly moving panorama.”
50. Oz-Party Posters
Berlin, DE, 2000
The Berlin gay party calendar of the late 1990s and early 2000s was, as it has often been in the history of this city, busy. The TransLesBiSchwule “Oz” parties, explicitly conceived of as inclusive spaces by and for a wide spectrum of queers as opposed to mostly gay-male dominated parties at other venues, were campy dancing fun on the fourth Saturday of every month, at the BKA-Luftschloss in Schlossplatz. Each party featured several dance floors, an outdoor terrace on the Spree, and drag shows themed the same as the poster and decor. The first party, of course, took place in the queer wonderworld of Oz, with a techno Judy Garland, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion(ess), and Toto, the dog. BeV StroganoV, the party’s artistic driving force, is still an active volunteer at the Museum and assisted us greatly in the selection and presentation of the drag and film costumes in this exhibit; collections to which he has devoted an enormous amount of time and care.
51. Coming-Out Album
Nadja Schallenberg Papers
Collage with Personal Documents, Photos and Poems
Berlin (East), 1990
In this very personal document, Nadja Schallenberg describes the long path of her transition. She gave this album as a present to her parents at Christmas 1990 to thank them for their unconditional support. Nadja Schallenberg was born on 21 March 1969 in East Berlin. In 1989, even before the fall of the Wall, she began to live as a woman. During this time she also founded the “Community of Interests of Transvestites and Transsexuals in East Berlin”, which she led until the end of 1991. While still in the GDR, Nadja Schallenberg submitted an application for a change of civil status in February 1990, which was granted in October of the same year but was declared invalid shortly afterwards as a result of reunification. Her new application for a change of first name was rejected because she was not yet of legal age to make the change. From 1992 to 1993 she devoted herself to establishing a communication centre for ‘transvestites and transsexuals’ at the Sonntags-Club e.V. in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin. The opening of this centre took place on 9 October 1992 in Kopenhagener Straße 14. In 2019 Nadja Schallenberg donated the album shown here to the Schwules Museum, where it was incorporated into her already existing personal papers. Besides personal documents, there are also her drafts and proposals for the change of relevant laws, documents of the organizations she founded, and material from the information center of the Sonntags-Club e.V, alongside documents archiving the history of trans people and experience.
52. Friendship Photo
Wood-block Print on Paper
Berlin (East), DE, 1964
Born in 1932, the graphic artist Jürgen Wittdorf (1932-2018) survived the Nazi regime and the war and received his art education in the early 1950s at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. He became famous in the 1960s for his drawings and woodcuts depicting free youth and sexualized male bodies, images which survived censorship by idealizing the athletics program and youth cultures of the GDR. This print shows a group of muscular athletes in a field: seven, four white and three Black, pose for a photo. One serves as the photographer, two more look on, standing contrapposto. This image is unique among our Wittdorf collection for its inclusion of Black subjects. Two different thematics are at play here. First, there is the familiar, exoticizing gay sexual lens, in which the eroticized bodies of Black and brown men are presented as erotic spectacles by white artists to white audiences. This is complicated in this work by the geopolitical context in which it was created: in the mid- and late-1960s, the GDR was host to anti-racist and anti-colonial activists (such as Angela Davis, who received her doctorate at the Humboldt Universität in 1968) and conceived of itself as an anti-imperialistic power. The title may refer to the “Brigades of Friendship,” the internationalist wing of the Free German Youth, who were later active in Angola and Mozambique as those nations decolonized.
Frankfurt am Main, DE, 1979
The young man in this photo, taken in 1979 by Wilfried Laule during the Homolulu congress in Frankfurt am Main, looks hopefully to the future. In the 1970s, the lesbian-gay civil rights movement had formed in Germany, the first pride parades took place, and there was not yet any talk of AIDS. A queer utopia seemed possible. But Homolulu also became a very concrete initial moment for many important associations and institutions, for example the association of gay teachers in the educator’s union (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW)) or the Akademie Waldschlösschen, which was founded in 1981. During the Homolulu more than 2000 attendees mobbed Frankfurt, and national media such as the Tagesschau reported on gay themes for the first time. Participants sat in seminars all day and celebrated with cultural programming in the evening. In historical retrospect, however, the limits and problems of the event also become clear. Homolulu was characterized by a gay separatist spirit: for lesbians and trans people the event had little to offer. In the seminars, the topic of pedosexuality played an important role; for many participants at that time, it was understood as part of the liberation movement.
Cloth Flag, Scent Card, Condom
Halifax, Canada, 2018
On June 25th, 1978, the original gay pride flag flew in the San Francisco “Gay Freedom Day Parade.” The original flag contained eight horizontal stripes: hot pink (sex), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), turquoise (magic/art), indigo (serenity), and violet (spirit.) This expansion of the flag, to include a larger number of identities that exist within contemporary queer cultures, was created by Arjun Lal, an interdisciplinary artist from Halifax-Dartmouth, Canada, whose work relates to themes of queer culture, safe spaces, community building, public installation, and self-care. Lal writes, “Pride is divisive, it is beautiful, it is political, and it has the capacity to connect across communities, intersections, politics, and identities.” A large version of this flag hangs above baggage claim at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The work was given to the Museum by the artist after their residency in Berlin in 2018.
Berlin, Germany, Approx. 1970s
Because Herbert Tobias (1924-1982) had been denounced because of paragraph 175, he and his partner moved to Paris in 1950. There he began his career as a fashion photographer working for Vogue, among other magazines. A few years later he settled in West Berlin, where he discovered the model Christa Päffgen, who later made a career as ‘Nico’ with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground as a singer and style icon. Tobias realized his artistic ambitions primarily through erotic male photography. Thus he became a chronicler of gay life in Germany and Europe before and after Stonewall and the decriminalization of male homosexuality in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1969. He took nude photos of his models either in remote places in nature or in the privacy of a bedroom. Tobias’ pictures also reflect the changing fashions of the time: here in the picture we see a post-hippie or soft clone, one might say, a style of masculinity that asserted itself in the Western world in the 1970s. In contrast to the photographs of the gay press in Germany, Tobias’ images are, however, always much more than pornographic material. They tell of the desires, longings, and dreams of these young men who finally ventured out of the private surroundings of their apartments into the public sphere of society. Herbert Tobias was one of the first prominent victims of AIDS in Germany. (see also object 87).
56. Charlotte / Salomé / Veronika / Transvestites
Susann Hillebrand & Irmgard Johannson
Berlin (West), DE, 1978
“Charlotte / Salomé / Veronika / Transvestiten” is a visionary photo and interview volume published in 1978 by Susann Hillebrand and Irmgard Johannson. The authors introduce the three women* Charlotte, Salomé and Veronika to the readers and let them speak for themselves. They stand in the tradition of literature based on tape recordings of the 1970s, primarily written by women about women, for example Maxie Wander’s “Guten Morgen du Schöne” or in Erika Runge’s “Bottropper Protokolle”. This form of writing tries to give the speakers the space as subjects, with the interviewers taking a back seat.
“Charlotte / Salomé / Veronika” is a surprising and modern work despite the rather outdated wording in the title, which offers a platform for a spectrum of trans-femininity and questions the construction of gender images. We get to know the 78-year-old Veronika, who speaks with Berliner Schnauze as a retired facility worker (he himself uses the male-pronoun) about his pleasure in doing sex-work, who has known Berlin nightlife since the Weimar period. The twenty-two-year-old Salomé in today’s words, perhaps a non-binary femme-drag performance artist and painter, student at Hochschule der Künste, from subproletarian backgrounds and in her / his youth a heroin-addict, and understands self-defense as part of her self-definition. “If someone swears at me, I swear back, always.” While Salomé rejects the “commercial […] show business of the transvestites” as he / she calls it, it means freedom for the twenty-six-year-old Veronika. Growing up in Spain and from a religious background, she left home at the age of 18 to carry out a gender reassignment surgery in Copenhagen, finally deciding against it, because the “idea that I would come home and that I was no longer the same would have killed my mother.” Glamorous show business, classical dance and elaborate costumes mean personal freedom to her.
57. Die Freundin
Ed. Friedrich and Martin Radszuweit
Berlin, DE, 1924-1933
Born in 1876, Weimar-era gay publisher and activist Friedrich Radszuweit founded the Bund für Menschenrecht (Federation for Human Rights, or BfM) in Berlin in 1923 and began publishing dozens of gay, lesbian, and trans-themed periodicals. The BfM grew to become the largest (indeed in some sense the only) mass-membership LGBT organization of its time, with 50,000 members. Radszuweit’s magazines, like this one, Die Freundin, were some of the first places where lesbians and trans people wrote about themselves; the magazine featured the editorial and writerly work of women such as Aenne Weber, Elisabeth Killmer, Ruth Margarete Roellig, Selli Engler, and Lotte Hahm. There were also many articles written by men, especially those about politics and current events, reinforcing power divides within same-sex-loving communities. Die Freundin became an important resource for many gay women during the Weimar Republic. While the publication was not banned from circulation and one could buy it at any kiosk, many women preferred to purchase the magazine in areas they knew no one would see. Helene Stock encouraged women to read the magazine openly to “help with enlightenment.” Beginning in 1931, Radszuweit would begin to editorialize in favor of the Nazis, seeking to make accomodations with them for survival; his lover Martin, who survived his death in 1932, had been a member of the Hitler Youth and an anti-communist street brawler. In February 1933, the BfM offices and publishing house were raided and destroyed by the SA.
58. Elisabeth Leithäuser
Berlin (West), DE, 1950s.
Elisabeth Leithäuser (1914-2004) developed early on into an individualist with politically progressive convictions. As a young communist, she was accused of high treason in 1934, but was acquitted in her favour thanks to a perjury charge. After repeated visits by Gestapo officials who were interested both in her political views and in activities in lesbian women’s circles, she retreated into private life with her partner. During the war years Leithäuser attended lectures at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University (today: Humboldt University), but was mostly self-taught. She learned the broadcasting trade from a friend and in practice. In the summer of 1945 she became a journalist with the (Soviet-supported) Berlin Radio. Her move to the (American-supported) RIAS three years later was politically motivated. There she created the youth radio, conducted interviews with victims of the Nazi regime, wrote radio plays and was responsible for letters to the editor and women’s issues. As the advice columnist Mrs. Renate at the Telegraf, she gave advice and helped lesbian readers with romantic questions. Late in her life she became involved in the 1970s women’s and lesbian movements.
59. Kate Millett on the cover of Time Magazine Alice Neel
New York, USA, 1970
Kate Millett (1934-2017) was a ground-breaking feminist, author, and visual artist, whose research and interests greatly impacted the second-wave feminist movement of the 1970’s. Widely regarded as the “first book of academic feminist literary criticism,” her seminal text “Sexual Politics” (1970) became an international bestseller and a foundational text for a whole generation of feminists. This August 1970 issue of Time Magazine features a stoic portrait of Millet painted by Alice Neel. The cover article highlights Millet’s main points and examines how they work within a contemporary context. It praises the book and describes it as a coherent analysis of the feminist movement. The article vividly captures the anger and frustration of women seeking emancipation from patriarchal institutions. Millet’s gaze pierces and confronts the viewer, letting us know she is a confident woman with a mission to tear down the patriarchy. Two artworks by Millett appear elsewhere in this exhibit (see object 40). Millet died on June 6, 2017 in Paris, shortly before her 83rd birthday.
60. Scrapbook about Trans Women
(“Rebro” Collection (Rita))
Collaged Newspaper Clippings
Berlin (West), DE, ca. 1980s
This binder full of news clippings about trans women was donated to the Museum’s archive in 2008 by a donor who wished to remain anonymous; she asked the Museum to refer to her and to her collection under the name “Rebro.” Later, in 2013, she donated additional material which included her first name, Rita. Herself a trans woman, Rita collected in dozens of binders like this news clippings, photographs, descriptions of TV programs, essays, and other published material about trans women around the world. The collection of such evidence of existence –– the creations of these archives documenting counterhistories and counternarratives –– has long been a strategy for queer survival. “Embodiment,” writes the transgender historian Susan Stryker, “that contingent accomplishment through which the histories of our identities become invested in our corporeal space, not only animates the research query but modulates access to the archive in both its physical and its intellectual arrangement.” Trans histories continue to be underrepresented, and misrepresented, in the collections of the Schwules Museum, as in the queer movement at large; we are ethically compelled to right these historical violences within our own movement.
61. Silbersteinstraße Series
Berlin (West), DE, 1983
On the night of November 24, 1983, Susanne Matthes was raped and murdered in the Silbersteinstraße in Neukölln. She spent the evening before her murder at the lesbian disco “Die 2”. The women’s newspaper “Courage” described her as “a feminist and peace activist, familiar with karate and too poor for nighttime taxi rides”. Susanne Matthes was 22 years old. The reactions to the murder of Susanne Matthes, especially in Berlin, were co-constitutive of the politicization of an entire generation of feminist women and lesbians. In this context, the rape and murder of Susanne Matthes led to a massive mobilization. In the week after the murder, demonstrations with up to 4,000 participants took place permanently in Neukölln. These protests and other actions not only expressed anger at omnipresent violence against women, but also outrage at the sexist reporting on the case and the associated trivialisation of violence against women as the acts of disturbed individual perpetrators. In this photo series, Petra Gall documented graffiti in Silbersteinstraße and on the playground there related to these protests. Susanne Matthes’ murderer of the same age, Thomas R., was caught in 1995 by accident; it was then discovered that he had lived in Silbersteinstraße and was a serial killer who had committed several other murders there.
62. Investigation of an attempted unlawful border crossing
East Berlin (East), DE, 1979-1984
Frank S. was born in May of 1964 in Calbe/Saale, in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). After abandoning training as a bricklayer in Schönebeck, he began to work for the East German mail services. But in October of 1982, he was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for endangering public order through asocial activities (Gefährdung der öffentlichen Ordnung durch asoziales Verhalten). After his imprisonment, he worked in a leather factory and began to apply for the dissolution of his citizenship and a permit to travel to the West. In 1985, his visa costs were paid by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), which sometimes paid these for endangered people in the GDR, and he settled in West Berlin on November 1, 1985. He died of AIDS-related illness in 1998. The papers preserved here come from a Stasi file of five years’ duration, which documents investigation into his suspected attempts to cross the border and illegally settle in the West.
63. Newsletters from the ‘Indian Commune’
Nürnberg, DE, 1980
The “Indianerkommune” was one of the most publicly visible elements of the German pedophile movements of the 1970s and 1980s. An allegedly free commune of children led by “chief Indian” Ulrich ‘Ulli’ Reschke (the iconography was part of a long and racist tradition of Germans imitating Native Americans), the group attracted attention by staging hunger strikes, protesting at and disturbing gay movement events and educational conferences, and occupying the federal office of the Greens and the offices of the newspaper taz. Their demands were the abolition of compulsory education, the legalization of pedosexual relations, and, often, the release of their leader from legal complications regarding the abuse of children and young people. In fact, the so-called commune was authoritarian and controlling. It took in mainly young people who lived on the streets or in shelters, having fled homes and families where they had also been subjected to violence. Many of them had few alternatives. For complex historical reasons, including the combination of anti-homosexual and anti-pedosexual laws into one paragraph in the German legal code, the German movements for homosexual emancipation historically had significant participation from members of, and connection to the demands and cultures of, pedosexual movements. This connection has often been difficult to talk about, due to the right-wing libel that most queer people wish to abuse or sexualize children.
Marc Almond (Cover photo by Pierre et Gilles, second model, Zuleika)
London, GB, 1981
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from 1981 – a number one hit in Germany and Great Britain – introduced a decade of queer pop anthems that provided the soundtrack to which an entire generation came out. Of the gay stars of the 1980s, Marc Almond, the singer of Soft Cell, brought his homosexuality into the mainstream neither with smoothed-out leatherman aesthetics (George Michael) nor with ironic pop gestures (Pet Shop Boys), but rather by putting the gay tradition of melodrama and eccentricity at the centre of his pop performance. The result was sparkling pop camp that both sounded and looked sexy and gay: for example, this cover of Almond’s fifth solo album “Enchanted” from 1990, featuring the hit track “A Lover Spurned.” The French artist duo Pierre et Gilles, who also portrayed Nina Hagen and Madonna, provided the album art, showing Almond in profile next to the drag queen Zuleika. 1990 was one of the high years of the classical era of Camp, this aesthetic has become a museum piece. Almond’s gay pop also has museum-like qualities. His concerts are sometimes held in sacred rooms such as the Kreuzberg Passionskirche.
65. Claire Waldoff
Berlin (West), DE, 1954
The singer, cabaret artist, and walking scandal Claire Waldoff (1884-1957), with a smoky voice, tie and collar, and foul mouth, initially wanted to be a doctor. Born Clara Wortmann in Gelsenkirchen, she made her stage debut in Lower Saxony in 1906. She never made a secret of her relationship with her partner Olga von Roeder, the pair were at the center of lesbian nightlife in Berlin in the 1920s and facilitated meetings and conversations in their cultural and political salon. Her performances were banned by the Nazis; by 1942, her career was over. This postcard is an original that Claire Waldoff (here in the middle) wrote to her long-time friend Clara Schlücker, a former secretary of the Deutsches Theater, in November 1954, just two years before her death. She calls her longtime friend “Mausi” in it, and quietly reminds her of a better past: “I still think of everything and of you and our golden age. Always your Claire”. The postcard was given to the Schwules Museum by Ute Wegner, who discovered it in the estate of her father-in-law, Clara Schlücker’s brother-in-law.
66. Aunt E. and Aunt Ruth
Northern Germany (West), 1950s-1980s
Homosexuality was both present and absent in my sheltered childhood in a Hamburg suburb in the 1970s. Even when it was not discussed, it was present. Especially at family celebrations, where two pairs of women always appeared. From her training as a nurse, my mother kept in touch with a colleague, who now lived together with another colleague in a condominium in Buxtehude. The two shared everything: apartment, car, and bus tour holidays. What they had in common was never discussed. It was similar with my great-aunt and her friend, who you can see in the photos here. Both were born at the beginning of the 20th century and lived for almost 100 years. Although we were related to only one of them, both were always referred to as “aunts” – Aunt E. and Aunt Ruth. This was somehow meant to demonstrate their togetherness, even though it was never said what that togetherness actually consisted of. Aunt E. and Aunt Ruth lived together, worked together, and went on vacation together, hiking or to the North Sea. They were friends. It was only after their death that the family agreed that they had a lesbian relationship. Whether Aunt E. and Aunt Ruth themselves ever used the word “lesbian”, I don’t know. Maybe they would lie in each other’s arms, giggling and smooching, when the family reunions were over. You can see what connected them by the touches and glances in these pictures. (Text: Peter Rehberg)
67. Tuntenball Dress
Fabric, Costume Jewelry, False Feathers, Sequins
Berlin (West), DE, 1985
The “Berliner Tuntenball,” founded in 1975 and running annually until 1997, was an important event for the queer community. In 1914, Magnus Hirschfeld reported on “frequently held Urning-balls” in Berlin, with up to 1,000 guests each; “large balls… a specialty of Berlin in their type and size… one of the most interesting sights” to be seen in the city. These balls were shown in Richard Oswald’s feature film Anders als die Andern and apparently took place several times per week. While the Nazis shut down these events, the first drag ball (different culturally than the “drag ball” events held in New York City that were important for queer and trans people of color in the postwar era) held in Berlin after the war took place in 1945 in the Nationalhof on Bülowstrasse, later renamed Walterchens Ballhaus. Another series of balls took place at Haus Thefi in the Kurfürstenstraße in Schöneberg. This dress was worn to the Berliner Tuntenball in 1985 by Klaus Bogiuski, stuns with extravagant fringe, feathers, beads, ruffles, and embroidery. After 23 years of absence, the “new Tuntenball,” led by Sheila Wolf and Gloria Viagra, was supposed to once again grace Nollendorfkiez on April 18, 2020.
68. Sonja. Eine Melancholie für Fortgeschrittene
Luise F. Pusch („Judith Offenbach“)
Care / Desire
Germany (West), 1980
How does your perception of the accessibility of the places around us change when you are in a wheelchair or when your girlfriend is dependent on the wheelchair? Luise F. Pusch wrote the autofictional novel “Sonja. An Advanced Melancholy“, using a pseudonym, a few years after her girlfriend committed suicide. The two had come to know and love each other in the mid-1960s. Sonja was relying on a wheelchair because of an earlier unsuccessful attempt at suicide. With regard to the actual form of their relationship to each other, the two left their environment in the dark, performed as a dependent and a personal carer, who therefore had to live together, in front of their fellow students. The meticulous description of the everyday life of this deep love determines this sad as well as empowering work, that contributed to the self-empowering discourse about “Krüppellesben” (Disabled Lesbians). The story of a relationship that oscillates between care, passion, co-dependency and violence reveals fundamental questions of queer desire. What does psychological and physical ableism mean for a relationship? How can one deal with a partner’s suicide and find strategies for queer mourning?
69. Me absolvo
The confessional booth contains a wide variety of references to pop culture, whether Madonna confessing her sins in “Like a Prayer”, Hitchcock centering a whole film around confession, or Tina in Pedro Almodóvar’s “La ley del deseo” meeting the priest from her Catholic boarding school. It is the place of confession, the purification of sins committed, but also an intimate, erotically charged space, a claustrophobic room of barred proximity.
The Swiss artist Michèle Meyer created this confessional. In it she addresses her experiences as a “mother of teenagers, long-term survivor with 25 years of HIV activism (regional to global) in her backpack. Clown. Nevertheless without a title and with competencies.” The installation addresses the paradoxical experiences of HIV-positive women*, between compulsory confession and invisibility. AIDS was referred to as GRID (Gay Related Immune Disease) in the early 1980s and is still far too often attributed with a gender and a sexual orientation in public perception.
In Meyer’s installation we find a framed leaflet for her HIV medication, as well as a pile of cuddly toys and a list of the seven deadly sins of the Bible. We as visitors can viscerally understand the social pressure, but also feel for moments of self-empowerment. With this confessional, the artist, reminds us of the immense contribution femme queer people have made to HIV activism.
70. Floor Plan of “Eldorado”
Manfred Baumgardt, Andreas Sternweiler, Wolfgang Theis, Manfred Herzer
Ink on paper
Berlin (West), DE, 1984
In 1984, a group of LGBT activists and academics organized the exhibition “Eldorado – Homosexuelle Frauen und Männer in Berlin 1850 – 1950, Geschichte, Alltag, und Kultur” at the Berlin Museum. The exhibition presented the first comprehensive history of homosexuality, from its origins as a medical ailment in 1864, to liberation movements and the harsh criticism they inspired. The exhibition was at once a success and a scandal. The exhibition’s title refers to the “Eldorado” nightclub which was famous for its trans performers and gay-friendly partying. The exhibition focused primarily on the “Golden Twenties” or Weimar Republic of Germany, presenting a series of dioramas, as in a museum of natural history or ethnology, divided strictly into separate gay and lesbian paths. In 2017, an exhibition at the Museum called “Odarodle” (“Eldorado” spelled backwards) explored the problematic associations between the museum’s representation of homosexualities and the ethnological display formats developed over the course of European colonialism. The success of “Eldorado” inspired the creation and development of the Schwules Museum a year later, in 1985. Wolfgang Theis remained active in the Museum continually, as a curator and board member, until his retirement in February of 2020.
71. Two selections from “Zu Zweit”
Berlin, DE ca. 2010s
Alexa Vachon, in her photo series “Zu Zweit”, also explores the rainbow family: looking at the relationships between queer-identified people living in Berlin and exploring trans identities, alternative ways of parenting and partnering; Vachon shows us lovers, partners, couples, friends, blood relatives. These formations of pairs challenge expectations of queer relationships and families. Vachon lives and works in Berlin, was born in Canada, and educated in New York City.
72. Rainbow Family
Berlin (West), DE ca. 1980s
Katharina Mouratidi is a curator, photographer and lecturer. Since 2008, she has been the artistic director and CEO of the Berlin-based Society for Humanistic Photography, which supports socially-relevant and engaged photography. This work falls into this category as well: it depicts a so-called ‘rainbow family,’ two mothers raising a child. Do rainbow families queer the concept of the family itself, inviting new utopic perspectives outside the violences and normativities of traditional heteronormative structures? Do they instead reinforce so-called homonormativity, in which monogamous queer pairs (preferably with children) are selectively privileged as worthy of social acceptance? Do these critical theoretical questions dissolve when they come into contact with individual lives? What can queers make of the family?
73. Men Who Feel The Call of Love
Likely before 1890
This photograph was given to the Schwules Museum with little contextual information. It is a tintype, a photographic process in which a direct positive is created on a thin iron sheet. Popular throughout the 1860s and 1870s, tintypes were one of the earliest examples of an “immediate print,” (like a Polaroid) as they could be developed and handed to a customer after a few minutes without drying: they were, unlike their predecessor, the daguerrotype, easy to produce, distribute, and carry around. This photograph depicts three men smoking and posing in what appears to be a studio. The men sit comfortably and within close proximity to one another. Are they gay? Why does the photograph speak of their love? In a world before the invention of heterosexuality or homosexuality, or even sexuality itself, men and women pursued intimate friendships that they named, defined, and defended in a variety of ways. What is certain is that the men in this photograph cared for one another deeply enough to pose and document their relationship. The title appears to be a reference to an aria about the nobility of romantic love from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”.
London, GB, approx. 1910
Drag has a long tradition in the history of the theatre, from ancient times to RuPaul. Since the end of the 19th century it has developed into a genre in its own right. Female and male impersonators were celebrated stars of the variety stages and of their own theatres throughout the 1920s. Drag reveals the constructedness of gender. The Englishwoman Vesta Tilley (1864-1952) was one of the most successful male impersonators – now, drag performers who perform masc-of-centre roles often call themselves drag kings – of her time. She was born Matilda Alice Powles into a family of theatre performers, and appeared in male roles starting in her childhood. Her performances were sarcastic and funny, making her popular among working-class men; as well as among women, who understood her as a symbol of independence. She drew capacity crowds across the United Kingdom. While drag king performers have a rich historical and contemporary connection to lesbian and trans-masculine movements and aesthetics, Vesta’s personal life underscores the difficulty of applying contemporary assumptions to historical figures: she was married to a man, dressed glamorously off stage, and ended her career to make room for her husband’s political aspirations.
75. Two Friends Playing Cards
Berlin, DE, 1927-8
This photograph, taken by an unknown, depicts two friends playing cards. On the back of the print is written “Winter 1927-1928 — Friedel … ,” which is where our dating of the object comes from. One of the people is wearing stereotypically male attire, the other stereotypically female attire. Perhaps one of these people carried a “transvestite certificate” issued by the Berlin police under the guidance of Magnus Hirschfeld.
76. Two photos with dogs
(Rita Thomas Collection)
Photographs (one enlarged and colored)
Berlin (East), DE, ca. 1960s
“Tommy:” that’s what Rita Thomas, dog hairdresser and contemporary witness of queer life in East Berlin, called herself starting in her teenage years. Born in 1931, she spent her entire life in East Berlin; first in Weissensee, then in Friedrichshain. From the 1950s until her death in 2018 she was in a relationship with her friend Helli. With her elegant menswear and short hairstyle, Tommy was the prototype of a “Bubi”, as masc-presenting lesbian women were called in Germany since the turn of the 20th century.
Animals played an important role in Tommy’s life. Besides her work in a dog salon in Friedrichshain, she also trained dogs for film and theatre. In their allotment garden Tommy and Helli also kept chickens and ducks.
At the Oberbaumbrücke, in front of which Tommy poses here with a giant poodle, she experienced the division of Berlin. On August 13, 1961, early in the morning, she was on her way home from a pub crawl in Kreuzberg when a West Berlin policeman warned her that if she crossed the bridge now, she would not be able to return. For queer East Berliners, the construction of the Wall meant that they were cut off from the West Berlin subculture overnight. This loss was painful for Tommy, a regular bar visitor, but friends, family, job, garden and animals kept her in East Berlin. (Text: Andrea Rottmann)
77. Flyers from the Trans* Collection
Flyer for the activist group Transsexualität – Transreality
Printed paper, Nürnberg, DE, 1990s
The 10th Annual International Two Spirit Gathering
1997, Onamia, Minnesota, USA
Flyer for Khalass: Wir Sind Vex!
Berlin, DE 2008
These flyers document the evolving movement for trans justice, both inside and outside of Germany, since the mid-1990s. Social Scientist and Transgender-activist Susan Stryker defines transgender people as “people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain their gender;” this definition allows for a wide variety of historically and geographically contingent movements and identities to be considered as part of an ongoing movement. Stryker refers to transgender activism post-1990 as the “current wave,” in which many of the preferred terms and identity forms of contemporary trans experience and activism were developed, adopted, and fought for socially.
The flyer “Transreality” advertises a self-help group for “transsexual” people (then the preferred term used by this group) in Nürnberg in the 1990s. It offers a variety of self-help services, including getting to know other people of trans experience, help and support with coming out, and advice with medical and legal gatekeeping. While changing first name and legal gender has been legal in West Germany since 1980, until 2011 this required surgical gender confirmation surgery, which is not an option that all trans people can afford or wish to pursue. Gatekeeping by legal and medical professionals does continue to be a major struggle of trans equality and justice movements worldwide.
While organizing by trans people of color (especially BIPOC) has become more visible and discussed outside those movements in recent years, that organizing has been occurring for many years, and has often been central to LGBT movement struggles even as the specific contributions of trans BIPOC are silenced or ignored. Two-spirit, a contemporary term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe Native people in their communities who fulfill traditional gender-variant or third-gender roles, began to be used in the 1990s. Settler and imperial LGBT movements have long mined the anthropological and ethnographic archive on colonized and subaltern peoples as part of their process of identity formation; two-spirit is a specific term of resistance and reclamation by Native peoples.
Despite the attempt of some white German people to define anti-Black and other forms of racism as external to German life and experience, these racisms are a part of the everyday life of queer, trans, and inter Black and People of Color in Germany. Under the title “We’re vex,” a group of QTBIPOC protested the orientalizing gaze of white queers in this flyer from 2008.
78. The Femme Mirror
Edited by Carol Beecroft
Houston, USA, 1986
“The Femme Mirror”, along with its more famous sister publication “Transvestia”, was part of a boom in small and independent publications in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, fueled by a reduction in the cost of printing and publishing and by newly loosened censorship restrictions. “Transvestia” was launched in the 1960s edited by Virginia Prince (1912-2009), and “The Femme Mirror” in the 1970s edited by Carol Beecroft; the two merged their organizations into the Society for the Second Self, or Tri-Ess. Rejecting then-dominant theories that cross-dressing was sexualized or linked to psychiatric disturbance, these magazines, like the 1950s ‘homophile’ magazines they resembled, excluded sexual content and focused on social commentary, educational materials, self-help advice, and autobiographical vignettes. Susan Stryker credits these magazines with “significantly shifting the political meaning of transvestitism [the term used at that time].” These magazines have become controversial based on their support for conventional social norms and traditional gender stereotypes; and their exclusion of what they called “homosexual transvestites,” “transsexuals,” and “street queens” – and what we might now call heterosexual trans women, trans women who have pursued gender-confirming surgeries, and trans women, especially of color, experiencing homelessness or engaging in sex work. Tri-Ess is active to this day, describing itself as a group for “heterosexual crossdressers” who nonetheless prefer to use she/her pronouns and names.
79. Lesbian Herstory Archives Newsletter, Issue Two
New York, USA, 1976
The Lesbian Herstory Archives, now the world’s largest archive, community center, and museum dedicated to preserving lesbian history and culture, was founded by lesbian members of the Gay Academic Union in 1974, who had organized a group to discuss sexism within the organization. Its cofounders – Joan Nestle, Mabel Hampton, Deborah Edel, Sahli Cavallo, Pamela Oline, and Julia Penelope Stanley – began to collect books, personal papers, and other historical materials related to lesbians and lesbian organizations in Nestle’s Upper West Side Apartment, before moving to their current Brooklyn brownstone location in 1990. The institution has long been a pioneer in inclusive, non-hierarchical archival practice, in conversation with institutions such as the ONE archives in Los Angeles founded by Jim Kepner, and the Schwules Museum and our sister archives Spinnboden und FFBIZ here in Berlin. This newsletter, the first sent after the archives were opened for community use, details some of the new acquisitions of the archives and offers a sense of what it would have been like to visit in 1976 – visitors are told to expect to be greeted with coffee, snacks, and a friendly dog; and are described as visiting not only for historical research but also to prepare legal cases, learn about recent political theory in lesbian and socialist feminisms, and to affirm their presence in the “living, growing” community of lesbians.
80. Rundherum: Das Abenteuer einer Weltreise
Erika and Klaus Mann
Berlin, DE, 1929
After the Second World War both East and West Germany found themselves devastatingly provincial. The Germans had killed their cultural and scientific elite – or driven them out of Europe. The queer scene, too, needed decades to leave this break behind. Erika (1905-1969) and Klaus (1906-1949) Mann are an impressive example of just how cosmopolitan the lives of lesbians and gays in Germany once were, much more so than their famous father Thomas. Thomas hesitated in his break with Nazi Germany, while his children were already in the process of educating the world about what was happening there. “Rundherum”, which translates as “All Around,” is the result of a trip around the world that the Mann brothers and sisters undertook before Hitler was elected Chancellor of the Reich. First published in 1929 (and here seen in a first edition), it is a document of a Germany open to the world.
81. Jeans Shorts and Note
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf
East Berlin, DE, approx. 1970s
“There is one thing I want to tell you: I took my collection of shorts out of the closet – corduroy trousers, rivet trousers, jeans, swimming trunks, leather trousers – and spread them out on the bed while he wrote numbers 1 to 6 on pieces of paper that he assigned to different pants. The next collection of notes was intended for the various instruments – thin cane, thick cane, rod, whip, seven-breasted horse. With two dice we rolled for the instrument and pants. Then we multiplied the two numbers together: the result determined the number of blows one would give the other. Although I always preferred the passive part: it probably corresponds more to my nature. ”
Charlotte played this game with her boyfriend Jochen, whom she got to know through a scribble on the wall of a public toilet: “Friend 47, seeks friend for mutual blows with a cane, rod or whip. Please write.” She stayed with him for almost thirty years. Her view of love, relationship and friendship corresponds to her unconventional, open, understanding of gender, self-expression and sexuality. It presents a fascinating tension to her re-enactment of imperial decor.
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf saw herself as a “transvestite, a female being in a male body” and as a masochist. She was aware of both her trans* identity and her love of kink in her adolescence, and from the end of the war she also wore a dress in public in everyday life. Herbert von Zitzenau, “Herrenreiter mit Villa in Karlshorst”, officer of the First World War was her first real play partner. When they met he was already an elderly gentleman. She accompanied him until his death in 1957. Her desire for older men, as well as for role playing and the ability to shred heteronormative expectations, remained formative throughout her life.
82. Mixed Box
Various unsorted materials from the collection of the Schwules Museum
Where do the things that enter our archive actually go? Party flyers, event posters, invitations to queer conferences that land in our mailbox or on the counter in the café? The answer is: They end up in a mixed box! The mixed box is the first storage place for most archive materials. These are roughly pre-sorted here according to topics like “SMU,” “International,” or “AIDS” until one of our volunteers or interns gets to work and sorts the material into our so-called “thematic collection.” This collection has 13 top-level categories (such as “people”, “organizations”, and “cities”) and about 10,000 different keywords. From the mixed box, the material usually goes into an envelope in a hanging file; when this swells, it becomes a box again, until gradually there are several boxes for one keyword, which then one day can be processed in detail. This is the path of an object from the mixed box to processed material, which users can then search. But in the meantime the next mixed box is already full and the work starts all over again.
83. Bartfrau (Bearded-Woman) Tabea Blumenschein
Oil on Canvas
Berlin, DE, 1992
Tabea Blumenschein (1952-2020) was a prominent painter, actress, filmmaker, costume designer, and musician, who was most active during the 1970’s and 1980’s. She was a member of “Die Tödliche Doris” (Lethal Doris, a pun on the phrase ‘lethal dose), a punk band that was part of the “Geniale Dilletanten” (brilliant amateurs) movement in Berlin of avant-garde, radical experimentation in music and art. The artist painted countless portraits of women. In “Bartfrau,” Blumenschein presents us with a bearded woman surrounded by vibrant iconography. Snakes serve as a symbol of strength and renewal; the woman in the picture takes on the quality of a joyful goddess or deity. Blumenschein remained artistically active in the 1990s and 2000s; while working at the American Memorial Library, she continued to make art, especially with her old Tödliche Doris collaborator Wolfgang Müller. She passed away peacefully in February, 2020.
84, 85, 86. Interior of Elli’s Beer Bar: Lamp, Chairs, and Trophy
Photograph: Detlev Pusch, ca. 1978-9
Furniture: Wood, Metal, Glass, Textile
Berlin (West), ca. 1950s
“There was hardly a bar in Berlin that existed longer and hardly one that still has as many myths and rumors circulating about it as Elli’s Bar. However, during the research, it turned out that Elli was hard at work on the myths herself. Even people in the immediate vicinity knew little about the actual history of the location. ” Elisabeth Hartung (born 1902) reopened the bar, which was founded by her mother in 1912, at Skalitzer Str. 102 in 1946, as a place with a focus on lesbian and gay customers. As a non-rehabilitated Nazi, she was not allowed to hold a license: she registered the place in her girlfriend’s name. The history of her bar tells of queer alliances, the self-hagiographies that have arisen in the long oral tradition of queer history and the importance of the kneipe as a place of networking, offering a safe space in times of §175.
“At the end of the 1960s, a regular leather day was introduced for gays who loved black leather. Ellis Bar is considered Germany’s first leather bar. Elli herself was a leather guy. […] Elli made a lot of money with the pub. She drove big cars, was a gunwoman, owned at least two condominiums and for a short time another pub in Dortmund.”
As a place of sex work and drag shows and with famous regulars, among them Curd Jürgens, Günther Grass and Hildegard Knef, later Udo Lindenberg and Marianne Rosenberg, it stands for a glamorous and enigmatic queer yesterday. The target of regular police raids, Elli knew how to let her famous guests escape through the back door. “This place is by far the dirtiest among the gay places,” said a police officer in the 1960s.
Rosa von Praunheim immortalized Ellis Bier Bar in “It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives” 1971, a film that otherwise speaks very negatively about gay pub culture, as an inclusive place. “Workers and older gays, who are not tolerated in the piss-elegant gay spaces, feel at home here, where they sit together like a large family and try to forget their loneliness in hectic cheerfulness.” For the protagonist of the film, this place, where everything is possible and nothing has to be, finally forms the stepping stone to a revolutionary flat share, or rather to queer activism.
By the way, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who smiles at us from the picture opposing the chairs, was a regular guest here before the Wall was built. This lamp, these chairs and this trophy were part of the interior of this place full of contradictions and invited and invite for bar games, drag and self-empowerment.
Berlin (West), DE, 1957.
Young men in their bedrooms, intimate scenes to which the photographer had access: one might almost think that the black-and-white photographs of Herbert Tobias (1924-1982) belonged to the post-pornographic images of the 2000s that replaced high gloss with everyday perspectives of the naked male body were it not for the high-necked underwear and, above all, the record player, which mark the photographs as a document of post-war Germany. But Tobias’ photographs anticipate the aesthetics of the private and vulnerable that do not always necessarily determine the portrayal of gay men. As in the 2000s, for Tobias – who lived between Hamburg, Paris and Berlin and earned his living mainly as a fashion photographer – they were born out of friendship networks and an attitude towards life of newly discovered freedoms. The pictures also show that the LGBTQI story cannot be reduced schematically to the narrative of a time before Stonewall and the time after. Despite all social and legal differences, there was optimism and lightness among lesbians and gays in the 1950s as well. (See object 55.)
88. Tilly and Camelia
Berlin (West), DE, 1980s
For many years, photographer Annette Frick has passionately and patiently documented Berlin’s underground nightlife. With a special eye for the differences within the lesbian and gay scene, the drag and performance scene, Frick photographs the major cultural events such as the Teddy Awards Ceremony at the Berlinale and with particular attention to the small, less commercial events, such as Manufacturers, the annual lesbian-feminist cultural festival in a place in Friedrichshain. Wherever she works, Frick captures precisely the fleeting, ephemeral, quickly passing moments that become visible when a punk or performer lets their hair down or puts their face on. See also object 9.
89. Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and one of her Wilhelminian Cabinets
Berlin, DE, 1991
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (1928-2002), who had since her youth understood herself as a housewife from the late 19th century, worked at a junk shop in Berlin while still at school, the basement of which also offered her protection during the last days of the Second World War. She herself attributed this passion to childhood memories in her great-uncle’s house, where she always felt safe. Preferably dusting and with an apron.
Wilhelminian furniture, complex and heavy, was extremely unpopular in post-war Germany, both West and East, which was characterized by a modernist “death of the ornament” (Adolf Loos), so Charlotte was able to collect many pieces. She said: “I quickly developed a sixth sense for Wilhelminian style furniture. Columns, feet made by wood turning, another wooden ball here and another one there: I was blown away! Back then, it was a good time to collect this furniture. They had become obsolete… If you could afford it, you would set up ‘modern’, chop up the old furniture and throw the small parts in the oven.”
She acquired a ruined manor on the outskirts of Berlin, which she mostly restored on her own and expanded into a private museum. Through Charlotte’s commitment to queer self-organization in the GDR, this museum became a meeting point for activists in the 1970s. Charlotte’s house was an undesirable place for GDR officials and there were several attempts to ban its public operation The Gründerzeitmuseum Mahlsdorf still exists today.
90. Pedestal from manifestation of paper stack work “Untitled” (1988) at NGBK, 1990
New York, USA and Berlin, DE, 1988-1990
“Untitled” (1988), the paper-stack work that was originally shown on this pedestal, consists of blank sheets of paper. It was shown at the same NGBK exhibit as “Untitled (Join)” in the previous room of the exhibit (see object 10). This pedestal, along with the sheets in the previous room, remain from this show; they were given to the Museum for its collection by the artist. Very different from the works themselves, they preserve and communicate, in wood and paper, the relationship of the museum and its collection to the artist and the original exhibit.
91, 92. Front T-Shirt and Photo
Printed T-Shirt and Black-and-White Photograph
Hamburg, DE, 1980s
In the old Federal Republic before reunification, cool clubs didn’t only exist in West Berlin. In the early 1980s, one opened in Hamburg that could compete with London and New York. In the beginning, the Front was a meeting place for leather guys. In the sober ambience of a basement pub in Heidenkampsweg in St. Georg, owners Willi Prange and Philip Clarke gathered their friends around them. Word soon got around that this was a place to find people and music beyond the mainstream. The Front was the first club in Germany where house music was played. Klaus Stockhausen and Boris Dlugosch were the heroes at the DJ desk. The party scene diversified, and a few years of queer glamour here were incomparable. The photographer Rüdiger Trautsch captured this time in his pictures of boys tightly entangled on the dance floor or waiting in the hallway in front of the toilet for a blow job or a line. His pictures show gay and queer nightlife at the heights of the 1980s. As with any legendary location, the days of the Front were numbered. AIDS and mainstreaming dispelled the magic. In the mid 1990s the club closed down.
93. Flying Lesbians
Berlin (West), DE, 1975
The Flying Lesbians, a blunt, fierce, and proudly amateur all-women’s rock group, became famous in the 1970s throughout Europe for their progressive and sexually-liberating rock music. Born out of a performance only a few days after their formation at “Rockfete im Rock,” a May 1974 all-women’s music festival at the cafeteria of the TU Berlin, they quickly became a hit, and continued to play women-only shows throughout the summer of 1974, playing to 30,000 at that year’s women’s music festival in Copenhagen. Proudly amateur and proudly lesbian, the band became an integral voice in the womens’ and lesbian movements of the 1970s before disbanding in 1977. They have played some revival concerts in recent years; including in 2007 at Festsaal Kreuzberg and in 2018 right here at the Museum. Their lyrics have remained front and center at lesbian community events and demonstrations.
London, GB, 1993
Often, the films of British director Derek Jarman (1942-1994) were translations of masterpieces of gay art and cultural history into moving images: for example, a film adaptation of Marlowe’s “Edward II” and most famously a biographical film about the Italian painter Caravaggio, for which Jarman received the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 1986. Jarman’s films were visually intoxicating, in their physical directness as well as in their wealth of images. As a result of his HIV-infection, Jarman went blind in the early 1990s. In his case, losing his sight did not mean that he could no longer see, at least not immediately. Before he lost his eyesight, however, the virus and the medication affected his retinas: “Blue flashes in my eyes”, he wrote. Nothing but blue – like an Yves Klein picture – populates the world of his final film. The blind Jarman speaks from off screen about the monochrome color field: texts about his life as a gay artist, meditations on sensory experiences and aesthetics, sex, and death:
I am a mannish
With bad attitude
An arse licking
Molesting the flies of privacy
Balling lesbian boys
A perverted heterodemon
Crossing purpose with death
I am a cock sucking
With ball crushing bad manners
Laddish nymphomaniac politics
Spunky sexist desires
Of incestuous inversion and
I am a not gay
95. Photographs of the apartment of Eberhardt Brucks, wooden tripod
Photographs: Elisabeth Schonhauer-Schütz
Berlin, DE, 2003
The estate of the artist, illustrator and photographer Eberhardt Brucks (1917-2008) fills an entire room in the archive of the SMU. This is no wonder, since Brucks bequeathed us his entire house: plates, records, drawings, photographs, letters, books and much more. When the former director of the SMU, Karl-Heinz Steinle, visited Eberhardt Brucks for the first time, he came into a two-room apartment that was crammed floor-to-ceiling with objects: this place was itself an archive. Brucks’ passion for collecting almost brought his apartment in Berlin-Lankwitz, where he had lived for 75 years, to the brink of collapse; the objects he had collected were of such weight they threatened the structural integrity of the building itself. Fortunately, this did not happen, because Eberhardt Brucks bequeathed to the SMU not only the contents of his apartment, the most extensive estate we own, but also the apartment itself. Through such bequests as those of Eberhardt Brucks, jobs and projects in the SMU can be financed, for example in the library or the archive.
Brucks was an important contemporary witness of the 20th century with all its political upheavals and tragedies and their effects on gay lives. However, Brucks always rejected the label ‘gay’ for himself. For a long time he lived with his mother; the apartment was also a place of retreat for him and his friend Hansi, who tragically took his own life. His artistic and photographic work documents the private and political life of a gay man in 20th century Germany. Brucks has worked as an illustrator and author for the “Kreis”, the most important German-language gay magazine after 1945, published in Zurich; and captured his friends and gay everyday life in drawings and photographs. In addition to the photographs of Brucks’ apartment in Berlin Lankwitz, which also served as his studio, we show here a wooden tripod that he used for his photographs.
96. Anonymous HIV Test Paper document
Köln, DE, 1987
Since their introduction in the middle of the 1980s HIV-tests have been experienced as a threat. Negative stigmas and constant discrimination led many to opt into testing anonymously. This anonymous test, taken on August 2nd, 1987, at 4:15pm in Cologne, is the result of an unknown patient, who tested negative. Patients would receive a number or pick a password, which would then be used for their documentation. The only other demographics they were required to submit was their gender and birthdate. On March 2nd, 1985, the “Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” (ELISA) test (the type of test presented here) was released, marking the beginning of the ability to test for HIV. Initially, the ELISA was used to test blood donations. Testing sensitivity was high, often resulting in false positives, and also included an extremely long wait time of nearly three months. In 1987, a new test called the “Western Blot” was much more accurate but also more difficult to perform. The late 1980’s saw second and third generation tests emerging, which could register antibodies sooner. Today, testing is highly accurate and quick, and still available anonymously through the Aids-Hilfe, Mann-o-Meter, and other organizations in the city.
97. Fan and Wig
Madame Kio Collection
Berlin (West), DE, ca. 1960s–1990s
Madame Kio, whose biography is discussed elsewhere in this exhibit, was one of the most famous performers in West Berlin’s drag scene. Of that scene, he remembered: “It was drag’s time – there was a real boom! There was Chez Nous, there was Romy Haag, Straps-Harry, the Prisma, the Lützower Lampe, and then there was the Berliner Gasthaus. They were all there at the same time and all of them had a fixed program. There were certainly at least thirty female impersonators working full time in Berlin. If you happened to be passing, ‘La Grande Eugène’ by the Daniel Sander Troupe was running at the Theater des Westens or you had the Follies Parisiennes at the Wühlmäuse. You could go from one place to another, from one event to the next.” See also: Object 1.
98. ADEFRA National Meeting in Cologne
Cologne, DE, 1987
ADEFRA (afrodeutsche Frauen), is an organization for Black Germans established in the mid-1980s. It serves as a political and cultural forum for many Black women and women of color. Founded in Berlin with the assistance of prolific feminist writer and academic Audre Lorde, ADEFRA, which also developed the term “Afro-German,” encouraged Black activists to learn and relate to other Black women in Germany. Lorde’s influence in the development of the organization was significant. She regularly taught classes on ethnicity and women’s studies as a lecturer at the Freie Universität. In 1984, Lorde and activists from ADEFRA developed the term “Afro-German.” Designating themselves as Afro-German established a new communal self-image, assisting in the awareness of the “New Black Movement.” This photograph documents a meeting soon after their founding; today, ADEFRA creates space for Black women through political lobbying and regular community-based events and initiatives.
99. Audre Lorde
Berlin (West), DE, 1987
100. Macht und Sinnlichkeit (Power and Sensuality)
Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, ed. Dagmar Schulz
Berlin, DE, 1993
Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was an American writer, feminist, librarian, and civil rights activist. A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet;” she dedicated her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Her work spoke to, in her words, “those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference” – visible in this quote are both the central role that positionality played in her work and thinking and her insistence that differences of race, gender, class, and experience enriched, rather than dividing, broad-based movements for justice. In 1984, Lorde was invited by Dagmar Schulz, a lecturer in sociology at the Freie Universität, to lecture in Berlin. During her time here, she became an important part of the nascent Afro-German movement; coining the term itself in 1984 with a group of activists (see also the ADEFRA photograph and the Berlin Lesbian Week posters in this exhibit, objects 98 and 24) and became a mentor to a number of women, including May Akim, Katharina Oguntoye, Ika Hügel-Marshall, and Helga Emde. Her belief in language as a tool of resistance led Schulz to translate some of her key texts, alongside those of Adrienne Rich, in this collection, published in 1993.