The Obertunte from Lake Constance, or simply Jona Gold, is just finishing her one-year federal volunteer service at the Schwules Museum, leaving behind a sign of her ‘soft resistance’. However, Jona’s political commitment precedes this year by far: from small town resistance, to networking with 16 and queer soundtracks to match – Jona tells of the genesis of an Obertunte!
Hello Jona! You’re a bit of an online sensation, but you still need to introduce yourself…
Well, I’m Jona and I’m originally the Obertunte from Lake Constance. But I escaped from there a year ago after dropping out of school and heading to freedom in Berlin. Luckily, at that time the Schwules Museum had advertised the position for the Federal Volunteer Service. So I thought: who, if not me?
How did you come up with the name “Obertunte”?
“Tunte” is a stigmatized term that is often used as a negative description. I noticed when I was 13 how people at school and in my family used the term to put me down and sanction me for behavior that didn’t fit the binary male ideal. I remember talking on the phone with a gay man from the website DBNA, meaning ‘Du bist nicht allein’ or ‘You Are Not Alone,’ and he said to me, “You’re already pretty ‘tuntig’!” I vigorously denied that. In a later train of thought, I realized that being yourself is actually quite good. Without knowing exactly what self-empowerment means, or that the Tunte is a political figure, I positively appropriated the term. Just like the motto: Then I’m not just any Tunte, I’m the Tunte-in-chief! I then started early to defend myself against my queer-hostile school and to build up counseling structures. I’m 19 now and organized my first CSD at 16.
That sounds like a lot of responsibility for a teenage person!
Let me put it this way, there’s this song by Gloria Gaynor where she sings “If you want it, do it yourself.” I always heard that, on the way from Oberteuringen to Friedrichshafen, 15 kilometers on the bike, through the province, to the port city… I had to take this responsibility as a queer youth person because there were no structures. If I wanted to change something, I had no choice but to do it myself. That was pretty bleak.
What role does the Schwules Museum play in your life now?
One of self-emancipation! I was contacted on Instagram two years ago by a political Tunte after using the hashtag #Tunte under a picture. This one was none other than Brigitte Oytoy! Thus, I had a contact to Berlin. At that point, I learned that there are more people who are as quirky as me and sing the same songs.
What kind of things are you doing at SMU now?
After my interview, they were going to get back to me in about a week, but I got the acceptance letter that same night. I rode the U3 that day, exclusively grinning! My first day was a Saturday, working at the front desk, making coffee and greeting visitors. I love welcoming our audience, which are people from all over the world. Before I worked at the gay museum, I was always looking for myself in this place. I notice that in the visitors too, we look for ourselves in our history and in each other. I have seen people holding hands in public for the first time, coming out to me, or starting to cry in my arms. All this in the café of the Schwules Museum.
Now there were some real, dangerous attacks at SMU that you were really involved in resolving.
That’s right. For me, the Schwules Museum is mostly the place where I feel safest. I worked here for half a year without any attacks from outside. Now most of you have noticed that we have suffered some attacks. I was at one of them, took pictures, wrote down my observations, filed a complaint after all kinds of queer-hostile insults were shouted at me. Since then I have always brought a pair of shoes with me – and not only because high heels hurt my feet…
If I understand correctly, the inspiration for your darling came from that time, right?
Exactly, after the seventh attack I thought to myself, “Enough!” Then I put on my most ripped fishnet tights, packed and laid out queer stickers, listened to Barbara Streisand’s and Donna Summer’s “Enough is Enough” throughout, and grabbed some chalk to draw the words “NOW MORE THAN EVER” outside our front door. When I left the museum for 30 minutes to get the chalk, I was actually discriminated against several times on the street: spat on, insulted, stalked. I mean, how can it be that I can’t be safe on my way to the gay museum? The few minutes from the subway to Lützowstrasse….
That’s tough to hear. Tell us more about your darling!
After all, the Schwules Museum is quite inconspicuous, especially if you walk on the street side of the museum. So, I wanted people who come here to see that this is a queer place, whether they want to go to SMU or not. That’s why as my darling I painted a Inter* Inclusive Pride Flag on the sidewalk with chalk, togehter with some volunteers from the museum. Today it might be just the sidewalk, tomorrow it might be the whole neighborhood.
How did you go about it?
I went into direct action, took a 136-piece chalk set, asked Hannah from the volunteers, and started painting on the street. Little by little, we motivated visitors to help. Many of them immediately realized: this is a unique place, so old and rich, we have to show it more. We are the first and oldest queer museum with an archive, we need to protect this place. These are attacks on the gay museum, but they mean to hit all of us!
What would you name your darling?
I don’t know… Maybe “a gentle resistance”? It’s not graffiti now, so it’s not a permanent act of civil disobedience. The direct effect is still there… Yeah that’s good, a gentle resistance of the terrortunte (laughs).
Thank you for gifting us this darling just like that!
Image: mino Künze