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Darling of the Month: Mascha Linke and Issue No. 45 from Stern magazine, 1979

1. December 2022

Mascha is a smalltown girl who has been living in Berlin for over two years and is active within the queer scene here. As the latest SMU member, she tells us in this interview about her adventures in the museum’s archive, and how she plans to best use her newfound darling for her transfeminine agenda. 

Hello, Mascha! Introduce yourself briefly: Who are you and how did you find us?

Yes, of course, I’m Mascha, 22 years old, studying European Ethnology and I’m currently doing an internship at Schwules Museum in the section for press and publicity service. One day, when I was on social media, I saw the advertisement for this internship and I thought: “Hmm, I also have to do an internship for my studies… A break from studying and off to the Schwules Museum, that sounds good!” Then I applied. I already knew this place because when I moved to Berlin a little more than two years ago, I searched “queer museum” on Google and the Schwule Museum was proposed as a result. But the application was totally spontaneous.

We are happy to have you! What are your tasks here, and are there certain ones you really like to do?

I do a lot of things in the field of digital communication: working on the website, social media stuff, writing small texts… I really like writing, but I especially enjoy making connections between different things. So when I’m writing a post, I like to think about how I can make links to artwork, for example. Also the process of thinking through how to present it in a way that people will like on social media is interesting to me… That kind of thing!

You haven’t been with us long now, but have you had a really nice day that stuck in your mind?

There have been many nice days *laughs*. I think I spent some of the best hours in the archives the other day. I was down in the basement and just looked at collections. I found quite a few collections with a focus on trans* issues and found it really interesting. Somehow I was totally impressed by how much memory can be collected in such a small place. Afterwards I was in a really good mood! Even when I drove home, nothing could shake this good mood.

That sounds perfect! That brings us to your darling, which you also found in the SMU archives. Would you like to introduce it to us?

Sure, I’ll show it to you. My darling is an article from the magazine Stern from 1979. The issue was generally dedicated to the topic of “gender”, and therefore also featured trans* people. And there’s an article in it with a picture that I think is really great: it shows a woman who is injecting oestrogen into her left butt cheek; and I love it! There are a lot of people who do DIY transitioning and I’m always deeply moved, because these people have to do it at their own risk, so to speak, without any medical-professional infrastructures where you can get your own blood values checked, for example. And I also think it’s so beautiful because it’s simply been forty years. That’s why it’s my darling in a way, but for me it also stands for the whole trans* collection that we received from a person with the pseudonym Rebro. It comprises five boxes in which newspaper articles were meticulously collected – that’s just an incredible work! I am grateful that this knowledge could be stored in this way and did not have to be lost. I think that’s secretly the real darling of the month.

And what connects you to your sweetheart?

Well, I am also trans and I notice how the events of that time still have meaning for me today. So to put it in historical perspective: the article came out in 1979, the so called “Transsexuellengesetz” was adopted in 1981 and that is supposed to be abolished again today. And that kind of hits me personally to read in such articles how this law is supposed to “give rights” to trans people. Sure, it allowed some people to change their gender registration back then and was progressive in that sense somewhere. But the law still remains problematic on many levels. I see many of the torments that trans people were subjected to back then, such as the lack of health insurance coverage, still today – so times have definitely changed, and at the same time somehow not. In any case, there are continuities.

Would you like to give your sweetie to someone if you could?

Yes! I would love to print it out really big and give it to some stupid endocrinologist who has to hang it on his wall in a waiting room. *laughs* I always have such a bad feeling about them because they are mostly cisgender and male, they make their money because I need to transition of me and then have the audacity to be so gatekeeping! I’ve just had too many annoying experiences where I felt like I was just some patient record that they wanted to get through in 10 minutes. They often didn’t listen to my needs, which made it harder than it should have been. That’s why I’d like to put a picture up of people just taking care of their transition themselves because they’re let down by the public health systems or can’t find a place there. My deep admiration is for those people who are organising collectively to resist this.

Photo: Mino Künze/SMU