Gays and lesbians seem increasingly accepted in Western society. Especially since legal restrictions have been abolished over the last decades, and same-sex marriage has become possible in ever more countries. However, not everyone is willing to accept these developments.
This becomes clear from the latest annual report of Project Maneo in Berlin, which is devoted to combating violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender people. These results give food for thought. In 2015, 541 cases of homophobic or transphobic incidents were brought to the attention of Maneo, compared to 474 in the year before.
Perhaps these are not shocking numbers for a large metropolis, but the leader of the project, Bastian Finke, rightly observes that “these incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination show a dramatic picture, especially in view of the likelihood of much larger numbers of unknown cases.”
More worrying than these numbers is the fact that these expressions of gay aversion are becoming ever more extreme. Twenty-three percent of the most occurring incidents concerned insults, twenty-two percent concerned threats (with violence), and fifteen percent concerned robbery, while a staggering twenty-nine percent resulted in bodily harm.
In an interview with the “Berliner Zeitung” drag star Gloria Viagra, who turned fifty earlier this year, admits that homophobia in Berlin on the whole may not have increased, but that it certainly has become “more extreme.” Gloria Viagra is an icon in the gay scene of the German capital, where he has lived ever since his childhood years. Gloria Viagra became known by performing at parties and clubs as DJane, but is also a politically motived advocate of gay rights.
She has an internet show called “Thekenschlampe,” and sings with Sherry Vine and Jutta Haasmann in the band Squeezebox. Gloria Viagra, who measures two meters, twenty centimeters in full costume and with high heels, does not prefer to describe himself as a transvestite: “That is so stale [...]. In new German you would say ‘drag queen.’ Transvestite sounds pre Second Wold War and reeks of paragraph 175” (the article in the German Penal code of 1871 prohibiting homosexual acts, only cancelled in 1994).
In the interview with the newspaper, he elaborates on the responses he gets: “Many people are very interested and loving, but I also get a lot of verbal abuse from boys calling me things like ‘son of a bitch.’ It used to be much easier going outside as a drag queen in Berlin, but nowadays everyone seems to need to share their opinion on everything. People are either very rumbustious, or they clearly show disapproval. In my own neighborhood, boys have thrown cans at me, and when I was in a cab, opened the door and spat at me.”
Gloria Viagra admits that he felt safer in the past in Berlin: “In my normal outfit I would not snuggle in the metro,” as “they would perhaps curse you in the past, but now they start hitting immediately. Nowadays, the atmosphere is much more aggressive.” Therefore, he is of the opinion that Gay Pride still has a role to fulfil in today’s society: “The gay community has always been criticized of a certain commercial hedonism, but only once a year on Christopher Street Day we have this opportunity to move about freely and without fear.
Being gay may have become mainstream with all of its advantages, but there are also downsides to that.” One of the disadvantages of a more general acceptance is an increase in some people’s aversion, feeling threatened somehow by it, and this aversion is expressed ever more extremely. Not just in Berlin, but in the rest of the world as well.