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Openly queer living in Berlin : "Finally gay and proud"

At the beginning of the flight there is fear. At least that's how it was in my case. I grew up as a homosexual man in the Münsterland, in a small town called Drensteinfurt. It was clear early on that I was different from the other guys. I sometimes wore dresses, played with barbies, had no problem wiggling my buttocks. I'm not interested in football to this day.

What the other children quickly realized I didn't admit to myself until I was 14 or 15: I'm gay. Coming out to myself was difficult because I had learned in the small town that it was not okay to be homosexual: I was harassed for years and insulted as a "fagot". In the corridors of school, during recess, on the way home - everywhere they waited for me, with their insults and their violence. I endured all of this.

Berlin is an important place to live for queer people

At the age of 19, after graduating from high school, there was only one way out: to escape. I moved from the rural cathedral to urban Berlin.

Berlin is important as a place to live for queer people, because here you will find people like you. It is suddenly okay to be gay while hanging out in the cafes on Motzstrasse, partying in bars like Silver Future in the evenings and then in clubs like Schwuz. Presumably safe places where I enjoyed my life and the freedom I felt for two or three years in the intoxication of the night.

Although I had always longed for a place to live out my homosexuality, at some point I felt trapped. Too much alcohol, too much excess - freedom became a prison and Berlin an eternal party night.

"I was in a constant intoxication"

Several attempts at relationships failed and I was constantly inebriated. I realized I needed help.

At the age of 22 I began psychoanalysis at the Berlin Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy on Pariser Strasse, lying on a black leather couch three times a week. I tried to get to my feelings with a psychoanalyst and to find out what was bothering me and why I wanted to numb myself.

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It was another year and a half before I discovered support groups for queer people. That brought me to “village.berlin” on Kurfürstenstrasse. A place that offers courses and sports groups for gay, bisexual and transgender men.

The first time I stood in the large room with the cracked walls and the light floor, I was suspicious of the other men. A picture of what went wrong in my life: I had internalized the voices of the youth, the “fagot!” Shouts. I was still on the run, but from myself. I learned about "internalized homophobia". I hated gay men because I had learned this in my homeland and because of it I hated myself.

"After years of work I came into contact with myself again"

In therapy, in self-help groups and in sports (boxing for queer men), I came into contact with myself again after years of work. I learned: What I had been looking for all these years was my identity, which I could never fully develop because I was simply forbidden to do so. That was now possible in Berlin.

In order to face my inner homo-negativity and to get in contact with my feminine side, I became a drag queen: In August 2019, I performed as Dicki Minarsch in high heels, a short dress and a much too big, much too blonde wig . A blow that was louder than the insults of my youth. I gained the upper hand, freed myself from what had dominated me for so long. I was finally gay and proud. I also learned that I was not alone in my experiences.

The result of a heterosexual, patriarchal world

One of my closest friends, Tony, 50, from New York, had his first boyfriend when he was 21 years old. The coming out to his parents followed at the age of 25, and he was in a relationship with a woman. Confusing? "It's hard for gay men to understand what they and I had because that's the result of a heterosexual, patriarchal world."

Today, he says, one would better understand their relationship, people are more open to openness itself: we no longer live in an understanding of roles that are so black and white. Fluidity is welcome. A gay man can also sleep with a woman, that doesn't make him straight or bisexual

Tony has read books like "The Velvet Rage", "Return to Reims" and "The End of Eddy" that deal with homosexual shame and identity issues in recent years. "It's a process of completely accepting myself."

To get to this point, Tony exchanges ideas with other queer men, gives meditation classes in “village.berlin” and takes part in the “healing spaces” there. These courses aim to provide a safe place for men who love men who want to learn to accept each other.

"She suppressed her sexual identity with alcohol and parties"

Then there is my friend Siri, 39, who grew up in Sweden. As a teenager, she fantasized about women, but dated men until she was in her early 30s. She suppressed her sexual identity as a lesbian woman with alcohol and parties, among other things. She was never 100 percent happy until she admitted who she is and who she loves. The relationship that is most important, the one with herself, she began to shape when she left the alcohol, the parties and the men. "I became honest with myself for who I am and what dependencies prevailed in my life."

Siri allowed himself to blossom. “I thought to myself: Wait a minute, you're actually into women!” Subconsciously, it was always clear to her that she loved women, she says today. All your life. She started dating, later married a woman, is divorced today, and now has a girlfriend again.

"As queer people we had to find our way in a heterosexual society"

Although we come from different generations, Tony, Siri and I, now 26, had to struggle with similar problems: As queer people we had to find our way in a heterosexual society. Because if you are different from the crowd, you quickly believe that you are flawed. In order to establish contact with ourselves, we needed safe places and other queer people to identify ourselves, to feel secure and understood. Something the village couldn't offer me.

“Being different” was never the problem, at least it shouldn't be, but dealing with it. Queer people will probably always remain a minority. However, it needs acceptance in order to create a good relationship. At the end of the day, we are all people who just want to be loved. We all have the same needs regardless of sexual identity. This is important to say because homophobia is on the rise. 261 homophobic attacks were reported in Berlin in 2019. There they are again, the voices from the village.

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