Christopher Street Days and Pride Festivals take place around the world in June and July. They celebrate queer people and demonstrate for equality and against exclusion.
Shadows in History and Persecution
Equal rights for queer people seems like a modern topic. In the historical record, homosexuality and queer people “come into existence” late. After Greek antiquity, such life plans seem to have almost come to an end with the triumph of Christianity in Europe. However, it is more valid to say that they were kept secret or that historians ignored them until the 19th century. For example, up until modern times, Christianity portrayed homosexual people as sinners and caused secrecy among queer people.
In the 19th century, homosexuality was considered forbidden and legally punishable in the German Empire. Equality was out of the question for a long time. Especially since with National Socialism a policy began that persecuted and killed queer people. A sad advantage that women were able to draw from their long-standing disadvantage: the state-organized persecution and punishment of homosexual people mainly referred to men. After the Nazi era, homosexuality was at least legally punished with the questionable Paragraph 175 until the 1990s.
Queer people around the world struggle with recognition. It was not until 1990 that the international health organization WHO rejected the idea of understanding homosexuality as a disease. It was only in 2022 that the WHO no longer classified transgender as a mental disorder. The road to legal equality and recognition of their way of life is far from over for queer people.
From marriage for all to blood donation
Since the 2000s, queer people in Germany have gradually gained more rights on their way to equality. From 2001 it was possible to register a civil partnership. But this did not grant the rights associated with marriage. Aspects such as the recognition of parenthood or the tax advantages of spouse splitting, homosexual couples still had to fight legally.
Marriage for everyone since 2017 has been a major milestone. Simplified adoption options have opened up, especially for families with children. Since then, both spouses can adopt the child at the same time and the child’s legal situation is better secured. The more than 30,000 same-sex marriages in Germany show how relevant the topic is apart from the goal of equal rights for people.
What has not been changed in German law so far is the right of descent. It still assumes that parents are of different sexes and legally only assigns the child to the father and mother. This puts same-sex families and children from them at a disadvantage. The current Justice Minister Buschmann is trying to change and expand the right of descent.
Same-sex couples also have a disadvantage when it comes to support when trying to have children: health insurance companies, for example, do not cover artificial insemination for lesbian couples. Another major legal construction site is the Self-Determination Act, which refers to the gender entry and is constantly being revised.
The fact that homosexual and bisexual men were excluded from donating blood until 2022 shows their discrimination. Homosexual men are now allowed to donate blood, but so far only if they have not had sexual contact for four months. Why is sexual contact less of a problem for heterosexual people? Isn’t the crucial point unprotected sex? Why do queer people have to answer questions about their gender identity or sexual orientation to donate blood? Health Minister Lauterbach, who submitted an amendment to the Transfusion Act, also asked these questions. The goal is to enable everyone to donate blood, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Assaults and discrimination of queer people in daily life
In Europe, numerous countries are striving for the goal of equal rights for queer people through many legal changes. But there are still too many countries in the world where homosexuality is even punishable by death. The recently changed laws in Uganda are an example of regression. There, “serious homosexuality” is now punishable by death.
Looking at our Polish or Hungarian neighbors doesn’t make it any better. In Hungary, a law restricts information on homosexuality and transgenders. With the argument to protect children, queer people are banned from advertising and education. Conservative tendencies are also trying in German country to banish queer lifestyles from everyday life. For example, from their point of view, sex education classes that address all forms of sexuality and gender would be questionable.
Statistics on criminal offenses show that queer people in Germany are still subjected to discrimination or even attacks. In 2021, sexual orientation-based assaults increased. Especially when it comes to maintaining diversity and tolerance, it is also important in Germany to take a clear position against anti-queer tendencies. Events like the CSD are all the more to be supported and celebrated.
Cologne Pride is one of the biggest events in Germany around Christopher Street Day. Even cities that are considered more conservative, such as Munich, have a large and active LGBTQIA+ community. So big that the Pride Week in the Bavarian capital was brought forward to June due to the high number of participants. There is still a lot to be done for queer equality in Germany, but the good news is that there are many people and institutions who are committed to it.