Berlin’s march for LGBTI equality began on Saturday 16 June 2012 with the street party: Lesbisch-Schwules Stadtfest at Nollendorfplatz in Schoeneberg.
Rainbow Fund, the primary organisers for the event were marking 20 years of campaigning for equality with the strap line: Gleiche Rechte fur Ungleiche which generally translates into equality for those marginalised.
Temporary stages politely marked the areas between Motzstrasse, Eisenacher Strasse, Fuggerstrasse and Kalckeuthstrasse. Dance platforms supporting DJ’s spinning house tunes with that distinctively Ministry and Ibiza sounds mixed with mock scenes of TV game shows - featuring look-a-likes such as Amy Whinehouse.
The streets were lined with stalls detailing support services for sexual health sport, culture and employment services and among the partying, food, drinks and cruising was the inescapable politics: LGBTI people continue to fight for equality around the world.
LGBTI people continue to face the death penalty in five countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania with parts of Nigeria and Somalia also engaged with these practices, says the ILGA organisation in May 2012.
Holding the globe of discrimination, my gaze was interrupted by a passing woman wearing a Kopftuch. Traditionally Pride events are open and accepting of others and lifestyles and as a visiting Brit, for a moment, I assumed this image confirmed times were changing for practicing Islamic women.
It was explained that Islamic dress in a street party does not mean acceptance and one need only look at the continued battles between religion and LGBTI equality with the Church in the UK or the USA to see that LGBTI people fight daily for basic rights – let alone quality. My naivety soon gave way to this harsh reality.
This increase in political awareness marked the second weekend of LGBTI and along with the new route beginning in Kreuzberg, the Christopher Street Day (CSD) floats of the 23 June travelled down Gitschiner Strasse, Wilhelmstrasse, Niederkirchnerstrasse and into the new Berlin centre of Potsdamer Platz.
The uplifting carnival spirit carried the procession on to Hannah-Arendt Strasse – named after the political German Jewish America theorist and into Dorotheenstrasse. Sadly this route is far from Berlin’s LGBTI memorials: the stone in Nollendorfplatz – placed in recognition of the lives lost in WWII and Mahnmal gegen das Vergessen, the HIV ribbon placed in the middle of Urania in memory to those lives lost to HIV.
LGBTI representatives from around the world had floats or positions on floats – again increasing the public profile of the global equality debates. The UK team held a portrait of Alan Turing (1912 – 1954), in respect of his life as a gay man and his achievements in breaking the German Code in WWII. He is now nationality recognised by the Britische Botschaft, in Berlin (British Embassy).
All the floats passed the Jewish memorial in silence to show respect to the victims of the Holocaust in WWII. The impressive sound systems kicked back in as the parade entered ‘Berlin’s gate’, offically named: Brandenburger Tor.
The heightened awareness of LGBTI inequality was clearly matched by the political history that marked parts of this new route.
The 8 days in Berlin covering LGBTI history from Lesbisch-Schwules Stadfest to CSD, was not only a fantastic opportunity to party for the thousands of visitors, it allowed for pride and reflection on LGBTI achievements so far and for the need to join together and continue the fight for global equality for all.