People often focus on the negative aspects of an issue. The focus is usually on what still needs to be done, what does not exist or what injustices still exist. These considerations are good and important! But all too often people lose sight of the already existing achievements, the positive. The queer community is still not equal, neither legally nor socially, yet it should be recognised what the community has achieved in the last 100 years. In our blog article “Who is Who – An introduction to queer personalities” we have already introduced you to some activists who have dedicated their lives to the fight for equality and visibility. Whether it’s magazines, pubs, publishers, student groups or academic offices for and by queer people, it’s all possible thanks to their dedication and commitment.
Decriminalisation of homosexuality
Although discrimination knows no national borders, there are serious differences in the rights of homosexual people. In some parts of the world, lesbian, gay and bisexual people can marry, adopt and are legally protected from discrimination. Same-sex marriage is allowed in 30 states. Adoption by same-sex loving couples is allowed in 27 states. Europe in particular is a pioneer in the legalisation of marriage and adoption of homosexual and bisexual people, as well as in the principle of legal equality for LGBTQIA+ persons. Since 2014, Europe is the first continent where homosexuality is not illegal in any country or territory.
Protest Movements and Pride Culture
Whether the “Stonewall Uprising” (read more in the article: “Pride Month – A short journey through time and why the past is highly topical”) or the “Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras”, the protest movement and the resulting culture shaped the LGBTQIA+ movement and thus society in general. From the 1960s onwards, more and more resistance groups formed in the different countries. They fought and continue to fight for the rights of queer persons and visibility in a society that categorically excludes all life plans that do not correspond to the ideal. For example, the “Stonewall Riots” are among the most impressive protest actions. Protests and violent clashes with the forces of law and order lasted six days, attracting massive media attention and sensitising mainstream society for the first time to sexual and gender diversity and the restrictions associated with it. The following year, peaceful protests and marches of the queer community took place – the “Gay Liberation Day March”. “ACT UP!” a resistance group that worked to end the AIDS crisis in the 80s is still active today. Their protest actions are legendary. So there were the Die-Ins, a variation of the sit-in. In the Die-Ins, the protesters lay down in front of public buildings, squares or streets and “played dead”. This was to show the decision-makers that their decisions affect real people and can even lead to their deaths. The organisation deliberately provoked in order to get into a negotiating position. By talking to influential politicians, they achieved better access to medicines, more research and general awareness of AIDS.
Knowledge – creates power
Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Sciences has already been briefly touched upon in the article “Who is Who – An Introduction to Queer Personalities”. But the institute should also be included in this listing. It was a counselling, treatment and educational institution and accessible to all strata of society. Creating a place where one’s fears and concerns are taken seriously and the treating staff listen to one’s problems is still hard to find for queer people today. But Hirschfeld achieved this for a short time in his institute. Through him, the taboo topic of sexuality and gender was given a scientific perspective and later the Queer Studies could emerge from it.
Recognition, symbols and visibility
More and more streets are being renamed. The oppressive people are being replaced with empowering ones. Here in Germany, too, more and more names of queer resistance are becoming visible through these renamings. For example, part of Manteuffelstraße was renamed Audre-Lorde-Straße in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In 2021, the first statue of a transgender person, the legend Marsha P. Johnson, was erected in New York. We also featured her on “Who is Who – An introduction to queer personalities”. Plaques and symbols are introduced with the aim of creating visibility and paying respect to those who have passed away.
More and more streets are being renamed. The oppressive people are being replaced with empowering ones. Here in Germany, too, more and more names of queer resistance are becoming visible through these renamings. For example, part of Manteuffelstraße was renamed Audre-Lorde-Straße in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In 2021, the first statue of a transgender person, the legend Marsha P. Johnson, was erected in New York. We also featured her on “Who is Who – An introduction to queer personalities”. Plaques and symbols are introduced with the aim of creating visibility and paying respect to deceased people.
Queer politics and queer politicians
Politically, a lot has happened in the last 100 years. In 1990, homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which was a big step towards acceptance and recognition. In 2019, the abolition of transsexual identity as a disease by the World Health Organisation in the ICD followed. In 2007, the adoption of the Yogyakarta Principles was celebrated. These 29 principles comprise a global standard for securing human rights for LGBTQIA+ persons. States are given concrete recommendations on how to implement these 29 standards. The Nordic countries, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Uruguay and the Netherlands have already adopted these recommendations and are strongly advocating for the global recognition of the Yogyakarta Principles. Another policy achievement was the introduction of the third gender option in the civil status register. In some states, including Germany, USA, Argentina, India, Iceland and several more, an “indeterminate” gender has been legally recognised and can be entered in passports as a gender characteristic. In Germany and Austria this is “divers”, in most other countries it is an “X”.
Another turning point was the WHO statement in 2012 that the practice of “conversion therapies” endangers the health and rights of the persons concerned. These “therapies” aim to change sexual orientation and gender identity, to inhibit or “cure” same-sex desire. In 2016, the United Nations criminalised “conversion therapies” and similar practices. In 2020, a report equated these acts with torture. Currently, there are five countries that criminalise “conversion therapies”: Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Germany and Albania.
Much has been achieved, but society still has a long way to go to achieve full equality for queer people. Because no matter how many laws are passed, how many rules and bans, organisations and protests are set up, ultimately the acceptance and recognition of different identities must unfold in the minds of each individual member. As long as queer youths are being attacked in the streets, as long as same-sex couples cannot kiss in public, as long as asexuality is not recognised as sexuality, we have not achieved equality. We wish everyone strength and courage to take the next steps on the long road. Together with pride!