Berlin Pride 2016 is on July 23 – about a week from now. It’ll be my first Pride as a board member of Berliner CSD e.V., the association, whose 10-20 team members organize an event for roughly 750,000 people.
When I’m not writing press releases or social media posts, I take notes for the speech I’m going to hold at the final rally at Brandenburg Gate. It feels surreal – and scary. Because I know, if I don’t mess it up, I can actually touch a lot hearts out there.
I was 19, when I went to my first Pride. I had just moved to Berlin a couple of months ago, coming from a conservative small town in Lower Saxony.
‘It was so good to not feel like a minority for a moment’
Until then, I had only tasted tiny bits of LGBTQ subculture during three weekend trips to Berlin. So, this summer of 2001, watching those masses and masses of queer people passing me by, who were laughing, dancing, having such a great time being out and proud – I was just blown away by their energy. It was so good to not feel like a minority for a moment.
My first Berlin years, having mostly straight friends and being only halfway out, I spent a lot of Prides standing on the pavement, waving rainbow flags and getting drunk.
I did have fun. But I didn’t feel connected. It didn’t feel real to me. I was like, yeah cool, but on Monday, I’ll be the only lesbian in my law class again and probably die alone.
It changed a bit when I became part of “the community”. During my twenties, I finally found queer friends, went to queer bars and clubs and worked as a volunteer for a queer radio project. I had a pretty queer life.
‘As a “mainstream” cisgender lesbian, I didn’t feel seen, let alone represented’
But for some reason I still didn’t feel connected to the CSD – or rather: the CSDs. Because actually, we have two quite different Prides in Berlin: a big one and a small, alternative one.
At the beginning of the millennium, the big CSD was mostly a loud, naked male-gay Techno party, and the alternative CSD was a trans*-queer way-left fight against the establishment. As a “mainstream” cisgender lesbian, I didn’t feel seen, let alone represented at either CSD. (I mostly went to both anyway.)
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine became one of the first female board members of Berliner CSD e.V. Another one started co-hosting the final rally. It felt like something could change. I joined the organization team of Berlin Pride in January 2014 – the timing was difficult, but perfect. Because during some differences within the community that year, many people started re-thinking what kind of Pride they want to have anyway.
After Pride 2014, some of us started a little “revolution” with the vision of making Berlin Pride a really political and inclusive demonstration.
It wasn’t easy – we lost a couple of (mostly male) supporters and team members who feared the loss of glamour. And it was a lot of work: It was weeks and months of reaching out to all those corners of the LGBTQ community, of talking and (most of all) listening, of building or re-building connections.
It was the experiment of dividing the march into two parts, creating a “silent” area in the front for groups who can’t afford a big truck or who want to focus on a message instead of loud music. It was the other experiment of focussing on speeches instead of music on our leading truck. (Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing bad about having a party at Pride – showing queer confidence and happiness can totally be a political statement!)
In the end, we had such a wonderful variety of groups and projects taking part in Berlin Pride, some of them for the first time in years, if not at all.
And all these masses of people marching in the first part of the demonstration… goose bumps. It struck me: This was the right way. This was my kind of Pride. And I was so proud to be part of that.
‘This country still treats us as second class citizens’
We have a voice – the voice of hundreds of thousands of people marching together. But we also have a responsibility: We have to make sure that all these queer people out there – regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin colour, cultural background, belief, ability or whatever – who desperately need the feeling that they’re not alone, feel welcome, seen and represented in Berlin Pride.
Our community might have taken a lot of steps to equality – but it’s really a shame that this country still treats us as second class citizens. So yes, we definitely still need the LGBTQ movement – and Pride is the annual best chance to get heard.
That’s why I ran for board this spring to make sure that Berlin Pride keeps moving – moving further and further to being an inclusive and diverse, powerful and empowering demonstration for equal rights. And that’s why I’ll feel honored to go up to that stage next week.