Trans Rights and Cultures in the Weimar Republic

Katie Sutton is Associate Professor of German and Gender Studies at the Australian National University. She is the author of Sex between Body and Mind: Psychoanalysis and Sexology in the German-Speaking World, 1890s-1930s (University of Michigan Press, 2019) and The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany (Berghahn, 2011), and has published on sexuality, gender, and sexology in early 20th-century Germany, including interwar queer and trans subcultures. Contact: katie.sutton@anu.edu.au

In 1932 popular illustrated daily newspaper Tempo, which had a circulation of around 125,000 copies, took up a theme it believed captured the Zeitgeist: “Women who live as men”.[1] This “reportage from an unknown world” by one C. A. Jank ran for almost thirty issues from April to June, detailing stories of individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who lived and worked, sometimes for decades, in a society that viewed them as men. 

It opens with the story of Karl, a working-class Swabian who runs into problems at the Berlin unemployment office because his ID document is issued to a “Henriette.” In a colourful report that speaks to Depression-era readers with its evocation of bored queues and timestamps, Karl confronts a perplexed official demanding to know the truth of his gender: “The thing is this: I’m a girl. But for fifteen years I’ve been living and working as a lad.”[2] What might stories such as Karl’s tell us about the development of trans legal rights and cultures during the Weimar Republic?

Jank’s report of Karl’s encounter in the unemployment office forms part of longer biography that goes back to the persistent childhood demands of young “Henriette”: “Mother, when will I become a boy?” Today, we might be tempted to classify his identification as trans(*), although it is not clear whether Karl saw himself in a way that might easily align with such a twenty-first-century label.[3]

By the interwar years, though, adopting the term “transvestite” to characterize gender-variant expressions and identities had become a possibility. Sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld coined this popular label with a bulky 1910 study on the theme, publishing numerous case histories to help distinguish “transvestism” from older ideas of “inversion” or a “third sex.”[4] He viewed cross-gendered identifications as most often a lifelong condition—a view we also see reflected in Jank’s narration of Karl, albeit in a more popular mode. 

Continue reading “Trans Rights and Cultures in the Weimar Republic”

The Eminent Lesbian or the Passionate Spinster? Posthumous Representations of Amelia Edwards’ Love for Women

Travel writer Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892) loved women. This article examines how various generations of writers have represented her same-sex desire, which material and conjectures underpinned their representations, and how we might approach reading and writing about the desires of Victorian-era women-loving women today.

Bianca Walther is a freelance historian and conference interpreter based in Berlin. She produces the podcast Frauen von damals and hopes one day to finish her dissertation on women-loving women in Germany and Sweden around 1900. She is also interested in historical women travellers and has edited the Indian travel diary of German feminist Anna Pappritz. While simultaneously working on a podcast on Amelia Edwards and studying anti-lesbian rhetoric in early 20th-century literature, she stumbled across an obscure reference to an English tribad who married a pastor’s wife. This blog post is the result.
Helen Ferguson is a freelance conference interpreter and translator based in Berlin, specialised in art/architecture, film, and cultural history.

Amelia Edwards was a talented writer, passionate traveller, and self-taught Egyptologist. She was a successful novelist by the time she was in her mid-twenties, but it was a trip to the Dolomites and a subsequent journey up the Nile that were to establish her fame as a travel writer. Her bestsellers Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873) and A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877) captivated their audience with humorous observations and evocative descriptions of landscapes. 

During her trip to Egypt, Amelia Edwards acquired a lasting fascination with Egyptology. In 1882, she therefore co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (today: Egypt Exploration Society) and, during the last ten years of her life, dedicated nearly all her time and energy to it. Her will stipulated that monies from her estate be used to endow the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London, which still survives as the Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology

Amelia Edwards and Women

While Amelia Edwards’ achievements already made her a well-known public figure during her lifetime, her private life has long remained an enigma – even to her biographers Joan Rees (1998) and Brenda Moon (2006). Amelia Edwards formed emotional attachments almost uniquely with women. As an adult, she lived with Ellen Drew Braysher, a friend 27 years her senior, whose husband and daughter had died not long after Edwards had lost her parents. In early 1864, they moved to Westbury-on-Trym, where they were to live until both women died within the first months of 1892. 

Amelia Edwards in 1890, published: in Edwards, Amelia B. (1891):
Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers, New York:
Harper & Brothers (frontispiece).

However, Edwards always had other attachments to women too. Her papers, archived at Somerville College, Oxford, contain a number of letters from painter and world traveller Marianne North (1830-1890), whom she had befriended in 1870. While Edwards’ letters have not survived, Norths’ replies reveal that Edwards had developed quite a crush on her new friend. North, who did not reciprocate these feelings but was obviously relaxed about them, set her boundaries in a gentle and light-spirited tone: “Bless you, what love letters you do write”, she wrote one Friday in May 1871, “what a pity you waste them on a woman!” (SCO ABE 228). A few days later, after Edwards had come up with the suggestion (or should it be ‘proposal’?) of giving North a ring to wear on her next journey, Marianne North writes:

Continue reading “The Eminent Lesbian or the Passionate Spinster? Posthumous Representations of Amelia Edwards’ Love for Women”

The Ambivalence of Feeling Backward:

Lesbian Activists in the German Democratic Republic and their Politics of Memory[I]

Maria Bühner is a PhD candidate at the Department for Cultural Studies, Leipzig University. Her project focuses on the subjectification of lesbians in the GDR and looks at politics of the lesbian rights movement, the psychiatric treatment of female homosexuality, as well as life stories, relationship practices and self-understandings. At Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden she did research on the material culture of sexualities. Her research interests cover gender history, the history of sexualities, affect studies and material culture studies. Contact: maria.buehner@uni-leipzig.de

Introduction: Queering Memory

The search for and, sometimes the imagination of, a shared queer history and practices of commemoration have been constitutive practises for lesbian and gay emancipation movements since the 1970s. To feel and look backward helped them to form a collective identity and pushed the politicisation of homosexuality. A well-known, and still very visible, example for this is the transnational use of the pink triangle as a symbol of recognition for queers worldwide.[1] I argue that, besides the Stonewall Riots, the persecution of queers during the Nazi era has been an important point of reference for queer memory cultures.

As a starting point I turn to Heather Love’s reflections on loss and the politics of queer history. In Feeling Backward she states: “Homosexual identity is indelibly marked by the effects of reverse discourse: on the one hand it continues to be understood as a form of damaged or compromised subjectivity; on the other hand, the characteristic forms of gay freedom are produced in response to this history.”[2] Love argues that backward feelings like depression, shame and regret are essential for homosexual identities, that they stay with us even after things changed and that they are an essential part of queer culture and should therefore be included in our analysis.[3] She also points our attention to the deep desire to form connections, analogies and genealogies across time: “The longing for community across time is a crucial feature of queer historical experience, one produced by the historical isolation of individual queers as well as by the damaged quality of the historical archive.”[4]

With regards to Love I want to explore the politics of memory by lesbian activists in East Germany. I focus on the efforts of the East Berlin-based group Lesben in der Kirche (Lesbians in the Church) at the memorial site of the former Ravensbrück concentration camp in the mid-1980s. Founded in 1982 Lesben in der Kirche was the first and very influential separatist lesbian group founded in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). They understood lesbian as a political identity, were very feminist, and critical of the state.[5] They were the first ones to publicly commemorate the lesbian victims of the Nazi persecution. This practice was rooted in their general interest in lesbian herstory and at the same time an attempt to make lesbians, their existence, and experiences in the past and the present (and/or for the future) visible. I am especially interested in the function of these commemorations for forming a shared collective memory as part of their identity politics that went hand in hand with a politicization of homosexuality and womanhood. Nevertheless, I argue that feeling backward and the longing for community across time and space are ambivalent in their practise and outcome. 

The Marginalization of Lesbians in the GDR and their Activism

After suffering persecution and the destruction of their subculture during National Socialism, queers and their desires continued to remain socially marginalized in the GDR until the 1980s. There was hardly any representation, either positive or negative, of (female) homosexuality in the public sphere. Marginalisation and discrimination created an affective state that was characterised by isolation, fear, shame, confusion, depression, and sometimes even self-hate. Some did not even have a word to name their own desires and experienced great difficulties to find other like-minded queers.[6]The formation of political groups can be understood as a reaction to this complicated affective state. Given the challenges that unofficial political movements faced in the GDR (such as being unable to freely assemble, publish literature, and form associations), the protection offered by the Protestant Church starting at the beginn of the 1980s was crucial for their activism because it offered the only semipublic and nongovernmental space where political activists in the GDR could gather. 

During the 1980s more than 20 homosexual activist groups were founded. In most of the groups people of different genders worked together, but some exclusively lesbian and gay groups also emerged. Their regular meetings provided a space for meeting other queers, discussing one’s experiences and feelings. Supported by exchanges with activists from other countries, these groups sought to make sense of the negative emotions that many experienced. Consciousness-raising meetings became an important political practise. Talking and writing about their experiences and feelings helped participants to see their lives in a broader perspective and to transform their emotions, not at least because groups offered support and ideas of a positive self-understanding.[7] Another important practise of the groups were regular visits to the memorial sites of the former concentration camps Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Ravensbrück. 

Queering Ravensbrück

For the lesbian activists Ravensbrück was especially interesting since mainly women had been imprisoned in the concentration camp: about 123.000 of which around 25.000 were murdered there.[8] After the foundation of the GDR in 1949 Ravensbrück quickly became an important national memorial site. In the official political understanding the GDR was an anti-fascist state founded by the communists that had been persecuted by the Nazis. Therefore, the sites of the former concentration camps were transformed into national memorial sites to remember the communist resistance fighters as the victims of fascism and to stage the power of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany on a regular basis. Ravensbrück was the place to commemorate especially the female communists that had fought against fascism. Other groups like the jewish inmates, the so called asocial and criminal prisoners, romani people, homosexual men and lesbian women were not included in the official memory culture that became permanently manifested in the architecture of the memorial site and the huge memorials that took place every year.[9]

Since Ravensbrück was a place of such great political significance to visit and commemorate the lesbian victims of the Nazi persecution meant nothing less than to make the existence of lesbians in the past and the present highly visible and to seek for public attention. This was one reason for the Lesben in der Kirche to visit Ravensbrück several times in the mid-1980s. Before they visited Ravensbrück in 1984 for the first time, they wrote to the archive and asked to see files of prisoners. In their letter they wrote: “You will wonder, why do we collect all this information? We are women, and we have a past, a history that should be reviewed, and especially processed to develop our emancipation and our self-understanding further.”[10]

At their regular meetings lesbian herstory was a recurring topic throughout the decade. Their main sources of information were two books: The exhibition catalogue “Eldorado. Homosexuelle Frauen und Männer in Berlin 1850-1950. Geschichte, Alltag und Kultur” on gays and lesbians in Germany covering the period 1850-1950 and “Berlins lesbische Frauen” by Ruth Margarete Roellig — a description of lesbian bars in Berlin from the 1920s.[11] Their collective memory was focused on the 1920s as a golden era and the destruction of this subculture by the Nazis. The Stonewall Riots were not part of their shared narrative. Their knowledge on the actual situation of lesbians during the Nazi era remained very limited since back then there was hardly any state of research to back up their assumptions. A situation that changed in the meantime.[12]

10th of March 1984, Lesben in der Kirche visited the memorial site Ravensbrück and followed the traditional protocol of a group visit: They had a guided tour, laid down their wreath,[13] and wrote in the visitor’s book: “Our remembrance is for all those women who lost their lives in the concentration camp Ravensbrück and suffered, especially our lesbian sisters. We also commemorate all those women who are still suffering from fascism and oppression today. Working Group Homosexual Self-Help — Lesbians in the Church.”[14]

The ribbon of the wreath and their entry were both signed with their group name — despite the fact that given the restrictive laws their group was illegal. During the tour they noticed a sign that listed the different categories of prisoners but missed the pink triangle.[15]

Also in the years to come the group used the phrase “lesbian sisters” to refer to the persecuted lesbians. This sisterhood was and remained an imagined one since at this time not a single lesbian prisoner was known by name. Their idea of a lesbian sisterhood expressed their deep wish to form a connection across time and embraces a different, in this case lesbian, idea of kinship that was not bound to blood. The people who were active in the lesbian movement were mainly younger women. There are no contacts documented between them and older women who might have been persecuted by the Nazis.

The missing wreath,  picture by Bettina Dziggel

Their actions in Ravensbrück did cause a reaction by the state authorities. The director of the memorial site informed the Secret State Security Police beforehand which lead to an observation of the visit.[16] Later the wreath and the entry in the visitor’s book were taken away. Two members of group returned a few days later and noticed that. They took a picture of the empty spot were they had laid down their wreath. This photography is very interesting because it documents absence, loss, and invisibility. By doing so it captures a common experience of queer historical experience. The group decided to write a petition to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and informed the general superintendent of the Protestant Church. Both actions had no satisfying outcome for the group.[17]

That is why they decided to participate in the official ceremony that took place at the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp in 1985. That was a memorial of great political significance. But when the group arrived at the train station in Fürstenberg they were extracted from the crowd by the police, confined in a lorry, verbally and physically abused by the policemen, then held in custody, and questioned. They were eventually released when the memorial was over.[18] Afterwards the group protested against this treatment: Again they wrote petitions, this time to the Ministry of the Interior, and they also met up with Emmy Handke, the head of the GDR Ravensbrück Committee, and Anni Sindermann, the head of the international Ravensbrück Committee. Both women had been imprisoned in Ravensbrück and reacted rather defensive concerning a lesbian commemoration at Ravensbrück.[19]

Lesben in der Kirche in Ravensbrück 1986, picture by Bettina Dziggel

Nevertheless, the protest of the group turned out to be successful in the end: They received a verbal apology from the Ministry of the Interior,[20] and in September 1985 around 80 people from peace, environmental, feminist, and other homosexual activist groups joined Lesben in der Kirche  for a commemoration in Sachsenhausen. The Secret State Police continued to observe the groups and the commemorations, but there were no more violent interventions.[21] In 1986 Lesben in der Kirche returned again to Ravensbrück, and this time they had a guided tour by the new director[1]  and could see that the meaning of the pink triangle was now explained.[22] Once again the signed the guest book.

Entry in the guest book 1986, source: Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück/Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten, 7-86 A 2012/95, guest book November 1985-April 1986

The precarious status of lesbian subjects within memory cultures

The precarious status of lesbian subjects within memory cultures[23] turned out to be rather productive in the case of Lesben in der Kirche when it came to identity politics and networking. The commemorations were less acts of grieving but rather rooted in identity politics. Commemorating was a political practise that marked Ravensbrück a place of lesbian herstory. Their politics of memory helped them to create a shared lesbian memory that stabilised their collective lesbian identity because as Stuart Hall puts it: “Identities are formed at the unstable point where the ‚unspeakable‘ stories of subjectivity meet the narrative of history, of a culture.”[24] Looking backward helped them to get a better understanding of the reasons for their discrimination. Their underlying conception of lesbian herstory focused on lesbians as victims. The activists stressed parallels between past and present forms of discrimination, hence ignoring to a certain extend the differences between those who they were remembering and themselves. This is what I call the ambivalence of feeling backward — to forget the differences while drawing analogies in the desire to form connections across time and space. 

Without question lesbians in the GDR faced discrimination, sometimes surveillance, and persecution, but not in the same way as queers did during the Nazi era. Besides. They did not think about the possible existence of lesbian perpetrators during the Nazi era. The historian Claudia Schoppmann asks whether this perceived collective status as victims is supposed to strengthen one’s own identity. She critically questions the illusion that lesbians (and the same can be said for other queers) have always been on the right side of history.[25]

Nevertheless, it is important to point out that Lesben in der Kirche were important forerunners in terms of highlighting the persecution of lesbians during the NS — which up until then had been invisible and mostly untold. Until today the questions of whether and how to remember this in Ravensbrück remain contested. The debates in the last years were centred around a memorial sign for the lesbian victims which is still not erected.[26]


[I] This article was first presented at the conference “Stonewall 50 Years On!”, Manchester Metropolitan University, 6th of November 2019. An in-depth discussion of the commemorations in Ravensbrück can be found in my article “Die Kontinuität des Schweigens. Das Gedenken der Ost-Berliner Gruppe Lesben in der Kirche in Ravensbrück”. I would like to thank Bettina Dziggel for the permission to use her photographies and for the conversations we shared. 


Cite this article: Maria Bühner, “The Ambivalence of Feeling Backward: Lesbian Activists in the German Democratic Republic and their Politics of Memory”, in: History | Sexuality | Law, 31/03/2021, https://hsl.hypotheses.org/1632, (abgerufen am: Datum).



Archives

  • FFBIZ. Das feministische Archiv & Spinnboden Lesbenarchiv
  • “Die Verständigung war einfach schwierig.” Kontakte zu Frauen im Westen, 1980er Jahre, interview with Marinka Körzendörfer as part of the project Berlin in Bewegung, URL: https://www.meta-katalog.eu/Record/35750ffbiz.
  • “Wir sollen die Opfer des Faschismus nicht beleidigen.” Aktionen in der KZ-Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück, 1984-1985, interview with Marinka Körzendörfer as part of the project Berlin in Bewegung, URL: https://www.meta-katalog.eu/Record/35750ffbiz.
  • Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft Sammlung GrauZone 
  • Kenawi, Samirah (2003) Zeigen wir uns, damit man uns nicht verleugnen kann. Die Lesben in der Kirche Berlin, unpublished manuscript.
  • RHG/GZ/A1/39, Lesben in der Kirche, petition to the Ministry of the Interior, 3rd of March 1985.
  • RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche (1985), description of the experiences at the attempted commemoration.
  • RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche, memory minutes and partly transcript from 31st of May 1985, 1 until 2.30 pm of a discussions concerning our petition from 3rd of May 1985. RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche (1984) letter to the head of the archive in Ravensbrück.
  • Sammlungen Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück der Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten
  • MGR/StGB, RAV-VA_7, letter from Bienert to the department of museums and cultural heritage preservation, 12th of March 1984.
  • MGR/StGB, 7-86 A 2012/95, guest book November 1985-April 1986.

[1] See Jensen, The Pink Triangle and Political Consciousness, pp. 319-349. 
[2] Love, Feeling Backward, p. 2.
[3] See ibid., pp. 7–9
[4] Ibid, p. 37.
[5] See Bühner, „[W]ir haben einen Zustand zu analysieren, der uns zu Außenseitern macht“, pp. 111-131.
[6] See Bühner, How to remember Invisibility. Documentary Projects on Lesbians in the German Democratic Republic as Archives of Feelings, pp. 241-265. 
[7] See Bühner, The Rise of a New Consciousness, pp. 151-173.
[8] See Eschebach, Die Frauen von Ravensbrück, pp. 149, 152; Beßmann/Eschebach, Das Frauen-Konzentrationslager Ravensbrück, pp. 11. 239.  
[9] See Eschebach, Öffentliches Gedenken, pp. 135-162; Eschebach, Queere Gedächtnisräume, p. 52. 
[10] Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft (RHG)/GrauZone (GZ)/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche (1984) letter to the head of the archive in Ravensbrück. The translation is mine. 
[11] See „Die Verständigung war einfach schwierig.“ Kontakte zu Frauen im Westen, 1980er Jahre, interview with Marinka Körzendörfer as part of the project Berlin in Bewegung, https://www.meta-katalog.eu/Record/35750ffbiz
[12] See the Bibliography on lesbian and trans women in Nazi Germany by Anna Hájková for the state of the art.
[13] See Schmidt, Lesben und Schwule in der Kirche, p. 216.
[14] RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche, petition to the culture secretary Hans-Joachim Hoffmann, 20th of March 1984, cited by Kristine Schmidt, Lesben und Schwule in der Kirche, p. 216.
[15] See Karstädt/Zitzewitz, …viel zuviel verschwiegen, p. 168, emphasis in the original.
[16] See Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück/Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten, RAV-VA_7, letter from Bienert to the department of museums and cultural heritage preservation from 12th of March 1984.
[17] See Schmidt, Lesben und Schwule in der Kirche, p. 218.
[18] See RHG/GZ/A1/39, Lesben in der Kirche, petition to the Ministry of the Interior, 3rd of March 1985.
[19] See Karstädt/Zitzewitz, …viel zuviel verschwiegen, p. 170. 
[20] See RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche, memory minutes and partly transcript from 31st of May 1985, 1 until 2.30 pm of a discussions concerning our petition from 3rd of May 1985.
[21] See Kenawi, Zeigen wir uns, damit man uns nicht verleugnen kann, p. 87.
[22] See RHG/GZ/A1/1444, Lesben in der Kirche (1985), description of the experiences at the attempted commemoration.
[23] See Hark, Vom prekären Status lesbischer* Identitäten im Feld der Erinnerungspolitiken. 
[24] Hall, The Minimal Selves, p. 44. 
[25] See Schoppmann, Spärliche Spuren, p. 106.
[26] See Warnecke, Gedenkkugel für KZ Ravensbrück.

Wer zählt als Opfer? Einige Gedanken zu Gedächtnissymbolen und Legitimation.

Sébastien Tremblay hat kürzlich mit einer Dissertation über den Rosa Winkel als Symbol der schwulen und lesbischen Identität in der nördlichen transatlantischen Welt promoviert. Seine Arbeiten konzentrieren sich auf transatlantische Holocaust-Erinnerungen, queere transatlantische Geschichte, visuelle Begriffsgeschichte und das Potenzial einer neuen Form queerer globaler Geschichte, die weiße schwule euroamerikanische Erzählungen ‚provinzialisiert“. Nach seinem Studium an der Université de Montréal, der Freien Universität Berlin und der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin ist Tremblay derzeit wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Arbeitsbereich Globalgeschichte an der Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut der Freien Universität Berlin. Er war Gastwissenschaftler am Centre for Queer History Goldsmiths, University of London. Kontakt: sebastien.tremblay@fu-berlin.de

Bild: Ina Rosenthal

Im Frühjahr 1988 erinnerte die Rosa Info, das offizielle Presseorgan des Vereins für sexuelle Gleichberechtigung e. V. in München, ihre Leser: „Der Stein muss endgültig sein!“[1] Vom welchem Stein aber war die Rede? Ein Gedenkstein für die in Dachau ermordeten homosexuellen Opfer des NS-Regimes sollte eingeweiht werden. Bei der Betrachtung der jüngsten Diskussionen und Ereignisse, könnte man* entsprechend über in den Konzentrationslagern inhaftierten lesbischen Opfer sprechen und sagen: “Die Kugel muss endgültig sein!” [2] Während des letzten Jahrzehnts haben Historiker*innen methodisch nachgewiesen, wie die Nationalsozialisten nicht-heteronormativ lebende Frauen unterdrückten.[3] Einige männliche Historiker, die gerne auch als gatekeeper agieren, bestreiten einen Teil dieser Forschung.[4] Symbolisiert wird diese Kontroverse nicht nur von einem Symbol, dem Rosa Winkel; das Symbol selbst ist die Kontroverse. Schwule Aktivisten haben sich jahrelang auf das Symbol als eine Form der heiligen Ikonographie für ihre Befreiung bezogen, ein legitimes Zeichen der Verletzung und Verfolgung. Lesbische Frauen hingegen oder auch nicht-heteronormativ lebende Frauen wurden in den Konzentrationslagern mit dem Schwarzen Winkel gekennzeichnet. Dessen positive Aneignung durch einige lesbische Aktivistinnen wurde als Instrumentalisierung der Geschichte abgetan.[5] Während also schwule Historiker und Aktivisten den Anspruch einer Wiederaneignung des Schwarzen Winkels dekonstruierten, basiert gleichzeitig einer großer Teil schwuler Identität auf der Verwendung des Rosa Winkels. 

Continue reading “Wer zählt als Opfer? Einige Gedanken zu Gedächtnissymbolen und Legitimation.”

Gleiche Rechte, gleiche Strafen? Die erste Frauenbewegung und der § 175

Elisa Heinrich hat ihre Dissertation mit dem Titel „Intim und respektabel. Aushandlungen von Homosexualität und Freundinnenschaft in der deutschen Frauenbewegung 1870 bis 1914“ im Juli 2020 an der Universität Wien eingereicht. Im Rahmen weiterer Forschungsprojekte hat sie sich u.a. mit Erinnerungspolitiken und Denkmalkulturen in Bezug auf homosexuelle NS-Opfer beschäftigt. Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in der Sexualitätengeschichte und der Geschichte sozialer Beziehungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert.
Kontakt: elisa.heinrich(at)univie.ac.at

Zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts entzündete sich im Deutschen Reich eine Debatte um die Frage, ob gleichgeschlechtliche Sexualakte zwischen Frauen ebenso strafbar sein sollten wie jene zwischen Männern. Auslöser dieser Kontroverse war der im Rahmen einer umfassenden Strafrechtsreform im Jahr 1909 veröffentlichte Vorentwurf, der vorsah den – bisher nur auf Männer angewandten – § 175 und damit das Delikt der „widernatürlichen Unzucht“ auf Frauen auszudehnen.

Dieser Vorstoß, gleichgeschlechtliche Beziehungen zwischen Frauen zu kriminalisieren, löste eine Reihe von Reaktionen in unterschiedlichen Öffentlichkeiten aus. Die Frauenbewegung war als homosozialer Raum, in dem Frauen – als Freundinnen, Gefährtinnen, Paare – in professioneller, politischer und intimer Weise miteinander verbunden waren, von dieser Entwicklung in einzigartiger Weise betroffen. 

Der Vorentwurf zu einem Deutschen Strafgesetzbuch

Der Vorentwurf der vorgesehenen Reform erschien im April 1909 und bildete eine von mehreren Stufen, um das Strafgesetzbuch von 1871 zu ersetzen. Die Reformierung der so genannten Sittlichkeitsdelikte berief sich in den Begründungen auf den Rechtswissenschaftler Wolfgang Mittermaier. Er hielt es für „prinzipienlos“, die „widernatürliche Unzucht“ zwischen Frauen nicht zu strafen – auch wenn diese nicht so häufig auftrete oder in der Öffentlichkeit sichtbar werde.[1] Die Gefahr, die davon für Familie und Jugend ausgehen würde, sei jedoch die gleiche, hieß es dann – direkt auf Mittermaier Bezug nehmend – im Vorentwurf; insofern werde nun die bisher bestehende Ungleichheit beseitigt. 

Auf die in Aussicht gestellte Erweiterung des § 175 auf Frauen gab es unterschiedliche, allerdings vermehrt negative Reaktionen. Von medizinischer und juristischer Seite wurde insbesondere auf die schwierige Bestimmung des Tatbestands bei Frauen hingewiesen. Meist handle es sich „um bloße Masturbation“, die ja – von Männern ausgeführt – nicht strafbar sei, während der bei Männern bestrafte Akt der Penetration bei Frauen physiologisch gar nicht möglich sei.[2]

Continue reading “Gleiche Rechte, gleiche Strafen? Die erste Frauenbewegung und der § 175”

Kriminalisierung von Homosexualität: Eine Verflechtungsgeschichte von Straf- und Asylrecht

Veronika Springmann (Dr.), Studium der Geschichte und Sportwissenschaften. 
Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in den Bereichen Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus, Geschichte der Gewalt, Körper- und Sexualitätsgeschichte sowie queere Geschichtsschreibung und Kulturgeschichte des Rechts.  Derzeit arbeitet sie innerhalb des DFG-Forschungsprojekts »Homosexuellenbewegung und Rechtsordnung in der Bundesrepublik 1949–2002« an der Freien Universität Berlin. 

Petra Sußner (Dr.) ist Rechtswissenschaftlerin und arbeitet im Rahmen des DFG-Forschungsprojekts „Knotenpunkt Kollektiv. Geschlecht, Sexuelle Orientierung und Geschlechtliche Identität als soziale Gruppe(n) im Europäischen Asylrecht“ an der Juristischen Fakultät der HU Berlin. Zum Thema ist von ihr zuletzt in der ZfMR 1/2020  „Mit Recht gegen die Verhältnisse: Asylrechtlicher Schutz vor Heteronormativität“ erschienen. 

Im Frühsommer 2020 hat das europäische Projekt SOGICA seine Abschlussempfehlungen für das Asylverfahren veröffentlicht. Eine davon lautet, dass das „BAMF und die Verwaltungsgerichte […] die Kriminalisierung gleichgeschlechtlicher sexueller Handlungen unabhängig von ihrer Durchsetzung als ausreichend anerkennen, um eine Verfolgung festzustellen“. Zum Hintergrund: im Jahr 2013 hat der Europäische Gerichtshof (EuGH 2013) entschieden, dass die Kriminalisierung von homosexuellen Handlungen nur dann als Verfolgung im Sinn des Asylrechts in Frage kommt, wenn es auch tatsächlich zu einer strafrechtlichen Verfolgung kommt. Es darf sich also nicht um ‚totes Recht‘ handeln. 

Petra Sußner und Veronika Springmann forschen in der DFG-Forschungsgruppe Recht-Geschlecht-Kollektivität einerseits zur Gerichtspraxis im europäischen Asylrecht („Verhandeln“) und andererseits zur Entkriminalisierung homosexueller Handlungen in der BRD. An dieser Stelle fragen sie gemeinsam nach der Kriminalisierung homosexueller Handlungen im Asylrecht und denken dabei andere Schutzansprüche mit der eigenen Verfolgungsgeschichte zusammen. Was bedeutet es, dass die Kriminalisierung von homosexuellen Handlungen in der BRD selbst jahrzehntelang rechtliche Praxis war? Was lässt sich aus der historischen Perspektive für die aktuelle Asylrechtspraxis gewinnen? Ausgangspunkt des Beitrags ist die konkrete EuGH-Entscheidung aus dem Jahr 2013. Diese Arbeit an einem konkreten Fall folgt dem Anspruch auf interdisziplinäre Rechtsforschung, die Recht als historisches kulturelles Phänomen und damit als soziale Praxis anerkennt, und konsequenterweise auch auf die Spezifika des dogmatischen Rechtsdiskurses zugeht. 

Continue reading “Kriminalisierung von Homosexualität: Eine Verflechtungsgeschichte von Straf- und Asylrecht”

Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’

Dr. Francesca Romana Ammaturo is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and human rights at the University of Roehampton. Her expertise is in the field of LGBTQI issues and human rights, LGBTQI social movements, European human rights, and European Citizenship.  During the last few years, she has been contributing to the field of LGBTQI+ studies by writing on a range of issues, from homonationalist sexual citizenship in Europe to debates on “gestational surrogacy” in Italy, Pride Events, as well as children’s rights in relation to gender and sexuality. She has published several single-authored articles in international peer-reviewed journals, as well as authored the monograph titled “European Sexual Citizenship: Human Rights, Bodies, and Identities” for Palgrave in 2017. Currently, her research focuses on LGBTQI activism and human rights in Southern Europe.

In recent years, an interesting quote has become popular on social media: ‘equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie’. Beyond its use in popular culture, this statement addresses a relevant question in the philosophy of rights. Namely, whether human rights are a finite resource to be fought for by competing groups who may have partial – or complete – disagreement over their values or needs. 

Human Rights and the Antinomy of Values

In his 1990 book ‘the Age of Rights’, the Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio addressed the idea that the existence of what he calls the antinomical and heterogeneous character of values, leading to a situation in which concessions made to a specific group of individuals in terms of their human rights would correspond to an undeniable loss of rights for another corresponding group of individuals. In Bobbio’s own words: 

“(…) Final values are antinomical, and cannot all be accomplished universally at the same time. It is necessary for both parties to make concessions in order to achieve them, and the concessions required for this process of conciliation involve personal preferences, political choices and ideological orientations.”
Bobbio, Norberto. 1996. The Age of Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 5–6.

Under human rights law, this principle is often embodied in the existence of restrictions to some rights that cannot be exercised in an absolute manner. An example is Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protecting freedom of expression. According to an antinomical vision of rights suggested by Bobbio, for instance, LGBTQI+ friendly speech would be irreconcilable with homo- or transphobic speech. The two are fundamentally rooted in alternate visions of reality: one in which the lives of LGBTQI+ persons are valued and cherished, and one in which they are denied, mocked or vilified.  Whilst this logic seems to make sense, defining in practice what ‘values’ are, is far from being straightforward. 

Continue reading “Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’”