“Homosexuality is not a neurosis and not a perversion, but a variation of the sexual behavior”

Contradictory discourses on homosexuality in the GDR and Günter Dörner’s work [1]

Author: Sarah Kiani is historian, research associate at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin. She wrote her PhD on the influence of the feminist movement on the equality legislations in Switzerland and is currently writing her second book on the State surveillance of homosexualities in the GDR’s 1970s and 1980s.

Looking at the significance of the echo of Professor Günter Dörner’s work inside and outside the GDR in the 1980s and beyond, it seems that the process of demedicalizing homosexuality that roughly occurred between the 1960s to 1970s and saw the suppression of homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM II) in 1973, did not take place in the GDR. If indeed this description of a demedicalization is mostly based on a North-American and Western Europe reading, we can observe similar developments in the mid-1970’s in the GDR resulting from top-down and bottom-up influences. However, these developments did go with important contradictory forces as I wish to show here with the case of Günter Dörner and its critics. These contradictory forces went hand in hand with more general contradictory impulses between the revival of a preventive and ‘neo eugenics’ medicine in the 1960s and liberalization currents regarding sexuality.

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