Illustration by Agata Sasiuk
The big gay day in Berlin is coming. That's right, Christopher Street Day (CSD) and its alternative in Kreuzberg (KCSD) are happening Sat, Jun 27. But why limit all the fun to just one day? Here's a handy guide to queering out all year.
We own the night
“Queer party” is practically a tautology in Berlin – but where to start? Let Siegessäule's Joey Hansom be your guide.
As our city’s both a homo metropolis and the capital of techno, LGBTQ Berliners are spoiled with clubbing opportunities to the point of fatigue, and not just during CSD and Pride Week. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that gays (albeit mostly the cis men) run the nightlife industry here. Case in point: Gay-owned and operated Berghain gets jam-packed every weekend, largely by hetero tourists. Most of them don’t know that its family tree is rooted in “pervy party” Snax: First held in an abandoned Mitte building in the mid-1990s, this men-only, leather-clad fuck-fest gets resurrected here every Easter (Berghain and its basement club Lab.oratory). There's also its sports-themed spinoff happening prior to that other big Christian holiday.
Specifically geared toward the queer community is SchwuZ, which was founded in 1977 and moved to its current location on Neukölln's Rollbergstraße in 2013. The massive “gay centre” hosts different parties on rotation, welcoming all kinds – whether diesel dyke or Madonna maniac – every Thursday through Saturday. Some of the hippest parties happen at scarcer intervals, though: the bimonthly Gegen (Jul 3 at KitKatClub) combines academic jargon with hard techno and industrial sounds, drawing in thousands of queer guests and curious gawkers. Another straight-friendly party, Mint (Aug 29 at Else), highlights women DJs specialising in house and techno.
Proving that pride is not just a white Western concept, Gayhane features primarily Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew sounds, continuing its run of over 15 years (Jul 25 at SO36). Kotti in general remains a homo hotspot thanks to watering hole Möbel Olfe, with ladies' night every Tuesday and the more hirsute crowd piling in on Thursdays. (That's not to imply that ladies can't be hirsute, too, of course.)
Scene queen Pansy has been behind a variety of different events in the city, from drag shows to dance lessons. Her latest enterprise, together with promoter Scout, is the Yo! Sissy Festival (Jul 24-26 at SchwuZ, Neue Heimat and SO36), importing the likes of JD Samson, Christeene and Crystal Waters, alongside a plethora of local talent.
These selections provide a mere cross-section – Berlin’s club landscape is as diverse as the genders and sexualities of its inhabitants. JH
Berlin is the centre of not one, but two, important LGBT rags, both published by Kreuzberg’s Special Media (headed by Gudrun Fertig and Manuela Kay). If you frequent any queer hotspots, you’ve probably seen Siegessäule lying around. The free monthly magazine has been going strong for 31 years. Coming out as a gay mag in 1984, it expanded when Manuela Kay took over in 1996 to cover lesbian and trans matters.
In 2005, the magazine officially added “queer” to its title as editorship changed hands (today it’s co-edited by Jan Noll and Christina Reinthal). Aside from covering political and timely topics, it’s squarely in the middle of the cultural party of Berlin as well. While it’s traditionally been a German-only mag, it’s expanded in the past three years to have ever-more English content.
The same publishing house puts out the nationwide lesbian magazine L-Mag. Created in 2003 by Kay, it gives a Lesben-centric spin to everything from politics to music and culture to sports. WC
Dick in a box
Anyone can embrace their feminine side with the help of a decent bra, but there are limited options for trans guys seeking a little something... extra. For the past decade, Laura Méritt has run Transtoy, a one-stop shop for self-made men, as a sub-project of her Kreuzberg store Sexclusivitäten.
In addition to a full range of dildos, packers (non-erect silicone or cyberskin phalluses meant for everyday wear) and harnesses for them, Transtoy stocks chest binders in both “bandage” and tank top form, plus goodies you never even knew you needed, like the “Love Bump” (a pair of vibrating fake testicles to be worn with a strap-on) and “Mr. Fenis”, a gadget that lets you pee standing up.
They can only be bought online or during Sexclusivitäten's Friday-only opening hours, so if you need that bulge now, head to nearby alternative sex boutique Other Nature, which also sells a selection of “gender expression” tools – Europeans in particular will appreciate the uncircumcised “Pierre”. AJ
Sexclusivitäten, Fürbringerstr. 2, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Gneisenaustr., Fri 12-20; Other Nature, Mehringdamm 79, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Platz der Luftbrücke, Mon-Tue 12-18, Wed-Sat 12-20
In search of a safe space to practice your vinyasas – or merely want to work out with fellow trans/queer community members? Check out the Trans/Queer Yoga course that’s among the many offerings at TransInterQueer in Kreuzberg, a social, political, cultural and research centre for trans, intersex and queer people living in Berlin and beyond.
The class usually consists of around four to eight participants – and, as in any yoga session, most define themselves as female. Instructor Nives Bercht, a former Berlin punker who’s been practicing every day for 20 years, guides you smoothly through the exercises in German, and she’ll take good care of newcomers, whether rookie or skilled.
Open not just to trans and queer Berliners, but to anyone who respects gender diversity, owns their own mat and, most importantly, enjoys a sweaty, athletic yoga routine without the spiritualism and sitar music. Namaste. P JØ
TransInterQueer, Glogauerstr. 19, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schönleinstr.
Berlin’s got no shortage of queer cinematic representation but where can you go to catch it? If it’s a historical Kiezkino experience you’re after, Xenon is the spot. Around since 1909 in various incarnations, this cosy Schöneberg cinema (formerly Colonna) catering to the neighbourhood’s famously gay population has seen its sharp indie LGBTQ programme expand to include everything from kids’ flicks to mainstream Hollywood with gay themes (The Imitation Game).
Kino International offers Mongay every, you guessed it, Monday night. Screenings of Teddy winners as well as gay-themed arthouse flicks aren’t uncommon in the crown jewel of East German cinemas.
For festivals, there’s the very queer-friendly Pornfilmfestival in autumn and the XPosed International Queer Film Festival in late spring. If you’re looking to nerd out, Queerfilm im Gespräch at AHA Schöneberg every third Thursday of the month allows you to chat about queer film in Berlin with the likes of directors Jochen Hick and Axel Ranisch. WC
A safe space for those who want to stay out and proud in their twilight years, Lebensort Vielfalt in Charlottenburg is Berlin’s first and only LGBTQ nursing home. Founders Marcel de Groot and Marco Pulver of advice centre Schwulenberatung Berlin (now at the same address) came up with the project 10 years ago, but it took until 2012 for them to raise the support and funds to buy the building.
It’s now home to 34 residents living in 24 small apartments and one eight-bedroom flat for those in need of special care (such as dementia patients). Though four straight women and a handful of younger men live here, 60 percent of residents are men over 60, some of whom faced years of stigmatisation in their youth and are now enjoying a sense of community and acceptance. Residents hang out in a garden and socialise in the common room, or have coffee and cake at the in-house Wilde Oscar café. Open to the public, the café also hosts theatre shows, concerts and discussions.
If visiting makes you want to live there yourself when you get old, better sign up now; there are 300 people on the waiting list. Fortunately, De Groot hopes to replicate the success of the community with a new complex in the next two to three years. MB
Lebensort Vielfalt, Niebuhrstr. 59/60, Charlottenburg, U-Bhf Wilmersdorfer Str.