Who are the most respected gays

Comment: § 175 is gone - and that's a good thing!

When laws are passed in Russia or Uganda that discriminate against homosexuals, the Germans like to see themselves as the leading power of the tolerant and enlightened world society. Reference is then made to the openly gay Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, the Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who was in office until last year, and a large number of prominent gays and lesbians in the media and show business. And since Thomas Hitzelsperger, a former national soccer player, came out as gay for the first time a few months ago and this was accompanied by a huge wave of media applause, more tolerance hardly seems possible.

Almost astonished, therefore, some people should note that only exactly 20 years have passed since the infamous gay paragraph 175 was deleted from the German penal code. It owes its name to the fact that only same-sex love between men was always a punishable offense, while lesbians in the Federal Republic could always enjoy criminal disinterest.

Long fight against the gay paragraph

The German gays fought a long battle against the paragraph, which was already listed under this number in the Reich Criminal Code of 1871. If today, in retrospect, the Adenauer era is described as staid and encrusted, then an indication of this is that Section 175, in the form clearly tightened by the Nazis in 1935, was valid until 1969. And it was not until 1973 that the legislature abandoned the discriminatory term "fornication" for love between men. But even the deletion of the last version of § 175, which only punished gay love between adults and young people, was not an expression of the political will of the Kohl government at the time. Rather, it was a pure necessity in 1994 as a result of German unification: of all things, the GDR, which was regarded as so staid in the West, had already abolished the criminality of gay and lesbian love in 1987 without replacement. At this point, GDR law became the model for all-German law. An interesting detail - especially when compared to developments in other post-socialist societies!

DW editor Felix Steiner

Social acceptance of homosexuality in Germany has also developed in parallel with legislation. The earlier belief that homosexuality was contagious and that one could be "seduced" into it is no longer shared by anyone who should be taken seriously, thanks to modern science. Which form of sexuality one lives is not a question of free decision, but of disposition. And that's just the way it is. Point. Social change can only be based on such findings: Homosexual couples today generally have no more difficult time finding an apartment than others. And even in rural Catholic families, which are always synonymous with structural conservatism, gay family members nowadays take their life partners with them for Grandma's 80th birthday as a matter of course - without anyone leaving the room. Indeed, all of this would have been unthinkable in Germany 30 or 40 years ago!

Social change takes a lot of time

Has this reached the highest level of tolerance and acceptance? A gay colleague put it to me like this: "Only when no one asks me ashamedly 'Are you actually gay?'. Only when another outing by some celebrity no longer makes the headlines. Only when the extroverted birds of paradise join the Christopher Street Day is no longer a synonym for all gays, but I am perceived alone in my completely normal, petty-bourgeois-bourgeois existence. With the only difference: I love a man! "

As DW editor, I would like to add: If Conchita Wurst's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest is not interpreted as a sign of tolerance on www.dw.de, while further down the page there is reports of increasing homophobia in the football stadiums - that's what happened on May 12th. Or when gay jokes are no longer told in the DW canteen or in my daughter's schoolyard.

But all of this will take a while. There is therefore no reason to raise a forefinger from Germany towards supposedly archaic homophobic societies. This is also a reminder of the 20th anniversary of the deletion of Section 175 in the German Criminal Code.