SynopsisToday’s hip image of Berlin is based on the city’s vibrant and subversive subcultures, which originally emerged within the grey walls surrounding West Berlin. The queer scene played a major role in creating that subculture, with its sexual diversity and its wild and unconstrained party culture, ranging from the notorious Berghain club to CSD. Many of the scene’s actors, such as the Gay Museum, the Teddy Award, AIDS help organizations, and the queer magazine Siegessäule originated before 1989. Yet gays in West Berlin suffered greatly under an incongruous provision in German law – the infamous ‘Paragraph 175’ – that made homosexual acts between men a crime up until its reform in 1969.
Raids and arrests in bars were common, yet ultimately failed in suppressing gay life in West Berlin. Instead, the city turned into a gay capital. The late seventies in particular were a period of great sexual and political freedoms and more intense social intermingling between the gay-, hetero-, and transsexual worlds. Then AIDS struck, wrecking greater havoc in Berlin than in any other German city.