ARD asks: How are gays in Germany?

On Monday, May 30, 2022 at 10:50 pm, after Tagstein, ARD will screen a documentary by Claes Wilhelm Brandenburg and Alex Granttel about the daily lives of gay people in Germany of different ages and life stages. Alongside political reforms such as marriage for all, the ‘diversity’ category in the civil status register or symbolic politics around rainbow-lit stadiums, the film shows: daily practice is crucial and not easily changed by political reform projects and symbolic actions. The movie Every Day Fight? Homosexuals in Germany shows how far the road is.

Director Klas Wilhelm Brandenburg meets non-binary, lesbian and transgender people. They all talk about their experiences of discrimination and how they deal with it. The film frequently compares these reports with statistics, such as those depicting the extent of gay violence. But only personal reports, with their vividness, show what statistics cannot say: what experience leaves behind in a person. The helplessness, loneliness, speechlessness and emotional devastation that can result.

The director becomes an actor himself

A director becomes an actor himself in the film. At the beginning of the film he returns to the place of his youth and describes his experiences as a gay man. Claes Wilhelm Brandenburg, himself only in his early thirties, explains that discrimination in German schools today, in his case against homosexuals, is not an old phenomenon of the 1970s. This reference to his childhood is interesting from a narrative point of view as it takes the audience with it. So the documentary begins in the countryside, where a large portion of Germany’s most conservative population lives anyway.

The authors of the documentary: Klaas Wilhelm Brandenburg and Alex Grantel.

The film succeeds in featuring the biographies of people presented not as stories of suffering, but ultimately as stories of liberation. Among other things, the story of Paulino, who talks about his experiences as a transgender man, illustrates what it means for gay people to be survivors of their community. What helps convince the film is that it doesn’t need any interviews with experts. Generalization in perspective is avoided almost entirely, which means that individual experiences can take center stage.

Time and time again, the film revolves around the dynamics of discrimination in schools. In places where it may not be uncommon for students to just make life difficult for gay people through their behaviour. Added to this is the fact that many teachers seem to lack tools and sensitivity and are therefore unable to mediate disputes. With all this, the film had benefited from references to existing educational and anti-discrimination initiatives as well as stories presented in schools.

Stress in everyday life is a constant burden

The documentary also shows a level that precedes the experience of physical violence, but is no less stressful for gay people. Jasmine, for example, describes how important it is to always have an “open eye as a radar” of the ocean at the S-Bahn station in Berlin in order to be able to identify potential hostilities at an early stage and then move into “best friend mode”.

Scene from the documentary

With such insults, the offended person is given only a place in the world by the attacker, as French sociologist Didier Eribon described it in his book Reflections on the Question of Gays. These insults are deeply engraved in the mind and body and shape the actions and consciousness of those affected. So this stress in everyday life becomes kind of a constant burden for a lot of gay people. A form of violence that is invisible to outsiders and therefore easy to use and thus fully belongs to the film.

The documentary has an advantage that many other publications on this topic unfortunately cannot claim for themselves. It shows the gay elderly citizen’s point of view. So by a woman of a generation who grew up at a time when society was more restricted than it is today. The manager of her retirement home points out that it is statistically impossible not to have nearly gay seniors in her home. The film could have dealt with the topic of gay seniors in a little more depth.

Education for the mainstream public service

In all the stories presented, he put filmmakers affected by anti-gay violence at the center. It is clear from the experiences they describe that resentment and resentment on the part of perpetrators are often mixed with simple ignorance of the realities of gay people’s lives and ignorance of the devastation that their actions can wrought on others. On these points it is particularly clear how a small change in the law alone can alter the deep-rooted imprint of people who discriminate against others.

The film wants to provide introduction points for gay people in difficult situations. But the addressee of this documentary, which is no less important, is likely to be another group: the mainstream public-law audience, which this documentary aims to raise awareness of this topic. The first step to achieving this is that ARD broadcasts the film on its main programme. After broadcasting the Monday after “Tagstemen”, the documentary can also be streamed in the ARD media library.

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