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Exploring Berlin’s Queer Culture

We tap the city’s leading LGBTQI+ collective and ballroom legends to better understand its storied landscape of diversity.

WRITER: Chris Erik Thomas PHOTOGRAPHER: Cener Saner and Gil Corujeira

Cities become famous for many different reasons. For some, it’s their vast array of monuments and statues that stand as testaments to history. For others, their fame is formed from the web of museums, restaurants and shops that dot their streets. And then there’s Berlin. The German capital is as filled with monuments, statues, museums, restaurants and shops as any other destination city, but it has become famous for something far more unique: its thriving countercultural scene.

Ever since the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, the city once famously divided has reshaped itself into a haven for creatives of all backgrounds. It has become an unparalleled hub for club culture, bringing in €1.5 billion in 2018 from tourists flocking to famed nightlife spots like Berghain. Hand-in-hand with this decadent offering of pulsating music and scuffed dancefloors, it has also developed a reputation as a destination for people across the spectrum of gender and sexuality who want to dance until dawn.

The fact that Berlin is known for having a thriving LGBTQIA+ (or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, assexual and their allies) scene is no surprise, given the city’s long history on that front. It has been home to the world’s first gay rights activist, first gay magazine and first institute for sexual research. By the 1920s, nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars and cafes existed throughout the city, prompting Berlin to become known as the “gay capital of Europe” during that decade.

Either we stand for everyone
or no one.

Folly Ghost

There’s a much stronger rejection of a norm where everything needs to be ‘nice’-sounding, -looking or -themed in a traditional sense, and what is deviant is often celebrated within the subcultures here.

Grinder Teeth

For Yukiko, their flavor of activism is personal, face-to-face, and more broadly about all the different paths people walk simultaneously to reach the same goal, kicking down doors and obstacles on the way to make way for their own.

You have to put your money where your mouth is and show up to do the right thing.