Berlin celebrates Christopher Street Day. Why 'Christopher Street Day'?
In many German cities, Pride is also known as Christopher Street Day, or CSD for short. Christopher Street is the New York location of the Stonewall Inn, where in the early hours of July 28, 1969, police led a brutal raid inside the famous gay bar. The ensuing violent demonstrations of gay and lesbian New Yorkers against the excessive force used by police became known as the Stonewall Riots.
Berlin Pride was founded by Bernd Gaiser, a longtime rights activist, in 1979. "Only when we, as gay men and lesbians, go out in public and confront society... can we force them to change their attitudes towards us," Gaiser told Die Zeit newspaper in 2018. About 500 people attended that first celebration in a city divided into East and West.
Annual themes to fight for rights
Each year, Berlin Pride has a different theme that is determined via a public forum. In 1998, for the first time, the party got political with the theme, "We demand equal rights." The theme for 2022 is "United in Love — Against Hate, War and Discrimination." The organizers demand quicker investigations into hate crimes against LGBTIQ people and for zero tolerance against discrimination.
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The causes championed each year at Christopher Street Day are not only aimed at LGBTIQ communities, but promotes human rights and fights discrimination on behalf of all people. CSD is also eco-friendly. Here, a participant holds up an environmental awareness sign: "Avoid plastic waste!"
In February 2001, same-sex civil unions were legalized in Germany, due largely to the efforts of the center-left Social Democrat (SPD) government, who were able to pass the law in spite of protests from the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). SPD Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse (left) attended Berlin Pride that year in a sign of solidarity.
Solidarity in all (uni)forms
In 2014, Potsdam Police Commissioner, Marko Klingberg (center), risked disciplinary action by marching in his uniform — considered official clothing — at that year's parade. Klingberg, who was then deputy federal chairman of the Association of Lesbian and Gay Police Officers, found the no-uniform rule discriminatory and ignored it. Besides a phone call with his superior, he faced no consequences.
That's MISS*ter CSD for you!
Every year since 1991, a personality whose character, political opinion, charisma and persuasiveness wowed the audience was crowned Miss CSD. The candidate's gender, sexual preference, age or origin were not relevant. In moving with the times, and in the spirit of diversity and tolerance, the title was renamed MISS*ter CSD in 2016.
Marriage for all
The 2017 parade was the last before gay marriage was legalized in Germany on October 1 that year. In the lead-up to the vote on the same-sex marriage bill, Chancellor Angela Merkel famously told parliamentary representatives to "vote based on their individual conscience." A move that did not alienate her conservative voter base, she was able to ensure passage of the marriage for all law.
Masked but not muted
After being canceled in 2020 due to pandemic lockdown, the Christopher Street Day parade resumed in 2021. It was divided into two demonstrations with much smaller crowds compared to previous years, the event having attracted around one million people in 2012. Those who attended were not deterred from pursuing their message of equality and tolerance for all.
This year's CSD participants will not only have to deal with COVID, but also the emerging risk of monkeypox. Berlin has registered more than 1000 cases, however a new study has shown that 95% of these cases are transmitted through sexual activity. US health officials are concerned that it could become an endemic STD like gonorrhea, herpes or HIV.
Author Brenda Haas
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