It was June 28th 1969, a time when homosexuality was legally condemned in the U.S., a spontaneous pro-gay riot happened in Christopher Street, in the New Yorker district of Greenwich Village. What started as a rise against police raids in an area mostly known for LGBT patrons, soon evolved into one of the most important steps in the fight for equality. The episode, later named the Stonewall Riots, marked the beginning of the gay pride parades in the United States and the consolidation of interest groups willing to fight for rights for the community.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the fight for LGBT freedom is a long withstanding tradition. Unbeknownst to most people, Germany’s past is very progressive when it comes to queer rights: at the end of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth, homosexuality was beginning to be accepted as natural human behavior. Even transgender issues had been lobbied as natural by some researchers. Berlin had many gay bars and gay-friendly areas, in which LGBT individuals were free to express themselves and love whoever they chose.
Gay Liberation Front March on Times Square in New York, N.Y., 1969.
This wave of freedom was brutally interrupted by the rise of the Nazi party to power. The country was faced with the re-criminalization of homosexuality and the vicious persecution of members of the LGBT community. After the fall of the regime, homosexuality was once again legalized in both East and West Germany at the end of the 1960s, and from then on the country has seen a strong surge in the fight for human rights.
Funnily enough, while in the Americas the day of LGBT celebration has gained the name of ‘gay pride’, in Europe, the name ‘Christopher Street Day’ has been adopted, paying homage to the Stonewall Riots. Berlin’s CSD commemoration is one of the biggest in Europe and the world, attracting nearly a million people every year, coming from all corners of the country and continent to occupy the streets in celebration of diversity and love. It’s the biggest day of the year for the community, and with so many ways to join in the festivities, you’re bound to have a great time!
1. Join the demo
Berlin is a very politically active city, and Berliners are known for being outspoken on how the city should be governed, especially when it comes to freedom and equality. The pre-parade demonstration, which starts in Kurfürstendamm at 12:00, is known for its irreverent signs and progressive tone. This year’s motto of CSD Berlin is ‘every riot starts with your voice’, celebrating the 50 years of the Stonewall Riots. Pride this year pays homage to queer individuals that were key in the fight when times were even harder than today.
2. Dress up
CSD outfits in Berlin are out of this world! People always go the extra mile and really dress to impress. It’s common to see Drag Queens and Kings in killer outfits, but the rest of the participants also make an effort. It’s all about being creative, working with what you have, and have a lot of fun while planning your look. Why not give it a try?
3. Have a picnic
If big crowds are not really your thing but you still don’t want to miss out on the celebration, a good option is to have a picnic inside Tiergarten. The parade route runs right around it, so you can have a relaxing day but also catch a glimpse of everyone going to the parade and feel part of the party.
4. Plan a pre-CSD brunch
As the demonstration starts at 12:00, with the parade following after, Berliners love to plan a brunch with friends to prepare! It’s also common to help your friends dress up and the whole group can join the party after. If you’re coming to the city to visit, don’t worry! Plenty of restaurants and cafés organize pre-CSD brunches, just choose the spot that whets your appetite the most.
5. Keep an open mind
However you choose to celebrate pride in Berlin, it’s important to do it like Berliners teach us; be open to different people, different experiences, and celebrate diversity. CSD is a place for members of the community and allies to join forces, have fun together in an environment free of judgment, and to show the world what matters the most: Love is love.