Can a Turk Be Gay? Gay Activism and the Politics of Migration, 1969–81

Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:30 PM
Columbia 5 (Washington Hilton)
Christopher Ewing, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
When West Germany decriminalized sexual acts between men over the age 21 in 1969, it opened the door for a wave of new gay-oriented, often erotic publications. Two years later, homosexual "action groups" were founded in cities across the Federal Republic, following screenings of Rosa von Praunheim's film Not the Homosexual Is Perverse, but rather the Situation in Which He Lives initiated the DEVELOPMENT of local homosexual "action groups" in cities across the Federal Republic. Most of these action groups emerged from student circles and fought for not only the emancipation of homosexuals, but a range of other leftist causes. However, these groups remained strikingly silent on issues of racism and xenophobia, particularly toward the millions of guest workers who had arrived in West Germany since the beginning of the 1950s. Some of the more "mainstream" gay publications, particularly him and du & ich, published exposes about homosexual guest workers (even after the program ended in 1973) together with as racialized fantasies about travel to countries on the Mediterranean in pursuit of exotic sex. This paper argues that while several publications occasionally attempted to address xenophobia, action groups' focus the economic sources of oppression resulting in an overarching blindness to the particular situation of hetero- and homosexual immigrants in West Germany. The inability of action groups to generate solidarity with immigrant groups along with the ongoing exoticization of Southern European and Middle Eastern men in many gay magazines caused same-sex desiring immigrants to be excluded from gay scenes, an exclusion that continues to have ramifications for the creation of a multicultural society.
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