“Keep your sashay, swagger and swing“
> A kick in the leg, a drag queen assault, gender-policing, many more instances that cannot be cited here – a queer day in the life of a Mahrzahner. Wait, this wasn’t Marzahn, where hundreds of rightwing Berliners protested a refugee home this past November – although it sounds like it. This was Kreuzberg. And Neukölln. And Friedrichshain. Our beloved, central districts known more for their diversity than their intolerance. But it happens here, kids. After a particularly rowdy and drunken screening of BonkingBerlinBastards in December, five of us traced Dresdener Straße up to the Pissrinne near Möbel Olfe, where echoes of the word “pussy” were clearly aimed at us. I’ll admit my addled and inebriated state of mind, so what words exactly were exchanged, I don’t remember. But at some point, one of my friends kissed me as an act of provocation. As I settled into the nice tonguing – bam! The semi-debilitating sting of a white sneaker on my thigh. A few months back, another friend was the pinball in a circle of thugs on Warschauer Straße, and the same night on his bike was hunted down by an asshole with no discernible intentions – although a pick-up it was not. During the summer, both I and another friend experienced gender-policing at two separate Kreuzberg and Neukölln businesses. Apparently, boys don’t wear nail polish. And the noble shop proprietors decided it was their duty to say so, trying to make us feel ashamed for not fitting into their box. While this last example isn’t nearly as scary as the first two, it’s a blatant reminder that queers are seen as something beneath everyone else. Let me get this straight. I didn’t move to Kreuzberg because it’s liberal. These districts are beats of the outsiders. People live together in all shades of realness because it’s possible. I’d rather stand by the junkies on Kotti than by a fucking gluten-free cupcake shop. And there’s a not-even-begrudged respect among people around here. That’s why homophobic attacks are so shocking. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of alarmist text, either. I’m not crying that the glory days of Berlin are over. Berlin is and always has been a Schwulenhauptstadt (I use the word here inclusively for the lesbians, too). “Watch out” may sound like a simplified answer, and calling the police isn’t a tactic that everyone’s comfortable with, but at the least, if you encounter problems, tell someone – preferably queer businesses or bars. There’s also a Berlin prosecution department for homophobic assault. But bottom line: Keep your sashay, swagger and swing – just be aware that a big city is full of assholes, too. On a lighter note: You wanna see my swagger? I’ll be DJing at SIEGESSÄULE’s brand new night, frisch gepresst, January 7 at Monarch. Bis dann.
A column of international perspectives on queer Berlin by expats on rotation Walter Crasshole moved from San Francisco to Berlin in 2009. He also writes for Exberliner