Gay & Lesbian Cultural events in Eastern EuropeU-14-AndSel OstEuro-Cultre-(E)  

Gay & Lesbian Cultural events in Eastern Europe
A few years ago in some east European countries homosexuality was complete taboo, or at the most mentioned in medical-criminological connections. Although this time has quickly passed, the speed of these changes cannot be separated from the general developments towards democracy ....

 few years ago in some east European countries homosexuality was complete taboo, or at the most mentioned in medical-criminological connections. Although this time has quickly passed and today there is even a gay-lesbian organisation in Romania, the speed of these changes cannot be separated from the general developments towards democracy ........ The homosexual movement is among the strongest - as evidence of this the successful ILGA regional conference for east held in Vienna in April (1993) - but this represents still only a few activists who concentrate on political activity. In the social area there is still much to be done in this sphere where there are so many high hurdles created authorities and society, as well as the majority of gays and lesbians.

The newly won freedom is mainly experienced in the communication with other same-sex loving people. When one has finally found the courage to accept oneself people want to meet others, - possible to find a life-partner. This is really the main aim, or becomes an aim of all private and public events for gay and lesbians. Exclude the social-erotic background, and it is clear that there is not much to talk about. ...The area of an own culture seems to pass unnoticed, and this in connection not only with the need to build up gay/lesbian "PRIDE"[1], but also the function of achieving greater tolerance by heterosexual society.

It would be wrong to believe that the cultural contribution is restricted to amateur transvestite appearances in close knit groups. Often very ambitious efforts were made shortly after the founding of the movement. Even before the movement was officially registered there was lively author-journalist work in the form of newspaper contributions and books, partly under illegal conditions. The "Magnus" festival in Ljubljana (Slovenia, 1984) can be seen as the first clear sign of the future. It included a series of films in public cinemas, exhibitions and radio programmes. A surprising wave of homo-erotic literature existed, and continues in Poland. Here the anthology by Wolfgang Jöhling (Discrete Scenery / Diskrete Landschaften), published in Germany, Foerster Verlag, 1988: Poland Softpress, 1992) can be taken as evidence.

Films and plays about gays and lesbians have also existed for many years - Hungary: From another Viewpoint/Aus anderer Sicht: and the GDR film Coming Out. There were so many cultural events - mainly in countries which tolerated homosexuals - Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia - it is not possible to list them all.

The question why they are not remembered or are not registered as such is open. It seems that activists of the gay/lesbian community still don't regard culture as a weapon in the struggle against discrimination in society, and therefore don't support them- priority is seen in strictly political terms.

On the other hand the majority of homosexuals are also not very interested. A visit to the disco is given preference to the cinema or theatre. Publishers of gay/lesbian journals and books complain about the difficulties of getting the product to the "masses". There is, however, an objective problem. This criticism sees the various cultural productions exclusively as a prism of the cultural level and overlooks (deliberately?) the aspects of the specific sexuality. In the case of the greatest present-day polish writer Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, - who created a series of homoerotic works - it took ten years after his death before literature critics began to notice this (seminar, Cracow University, March 1993).

Similarly various films and plays can be completely unnoticed by the potential public because they don't know the "necessary details" in advance, and don't feel themselves part of the "target audience". (In the film Edward II by Derek Jarman, the "gay" aspect was unmentioned; in an interview with Jimmy Somerville his activities in the movement went unmentioned; Keith Haring the artist who happened to die of AIDS, but in an exhibition of his work his homosexuality was ignored.) Perhaps the ignorance of the journalist is to blame, but perhaps it the "silence" is intentional? The organising of our own culture events meets with money problems. One can have the best idea in the world, but it can't become a reality without money or sponsors, and who wants to invest money in cultural events for gays and lesbians if they haven't enough for AIDS-prevention. There is a lack of good examples. Up to date no famous artist in eastern Europe has dared to let his/her homosexuality become known. Even when in the case of some "everyone knows", artists are not asked about this, and never speaks out.

Only the gay journal "Soho Revue" (Prague) takes a leading role in asking well-known artists about their attitude to homosexuality. It is often shown that such themes are unnecessarily treated as taboo; that the fear of honest questions and answers is unfounded. Perhaps we must only motivate the artist we speak with for them to make their own contribution to the reduction of intolerance.

In the case of AIDS - benefits prominent cultural workers take part and the media interest is great - but why is often no mention made of homosexuals? Is it perhaps in this context the unspoken reference to "dirty" sex? Artists, who are important creators of images in society must learn to adopt a courageous attitude.

It is difficult to understand why homosexuals who often like to show themselves as cultural freaks are so inactive in the launching and support of events with an homoerotic theme. In this connection some events become almost legendary - as the performances of the Los Angeles Gay Choir in its east European tour (Prague & Budapest 1991), where for the first time ever hundreds of homosexuals from these cities gathered together. Such events not only create happiness, but clearly help the publicity work which is so very necessary - everywhere.

Andrej Selerowicz
, Vienna.
translated & slightly shortened - C. de la Motte-Sherman

[1] To avoid possible misunderstandings by non-native speakers of English, this word, which has caused many problems in Berlin (1993 Christopher Street Day ) is here not used in the negative sense of "near arrogance", but the positive sense of self-confidence/proud of achievements. - translator.

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