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",
but also the function of achieving greater tolerance by heterosexual
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
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 -
Andrej Selerowicz, Vienna.
translated & slightly shortened - C. de la Motte-Sherman
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.