Interview with Tom Reeves  

Interview with Tom Reeves
September 1990

C.M-S: Can you say something about yourself for our readers?
Tom: My name is Tom Reeves, and I'm from "The Guide", the gay magazine in Boston. I'm also active with ACT-UP, which is the AIDS action group in Boston. I'm a professor at Roxburgh College in Boston.

C.M-S: Why are you here in the GDR?
Tom: I'm combining having a nice time on vacation with meeting people, but mainly I'm here to represent "The Guide", and to try to find out what's happening in the GDR, especially since all of the changes.

C.M-S: And what are your "Findings"?
Tom: I've been concentrating on the gay movement in east Berlin, but I'm also going on to Leipzig, Dresden, and Prague, to have a look around there. I guess I'm surprised. I had a theory that gay people might have been much more involved in the movements which led to the changes.

C.M-S: A few were.
Tom: What I'm finding is that in a direct way in the immediate time before the changes, gay people were not involved, but in a deeper and longer way, perhaps gay people were partly responsible for the changes. They almost seem to have made the changes before they occurred in the whole society. I find that there has been going for several years a real development in sexual politics in the GDR. It seems to me that this started going in very unlikely places - the Church, but also in the military, and in other quarters where there were constant discussions going on. people finding out (about themselves), coming out, and that the coming out process was so fruitful and exciting that most of the gay community was caught up init at  the moment that these other changes occurred.

For that reason I think the gay movement has been catching its breath now, to find out how to proceed ahead. I'm finding that there is a unity in the gay groups here. That they don't want to be eaten up by the west groups. They don't want to be suddenly overwhelmed by the west economy and west politics. They want to remain true to what their coming out process was - and that was a genuinely humanistic movement for sexual freedom in a kind of integrated way. That’s another  thing I've found. Even more than in the U.S. the gay movement seems to be very integrated with other kinds of sexual politics. There seems to be a conscious attempt in groups like Courage to say we're for sexual freedom, for a coming out of society. That gay liberation really means the liberation of the whole of society. I heard this idea also in the Sonntags-Club. I think that's a really good development. I have the feeling that you've had a momentous upheaval of your own on top of what I think is an annexation rather than a re-union. This is going on so brutally now, that it's knocked everyone off their feet. I have some real optimism, however, because I've met some of the finest gay activists that I've seen anywhere in the world, in several of the groups here. I think there'll be a coming together, a growth. That makes it very exciting.

C.M-S: And your views on general developments here in the GDR?
Tom: As we’ve talked to people generally, I’ve found no-one who is satisfied with the present direction of things. There seems  to be almost no-one from ordinary workers to professional people, people in all ranks of society, seem to be just generally dismayed. At the same time they feel powerless to stop this onslaught that's going on, especially the overwhelming of GDR economy with west consumer goods, - the free market economy. There is a nervousness in the population. People have told me that they are so afraid; they don't know about the future of their work, their housing, their health care. They're quite afraid. From different sources I've gathered that there may be a coming storm, and unfortunately, it may include a strong right-wing reaction as well. There seems to be a strong left-wing movement generally in Berlin among the working class. People seem to have withstood the problems and excesses of Stalinism in the last years. It probably has its roots way back in German history. So you have a combination of leftwing movement and the rightwing nationalism, plus this incredible idiocy that's going on with the economy - the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of people from their jobs. It seems as though there might be a terrific upheaval here the next year, although, of course, that is only a guess.

C.M-S: You went swimming at the Sport and Recreation Centre today?
Tom: Yes. It's a fine place, equal of anything I know in the States. It was interesting I cause when we came out went towards the park. We walking along the street with traffic all around, and I looked to my right, and there was a stark naked woman. in Boston Massachusetts, or most other parts of the US, that would be utterly unthinkable. It is quite refreshing. I think it is wonderful. It was in the area where the nudist bathing is allowed. We have in the US taken the most puritanical direction in the last ten years. Nudity is totally forbidden - even the nudity of young children and infants. Allowing a child to be nude in public, or naked baby is punishable in Massachusetts by up to ten years in prison ! This relaxed atmosphere here with regard to the body and sexuality is one of the healthiest things that Germany has.

C. M-S: Thank you for the interview.

Colin de la Motte-Sherman

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