Christopher Street Day: A Short History

Der Christopher-Street-Day: Eine kurze Geschichte

What is Christopher Street Day?

Christopher Street Day, or CSD for short, is a demonstration of the LGBTQ+ community that originated in the United States. It is best known as parades that take place in different cities in German-speaking countries on different weekends, especially, but not only, in the months of June and July. In Germany, the largest events take place in the cities of Cologne and Berlin, But almost every big city can boast an event . In English-speaking countries, people usually talk about “Gay Pride” and “Pride Parades”. It will be worldwide June is Pride Month celebrated.

The parades are dedicated to gays, lesbians, asexuals, aromatic, trans and between people as well Bisexuals and other queer people and their supporters. What from the outside looks like one big party has, above all, a political mission: namely the visibility and integration of the LGBTQ+ community in the heteronormative majority society, the normalization of alternative lifestyles and the end of discrimination.

One of the flags of the Pride movement.
Source: Wikimedia Commons .

Origin of the CSD

The origin of the CSD is the uprising of homosexuals and others social Minorities against police arbitrariness in New York. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the so-called started on Christopher Street in the Greenwich Village district Stonewall Uprising, named after the bar “Stonewall Inn”. The background to this was regular, sometimes violent raids on bars with homosexual audiences, because homosexuality was illegal until 2003. African-American and Latin American people with homosexual tendencies were particularly often victims of mistreatment and arbitrary arrests.

The law that governed these raids was also one that specifically banned crossdressing. It wasn't just about homosexuality but also about queer gender identity. That evening (especially) drag queens, black trans people and Latinxs fought against this injustice. There were days of battles with the New York police.

History of Christopher Street Day

A year later, on the first anniversary of this uprising, the “Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee” was founded. Since then, “Christopher Street Liberation Day” has been celebrated annually in New York on the last Saturday of June, commemorating the events with a street parade. In an issue from November 1970, the reported FAZ in a rather critical tone about the move, but omitted to mention its origin a year earlier and the police attacks on queer people:

[…] A strange parade recently marched through New York with silk banners and defiant posters. […]

FAZ: 'UPRISING OF THE HOMOSEXUALS' - FULL PRINT ALSO IN 'OVER THE RAINBOW. A READING BOOK FOR CHRISTOPHER STREET DAY'. MEN'S SCHWARM SCRIPT, HAMBURG, 2001, PAGE 9.
HRSG.: DETLEF GRUMBACH.

Since when has the CSD been celebrated here?

In Europe it was only eight years later that reference to the birth of the CSD, the “Stonewall Riots”, became public. Suddenly the euphoria for the CSD really took off in Europe. Because what was previously perceived by the population as a fun parade is now becoming an event that should raise awareness in the fight for equal rights. Numerous organizations and clubs are starting to bring Christopher Street Day to our cities. The main focus is now on raising awareness of the rights of queer people and attention to alternative ways of life.

On June 30, 1979, the “ Gay Action Bremen ” organized the “Gay Action Cologne” (in collaboration with the Gay Liberation Front ) and the “Homosexual Action West Berlin” the first events under the CSD aspect under the names “Gay Pride International – Gay Carnival” and “Gay Freedom Day”. A demonstration with around 400 participants took place in Stuttgart. However, there was still no uniform structure. In Bremen, the Gay Pride International had the character of a demonstration procession from the main train station to the market square, while in Cologne there was an evening event with films, information stands and a dance party. The first CSD event in Austria took place on June 26, 1982 with a torchlight parade. Since June 1996, Christopher Street Day has been known under the name Rainbow parade held in Vienna.

At all events in Germany, the focus was on the demand for the abolition of Section 175 and the reduction of discrimination.

Section 175 of the Criminal Code existed from January 1, 1872 (entry into force of the Reich Criminal Code) until June 11, 1994. It criminalized sexual acts between male persons.

Christoper Street Day in Europe

Pride parades now take place throughout the summer in Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland. Also in Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Hungary as well as the United Kingdom.

The fact that the importance of these events continues to be high can currently be seen in several negative examples of tolerance towards the LBGTQ+ community in Europe, such as the transphobic mood in Great Britain or the legislation in Hungary, where homosexuals and bisexuals are relatively protected are, but the rights of trans people are increasingly being curtailed.

Christopher Street Day in Eastern Europe: Why pride and solidarity are so necessary

Another major negative example can be found in Poland. In 2004 and 2005 the event was banned by the Warsaw city government. In 2006, due to the high level of attention that these bans brought in Europe, several celebrities announced their support through their presence. The Polish government responded by: Wojciech Wierzejski called for people to take action against them with clubs.

In 2007, Poland was declared by the European Court of Human Rights found guilty of fundamentally violating the right to freedom of assembly.

After a few quiet events, the situation came to a head in 2019 when a demonstration by queer people in Bialystok in eastern Poland was attacked by right-wing extremists and hooligans from the football scene.

A demonstration by homosexuals. Symbolic image
A demonstration by homosexuals. Symbolic image
Source: Peter Kneffel/dpa

The approximately 800 LGBTQ+ demonstrators were pelted with bottles, paving stones and firecrackers. As if that wasn't shameful enough, Polish President Andrzej Duda followed up during his election campaign by saying:

“LGBT are not people, but dangerous ideologues, even more harmful than communism.”

HTTPS://WIADOMOSCI.WP.PL/ANDRZEJ-DUDA-O-LGBT-PROBUJE-NAM-SIE-WMOWIC-ZE-TO-LUDZIE-A-TO-IDEOLOGIA-6521010473220225A

The reaction from the population was an even greater disappointment for tolerance and acceptance. Around a third of Poland declared itself an “LGBT-free zone”. The organization “ Atlas of Hate ” published a map on which these zones were marked to illustrate the dramatic proportions of hatred against queer people in Poland.

This map shows how great the rejection of the LGBTQ+ community is in Poland.
Source: Screenshot https://atlasnienawisci.pl/

Not just in Poland and Eastern Europe...

As if all of this wasn't sad enough, we are currently observing this development in more and more Eastern European countries. Instead of taking the desired steps forward, some governments are explicitly positioning themselves backwards and threatening the freedom and physical integrity of the queer community in their countries.

But even in western Europe the rainbow does not always shine everywhere. There is currently massive resistance and even outright attacks against the concept of gender-appropriate language in German-speaking countries. In the German Bundestag recently voted against the so-called self-determination law , which was intended to make the path for trans people much easier. Even within the Greens, a party that is considered particularly LGBTQ+-friendly and which presented one of the two draft laws, transphobic positions are repeatedly raised expressed at party conferences . In Great Britain there is a real one Incitement against trans people instead of.

CSD is only for homosexuals? Incorrect.

And that's exactly why it's good, important, valuable and the only right thing to celebrate Christopher Street Day. We should all, whether queer, trans, bi, homosexual or asexual, straight, BDSMer:in or Vanilla, at the Pride Parades, the Christopher Street Days or the “gay carnival” events when we have the opportunity to express our support.

Because it is no longer just about showing that homosexual, queer and trans people exist, it is no longer just about remembering a dramatic case of arbitrariness, police violence and discrimination from the past. It's about the here and now.

We all have a duty to stand up for the rights we enjoy here but are trampled on in other countries. That we show our siblings and nonbinary people from the LBGTQ+ community that even if we don't share their orientation, sexuality or identity, we are there for them and defend their rights.

This privilege should not be one. It should be self-evident.

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