by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
How far would your straight allies go to fight homophobia? Well, some of our allies in Germany went pretty far by making the unthinkable, 'thinkable.' The editors at German GQ (Gentlemen's Quarterly), GQ Deutschland, launched an exclusive photo campaign in which 13 well-known straight men from various industries are photographed together in intimacy for 'Gentlemen Against Homophobia' for their January edition.
'The intolerance that homosexuals are still fighting against is shocking,' said José Redondo-Vega, GQ Germany's Editor-in-Chief. 'With #Mundpropaganda we wanted to give a clear sign in favor of a free society.'
Some of the German allies involved in the project include musician Herbert Grönemeyer, actors Ken Duken, Kostya Ullmann and August Diehl, members of the German hip-hop group Fettes Brot, and beach volleyball Olympic champion Julius Brink.
Monja Smith, a German citizen, commented on Instinct Magazine's post about the campaign, saying, 'I am from Germany, and am very proud to say so right now! The people in the video are big names in Germany; truly known and well liked.'
'The idea is ingenious and everyone involved in this project deserves kudos,' she continued. 'I say this, not because two straight men kissed in front of a camera, but because they truly showed backbone. It is one thing to say Gay rights are human rights, but to actually stand up and take action in the public's eye [is what] deserves credit. What a creative and original way to get the point across.'
In response to the campaign, GQ has received many requests that the editors of the U.S. publication start a campaign of their own.
'This story made me smile. They 'get it,' said a man who posted as Johnjon. 'GQ should do the same photo shoot in the U.S.'
LGBT RIGHTS IN GERMANY
I have to admit, an American campaign would be pretty cool. But the truth is, we'd be playing catch up with our German counterparts; Germany became the first nation to have its head of state, President Joachim Gauck, say they would boycott the Russian Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It should be noted, however, that Germany's presidency is largely ceremonial; Chancellor Angela Merkel oversees the government.
U.S. President Barack Obama rejected calls for the United States to boycott the Games, saying such a move would hurt American athletes who trained and sacrificed to qualify.
LGBT rights in Germany have been some of the most progressive and deplorable in Europe and in the world. During the 1920s, LGBT persons in Berlin were generally tolerated by society and many bars and clubs specifically catering to Gay men were opened. But during Adolf Hitler's reign as Germany's 'supreme leader' in the '30s and '40s, LGBT persons became one of the most targeted victims during the Holocaust. Although same-sex sexual activity between men was already made illegal under Paragraph 175 by the German Empire in 1871, Nazi Germany extended these laws during World War II, which resulted in the persecution and deaths of thousands of Gay citizens.
The Nazi extensions were repealed in 1950 and all laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity between men were decriminalized in both East and West Germany in 1968 and 1969.
The age of consent was equalized in both East and West Germany in 1987 and 1988.
Gays and Lesbians are not banned from military service.
In 2000, First Lieutenant Winfried Stecher, an army officer demoted for being Gay, filed a lawsuit against former Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping. Scharping vowed to fight the claim in court, claiming that homosexuality 'raises serious doubts about suitability and excludes employment in all functions pertaining to leadership.' However, before the case went to trial, the Defense Ministry reversed the discriminatory policy. The German government declined to issue an official explanation for the reversal.
Nowadays, according to general military orders given in the year 2000, tolerance towards all sexual orientations is considered to be part of the duty of military personnel. Sexual relationships and acts amongst soldiers outside service times, regardless of the sexual orientation, are defined to be 'irrelevant,' regardless of the rank and function of the soldier(s) involved, while harassment or the abuse of functions is considered a transgression, as well as the performance of sexual acts in active service.
In Germany, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal. Some states have anti-discrimination laws, including the constitutions of Berlin (since 1995), Brandenburg (since 1992) and Thuringia (since 1993), and Saxony-Anhalt in the public sector since 1997.
Germany is the first country in the world to include 'gender identity' nationally in anti-discrimination laws. Transgender citizens have been allowed to change their legal gender since 1980.
Germany also became the first country in Europe to enact a law that allows German citizens to choose to neither identify as male or female on their birth certificate, which has been said to specifically benefit hermaphrodites and intersex persons.
Although same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Germany, registered partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal since 2001 and greatly mirror Washington State's former Domestic Partnership law and the Extended Domestic Partnership Law, because it provides the same rights that opposite-sex married couples receive.
Same-sex step adoption has also been legal since 2004; however, joint adoption has not yet been legislated.
Despite two of the three political parties in the German government being socially conservative on the issues of LGBT rights, Germany is often viewed as one of the most Gay-friendly countries in the world. Recent polls have indicated that a majority of Germans support same-sex marriage. In one 2013 poll, 87% of Germans viewed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, which was the second highest in the world following Spain.
Berlin, in particular, has been referred to by many publications as one of the most Gay-friendly cities in the world. The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, is one of the most famous - if not the most famous - openly Gay man in Germany.
To see video footage from the GQ Deutschland photo shoot, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkhvYintpJ0.
You can check out the #Mundpropaganda campaign online at http://www.gq-magazin.de/unterhaltung/stars/mundpropaganda-kuessen-kann-man-nicht-alleine.
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