Since we are all queer and very involved in the LGBT+ rights and gay community, we decided to participate in as many Pride Parades as we could during our trip. We planned our whole journey around them: when and where to be not to miss them. That was why we started traveling on that particular day: we not only wanted to see Berlin, we also wanted to be on Christopher Street Day! That was our first outside-of-Poland pride and it was definitely different from the Polish ones.
Christopher Street Day (CSD) is the name of prides in the German-speaking countries (Not only there but mostly there). It is held to commemorate the Stonewall Riots– the first demonstration of LGBT+ people against the government, the police and the overwhelming homophobia. It started at Stonewall Inn, a bar on the Christopher Street in the USA and was the starting point of the gay liberation movement. That’s where a lot of prides get their names from.
Christopher Street Day in Berlin started in 1979 and now is one of the biggest festivals held in celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and others non-heterocisnormative people. Like every pride it also demonstrates and fights for LGBT+ rights and equal treatment.
Berlin gives the impression of a very tolerant and open-minded city with a lot of gay bars, clubs, saunas and so on (most of them are in the Schöneberg neighborhood, especially around Nollendorfplatz which is considered the gay district). CSD is not the only LGBT+ event in the city: you can find various annual ones held in different times of the year: Dyke March or Gay Night at the Zoo just to name a few. Of course, there are also a lot of smaller parties organized every day. In other words: Berlin is a perfect city for every non-heterocisnormative person, especially the ones who love partying!
At the beginning of Christopher Street Day we met a few other members of the Polish LGBT+ organisation – Grupa Stonewall (Stonewall’s Group) – that we are members of. It was very nice to meet with friends to celebrate our pride in a different country as we traveled for a longer time and couldn’t see each other for a while.
Since that was our first pride outside of Poland, we couldn’t stop comparing it to the ones that we have been to in our country. The first thing that we noticed that was very different was the commercialism: many, many big trucks with a lot of various companies’ names and logos. Every one of them wanted to be original, as colorful and rainbowish as it could possibly be; giving away leaflets, condoms, bracelets, badges or balloons. Each one played different music which was a big plus – everyone could find the song that they wanted to dance to. It was definitely different from prides that we have in Poland- in our country, only on the biggest one- in Warsaw- you can see big trucks and there are not many of them. In smaller cities you can see smaller platforms; and they are not as commercialised as in Berlin.
Because of this commercialisation and because CSD in Germany’s capital city is a very political event with many important figures giving speeches, a new festival: Kreuzberger CSD (other names: Transgenialer CSD or, simply, Alternative Pride March) was created. It is held in the same month as the original parade but attracts people who are against it and prefer to fight for their rights rather than party.
Another difference was… the people. Here, in Berlin they were even more colorful than in Poland. A lot of them were strangely and flamboyantly dressed – some of them were almost undressed or even completely naked which is not common in our country. You could also see a considerably bigger number of drag queens and it seemed that they put more work into their performance and costumes; they weren’t so kitschy as in Poland and some of them looked absolutely astonishing. Everyone was covered in glitter- but you couldn’t see as many LGBT+ flags. In Poland, everyone wants to be included and that is why a lot of us bring rainbow or our minority’s flags.
The whole parade had a long route and lasted around 3,5 hours, ending just before the Brandenburg Gate. There, for those who still didn’t have enough and weren’t tired, a lot of food trucks and small stages playing loud music were prepared. At the very end, there was a bigger stage with various performances. Or, if you were tired -as we were- you could just sit or lay in a Tiergarten’s park and rest accompanied by music.
Overall, it was very nice to attend CSD in Berlin. We gained perspective and were able to compare it to the prides that we already knew- it certainly helped to get us inspired and motivated!
The pride in Berlin was way more colorful and it was easier to party here seeing as you could hear loud music from basically everywhere. You could also easily find your favourite kind of music to dance to. But for us, it was too commercialised; we prefer prides made by people for people and not by companies that just want to advertise themselves (although, since we also organise a pride week in Poland, we understand that those sponsors are a huge financial help in organising that big of an event). It was way more focused on partying than fighting for equal rights and for some that may sound better; but it seemed a little bit like the people there forgot that we still have a lot to fight for.