After Orlando: Dear Straight People, Sorry, But Now It’s Your Turn!

Introduction | Einleitung – Matthias Lehmann

Shortly after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Berlin blogger Johannes Kram published an article, in which he called for straight people “to start fighting for a world that’s free, just and free from fear for gay and straight people”. Many readers asked for Kram’s article to be made available in English translation and so I offered to do just that as a little contribution from a straight person. Focusing on the translation helped me to some extent to come to terms with the appalling atrocity; but it also upset me because not just Kram’s article but also several of the comments left underneath it made me all the more aware of how disconnected some or, more likely, quite many people are from the structural problems the LGBTI community in Germany is faced with on a daily basis. Below, you’ll find a translation of a response I posted there, but first and more importantly, here’s Johannes Kram’s article.

Kurz nach dem Massaker in Orlando veröffentlichte der Berliner Blogger Johannes Kram einen Artikel, in dem er Heteros aufforderte, „für eine freie, gerechte und angstfreie Welt für Homos und Heteros zu kämpfen“. Viele Leser*innen baten darum, Krams Beitrag in englischer Übersetzung zur Verfügung zu stellen, und so bot ich an, genau das zu tun als kleinen Beitrag einer Hete. Mich auf die Übersetzung zu konzentrieren half mir zum Teil die entsetzliche Grausamkeit zu verarbeiten; aber es verärgerte mich auch, denn nicht nur Krams Artikel, sondern auch mehrere der Kommentare darunter führten mir nur allzu deutlich vor Augen, wie weit entfernt manche, oder vermutliche eher viele sind von den strukturellen Problemen, mit denen sich die LGBTI-Community in Deutschland tagtäglich konfrontiert sieht. Bitte hier klicken, um Johannes Krams Artikel auf Deutsch zu lesen. Dort ist auch mein unten eingefügter Kommentar im Zusammenhang zu lesen.


After Orlando: Dear Straight People, Sorry, But Now It’s Your Turn! – Johannes Kram

Dear Straight People,

Sure, this is quite an emotional and generalising response, and therefore, it’s of course imprecise and unfair. It’ll probably hit mostly the wrong people (all the more if you are regular readers of this blog) and then I’m sorry – if that’s the case, please just send the link to someone who needs it.

But again:

Dear Straight People,

LGBTI people (that’s lesbians, gays, trans people, bisexuals – you get it: everyone who isn’t like you) have tried for years to find out how to best broach the subjects of homophobia, equality and a reappraisal of the past with you, and how to mobilise you. How to achieve less fear and more justice together with you and for Germany to not further disconnect itself in these regards from the rest of the open, liberal world.

For many years already, there’ve been celebrities and politicians who live openly gay lives, and you have gay colleagues, friends and relatives through whom you know that you don’t have to be afraid of us. In addition, there have been awareness campaigns and charm offensives for your benefit as well as furious, frustrated protests. Actions groups, spectacular outings, coming outs, films, books, parents’ organisations, rallies and ad agencies all have tried to finally wake you up. We tried everything: we’ve been well-adjusted, fierce, funny and serious.

We explained, listened, argued, and advocated. We trusted – erroneously – in time. And then, after Ireland legalised same-sex marriage, we hoped that you realised that the time had finally come. But that, too, was wrong. Please don’t tell us now that you need even more time! For at least twenty years, you’ve known everything there is to know about us. You know more than you need to know and more then we care to reveal.

You had at least twenty years to make peace with your resentments. And if you are of the opinion that you don’t have any resentment anymore, I must ask: how many more talk shows do you want to watch until your realisation that we are people just like you finally leads to you making up your minds to also do something for our rights, do something for equal rights?

No, you do not need more time for even more realisations, even more education. We no longer want and no longer can explain you anything else anymore. Everything, really everything has been said already. And it gets on our nerves to tell you time and time again – and admit it, it gets on your nerves to: you actually know it very well that when homos will also be able to marry, nothing at all will happen to your marriages, your children, or society, other than homos also being able to marry. You know it is nonsense when old and so-called neo-conservatives conjure up traditional family values, because you live whichever way you can and want and how you think is right. And because you know that we have the right to do so as well.

You don’t need any further “model gays”. Apropos: how can you actually live with it that you idolise people like [German actor and comedian] Hape Kerkeling or [German fashion designer] Guido Maria Kretschmer while at the same time doing nothing for their freedom to marry whom they love? That freedom exists in almost all of our (western) neighbouring countries and in the Netherlands for ten years already.

Why do you leave it to us LGBTI people to fight for the freedom of your children to be who they are and to grow up in a society with the greatest possible amount of social acceptance and love and the lowest possible amount of homophobia? Why do we have to permanently point out how commonplace, vicious and insidious homophobia is? Do you really not notice it? How’s that even possible?

Aren’t you embarrassed to live in a country that’s so proud of its Vergangenheitsbewältigung, but of all things doesn’t want to acknowledge its past where gays are concerned? Are you aware of the only reason why politicians manage not to compensate victims of the unjust Article 175 – which survived the war and even the Wirtschaftswunder – for the suffering inflicted upon them? It’s because you don’t care.

And now Orlando. Did you not notice that contrary to other significant political leaders, your chancellor, your foreign minister and your federal president couldn’t bring themselves to name the group this attack was aimed at? Namely, us! Didn’t you think it was odd that the Eiffel Tower (and that’s during the European Championship, by the way!), the new World Trade Center, and many other symbolic landmarks around the world were literally turned into rainbow-coloured beacons of our quest for freedom, equality and justice for all, while Germany of all places – yet again! – disconnected itself from showing this type of solidarity and this declaration of our values?

Did that anger you in the way it actually should anger you? What did you do? Did you let your political representatives know how unbearable you find it?

Did you check on Facebook or simply asked one of your LGBTI colleagues, friends or relatives how they felt after Orlando and what’s on their mind right now? And did you think about why?

Did you write to your local newspaper because they hadn’t managed to clearly state what this was, an assassination of lesbians and gays? Did you stop to think about how mean the statement was by chancellor Merkel who said, “We will continue our open-minded and tolerant lives”? Because firstly, it’s inappropriate to use this attack to state the necessary tolerance in our western societies as a given, but on the contrary, it should be scrutinised. And secondly, because plain tolerance really shouldn’t be anymore the only thing you consider worthwhile. And if you still have doubts: did you watch the speech of the US president? How much longer do you need to understand that our country is blatantly ignoring history in the making and has lost touch with one of the most important human rights issues of our time?

And now, where much evidence suggests that the assassin was gay himself, you might think that this is even less of an issue that should concern you, even less than it concerned you before. Because it was a gay person, not a straight person like you, who murdered gays out of hatred. Do you really believe that gays would hate their own gayness without the knowledge, without the instinct, and without the fear that straight people hate them?

The hatred against gays, and the self-hatred of gays against themselves and other gays, can only be overcome if straight people start to fight for a world that’s free, just and free from fear for gay and straight people. Equal rights are a start, a basic prerequisite, and an achievement that’s been fought for, more often than not, by straight people around the world for their respective countries. So what’s stopping you, actually? You owe it not just to us but also to yourselves.

Dear straight people, it’s your turn now!

This translation was first published on 15th June 2016 at Nollendorfblog, where you can also read another English language article about the Orlando shooting: Je suis Gay. (Photo above: Dome of Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn station by Standardizer CC BY-SA 3.0)


Grand Café Luitpold Motzstraße 15 - Private Archive Andreas Pretzel

Grand Café Luitpold at Motzstraße 15 (Photo: Private Archive Andreas Pretzel)


Johannes Kram’s “Nollendorfblog”

Whenever homophobic comments or subliminal agitation against gays appear in politics, in the media or in society, Johannes Kram writes about it on his Nollendorfblog. It’s not his intention to hastily fire back at agitators but to contribute with his analyses to the ongoing discourse. Therefore, Kram doesn’t write every day or even every week but whenever necessary – cautiously, continuously, and for seven years already.

Nollendorfplatz is a square in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. As Kram explains, “for over a hundred years, the square has been one of the most important scenes in the history of gay emancipation worldwide”, which is why he named his blog after the square to commemorate the LGBT community’s pioneers. Kram’s Nollendorfblog is nominated for the 2016 Grimme Online Award in the category ‘Knowledge and Education’.

Wenn in Politik, Medien oder Gesellschaft homophobe Kommentare oder unterschwellige Hetze gegen Schwule auftauchen, schreibt Johannes Kram darüber in seinem Nollendorfblog. Dabei geht es nicht um Schnellschüsse gegen die Hetzer, sondern um analytische Beiträge, die der Debatte eine neue Ebene hinzufügen. Entsprechend schreibt er nicht jeden Tag, auch nicht jede Woche, sondern dann, wenn es etwas zu sagen gibt. Und er schreibt: mit Bedacht, kontinuierlich und das seit sieben Jahren.

Der Nollendorfplatz liegt im Berliner Bezirk Schöneberg. Wie Kram erklärt, war der Nollendorfplatz „schon vor über hundert Jahren einer der weltweit wichtigsten Schauplätze der homosexuellen Emanzipationsgeschichte. Da ich dort lebe und blogge, fand ich es damals eine schöne Idee, mit meinem Blog daran und somit auch an unsere Vorkämpfer zu erinnern.“ Krams Nollendorfblog ist für den Grimme Online Award 2016 in der Kategorie ‚Wissen und Bildung‘ nominiert.


Commentary – Matthias Lehmann

Several of the comments [about Johannes Kram’s article] – too many, for my taste – sound all too similar to those by people in the US who feel bothered by the Black Lives Matter movement and reply with the slogan “All Lives Matter”.

The lyrical response by hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fits here, too: “If there’s a subdivision and a house is on fire…the fire department wouldn’t show up and put water on all the houses because all houses matter, they would show up and turn on their water on the house that was burning because that’s the house that needs help the most.”

The comedian Bill Maher said about the subject that “‘All Lives Matter‘ implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not.“ And the activist and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza commented that “changing Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter is a demonstration of how we don’t actually understand structural racism in this country”. Finally, Obama also weighed in on the matter: “I think that the reason that the organizers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter … rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that’s not happening in other communities.”

Those who point here to the by no means groundbreaking realisation that the only true freedom is freedom for all apparently do not understand the structural, specific problems  of the LGBTI-Community in Germany. And to draw another comparison: pointing out that not all heterosexuals hate gays is first of all not a groundbreakingly new realisation either, and secondly, it’s just as inappropriate as the “Not All Men” reaction in the discourses about sexism, misogyny and violence against women. Because instead of dealing with the issues affecting the respective groups, here, the LGBTI community, the own group is being defended, and thus, deliberately or not, attention is diverted from the actual problems.

I wouldn’t want to presume being able to judge about the amount of reflection with which some have commented here but perhaps it would have been useful to let the text sink in for a while instead of reacting immediately. And by that I don’t mean to suggest that everybody would agree if only they would have given it more thought. It’s just a suggestion that listening, processing, re-reading and just then reacting can sometimes be a good idea.

Einige, für meinen Geschmack zu viele der Kommentare [zu Johannes Krams Artikel] klingen doch sehr ähnlich wie die der Leute, die sich in den USA an der Black Lives Matter-Bewegung reiben und ihr den Slogan „All Lives Matter“ entgegenhalten.

Wie dort passen auch hier die Textzeilen des Hip-Hop-Duos Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: „Wenn in einer Wohnsiedlung ein Haus brennt, würde die Feuerwehr nicht alle Häuser mit Wasser löschen, weil alle Häuser zählen. Sie würde ihr Löschwasser auf das Haus richten, das brennt, denn das ist das Haus, das die Hilfe am meisten benötigt.“

Der Comedian Bill Maher sagte zu dem Thema: „’All Lives Matter‘ impliziert, dass alle Leben gleichermaßen bedroht sind und das sind sie nicht.“ Und die Aktivistin und Black Lives Matter-Mitbegründerin Alicia Garza äußerte: „Black Lives Matter zu All Lives Matter zu ändern ist ein Beweis dafür, dass wir den strukturellen Rassismus in diesem Land nicht verstehen.“ Schließlich meldete sich auch Obama zu dem Thema und ließ verlauten: „Ich glaube, dass der Grund, dass die Organisatoren den Ausdruck ‚Black Lives Matter‘ benutzt haben, nicht war, weil sie meinen, dass die Leben anderer nicht zählen, … sondern dass sie darauf hinweisen, dass es in der afroamerikanischen Gemeinschaft ein spezifisches Problem gibt, das es in anderen Gemeinschaften nicht gibt.“

Diejenigen, die hier auf die beileibe nicht bahnbrechende, neue Erkenntnis verweisen, dass es Freiheit nur für alle geben kann, verstehen in meinen Augen offenbar die strukturellen, spezifischen Probleme für die LGBTI-Community in Deutschland nicht. Und um noch einen Vergleich zu ziehen, ist der Hinweis, dass nicht alle Heteros Schwule hassen erstens auch keine bahnbrechende, neue Erkenntnis, und zweitens genauso unpassend wie die „Not All Men“-Reaktionen in den Diskursen über Sexismus, Frauenhass und Gewalt gegen Frauen. Denn anstatt sich mit den Themen auseinanderzusetzen, die die jeweilige Gruppe betreffen, hier die LGBTI-Community, wird die eigene Gruppe verteidigt und damit von den eigentlich Problem gewollt oder ungewollt abgelenkt.

Ich möchte mir nicht anmaßen darüber urteilen zu können, mit welchem Maß an Reflexion hier manche den Beitrag kommentiert haben, aber vielleicht wäre es angebracht gewesen, den Text erst einmal sacken zu lassen anstatt sofort zu reagieren. Und damit ist nicht gemeint, dass doch alle fein zustimmen würden, wenn sie nur mehr nachgedacht hätten. Es ist nur ein Vorschlag, dass Zuhören, sacken lassen, nochmal lesen und dann erst reagieren manchmal eine gute Idee sein kann.

Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Every effort has been made to translate the above verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions.

Can you translate, edit or design and would like to support sex workers’ human rights? Then join SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate, Edit + Design!


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