Hamburg's gay scene in the era of family politics, 1945-1969
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An examination of the gay scene in Hamburg provides numerous insights into the reconstruction of everyday life in West Germany after World War II. It shows the importance of notions of sexual order, a key aspect of the conservative “Family Politics” of the Adenauer era, for the restoration of social order after the war. Yet at the same time, it complicates the stereotypical dichotomy between a “conformist” 1950s and a “rebellious” 1960s. Indeed, gay men in Hamburg in the early 1950s developed a vibrant gay scene and an impressive homosexual publishing industry, both of which surpassed their counterparts in Berlin and elsewhere in West Germany at the time. Here men were able to seek out same-sex contacts, create a culture that validated their sexual activities, and fashion styles of dress and behavior through which they could express their desires and selfconceptions. In these ways, men active in the gay scene put up a degree of resistance against the notions of sexual order favored by the CDU and morality leagues such as the Union of People’s Guardians. Yet the boundaries of the gay scene were the product of a constant process of negotiation between gay men and the city government. In the first years of the 1960s, the gay scene experienced a serious retraction, as the accumulated force of new national laws, new police units, and ambitious government officials dedicated to protecting Germany’s youth began to make its effect felt. The gay scene did not disappear, but by 1969 it no longer compared to more impressive scenes in Berlin or elsewhere.
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