Fun Historical Fact: There used to be more gay and lesbian content in early silent films until religious groups protested resulting in “decency standards.”
THE WAY THE ONE GIRL LOOKS DOWN ALL SHY AND THE OTHER CUPS HER FACE SO SWEETLY TO COMFORT HER- AHHHH
THIS IS MY FAVORITE GIF OF ALL TIME. I ALWAYS GET HAPPY WHEN I SEE IT ON MY DASH GAAAAH.
Fun Historical Fact: This is a scene from the movie, Orphans of the Storm. A movie about two sisters who are not romantically involved and are instead caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution, separated, and eventually reunited.
Get your facts straight. Do you honestly think the 20’s would have been accepting of the gay community? Oh yeah, women can’t vote, work or think for themselves, and people of color are lower than dirt. But lesbians? Yeah, okay we’re cool with that.
Fuck off. Stop spreading misinformation.
Actually… you’re both kind of right in your own way. Yes, this movie is about two sisters and yes, the 1920’s in certain parts of the world was not a very joyous or accepting time for lesbians and gay men. However, some places were. At least, they were more accepting than what one would assume at first glance. One specific place would have to be Berlin, Germany. In fact, the first ‘gay themed’ movie wasn’t made in the 1920’s— it was made in 1919.
Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern) is a German film made in 1919, starring Conrad Veidt, who played a violinist named Paul Körner, and Fritz Schulz, who played a student of Körner, Kurt Sivers. The story revolves around Körner and his struggles with his sexuality, and the eventual relationship he has with his Sivers. The movie revolves around the struggles that gay men face under the German penile code Paragraph 175 that criminalized male homosexuality. The film was produced and funded by Magnus Hirschfeld who ran the Institute for Sexual Science, and was advocating for both the acceptance and understanding of gay men, as well as for the repeal of Paragraph 175.
Throughout the film, Körner visits Hirschfeld, and is given advice as to how to deal with his sexuality. Eventually, Körner comes out to his parents. Afterward, Körner and Sivers end up continuing their relationship, until one day a ‘friend’ of Körner’s sees the two men holding hands, and threatens to expose Körner if he does not pay him. Eventually, Körner is publicly outed, and shames his family. He commits suicide. Sivers later tries to commit suicide himself, but Hirschfeld stops him and tells him:
”You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. … [Y]ou must restore the honor of this man and bring justice to him, and all those who came before him, and all those to come after him. Justice through knowledge!”
The movie was used in psychology classrooms, and it was Hirschfeld’s hope that through education and understanding, people would be accepted no matter their sexual orientation or gender. Unfortunately, only a small fragment of the film remains, as it was one of the many items burned by the Nazis.
But Germany is definitely one of those anomalies when discussing homosexuality and acceptance in the 1920’s. There are a few reasons for this
1) Before and during the Weimar Republic, Paragraph 175 was less harsh than many other anti-homosexuality laws in other European countries. Prior to 1933, the law only punished the active partner— not the passive partner— and did not include things like mutual masturbation. Men found it easy to bypass the laws and still be intimate with one another.
2) Germany had a leg-up on a lot of countries when it came to the study and understanding of sexuality. They had been studying sexuality as a science since the 1800’s, and there was a keen focus on homosexuality. Karl-Maria Kertbeny, Richard von Kraft-Ebing, and Magnus Hirschfeld were just some of the men who led the charge in the study. This lead to more people in Germany being aware of homosexuality, with some even believing it was a natural feeling to have and nwas not abnormal or wrong.
3) There was a rise in Classical thought during the 1800’s onward that focused on the relationship between men in the Classical world. Many young German men began reading the Classics, and drew inspiration from their same-sex relationships. You weren’t cool if you hadn’t read Plato’s Symposium and decided to dally with another man while in school. Close, intimate friendships between men fell into vogue, and it wasn’t shameful for young men to be close to one another.
4) Gay communities began to appear in Germany, and actually began to advocate for legal change. For example, Adolf Brand, an anarchist and an openly gay man, started up the first gay journal called Der Eigene in the early 1900’s. It was a journal about ‘male culture’ and featured articles written by German men from a variety of social circles (mostly from academia), as well as ‘anatomy’ photos (nude German men in a variety of poses). Brand himself was deeply critical of Paragraph 175, as well as any movement that stated that gay men were inherently more feminine or were a ‘third sex’ (which brought him at odds with Hirschfeld). He also had troubles with closeted gay politicians in Germany, and tried to publicly out them.
5) This one is a little more depressing to think about, but after WWI Germany became a center for gay sex tourism due to their collapsed economy. Many young men, out of work and with no means to support themselves, turned to prostitution. This in turn brought gay men from France and England and wherever else to Germany, looking to have sex with their men, free of judgement and legal repercussions. This in turn brought about a fairly liberal vibe to Berlin, where famous gay bars thrived, liked the El Dorado, a place where gay men and women could enjoy themselves out in the open.
So no, the 1920’s were not a happy-go-lucky time for minorities, but there were some places and some people who worked to change that during this time period. You just have to know where to look.