Historian Josie McLellan tells the surprising story of gay activism in Cold War East Berlin. In the 1970s, a group of lesbians and gay men formed the HIB (Homosexual Interest Group Berlin), the first gay rights group in the Eastern Bloc. The HIB saw themselves as a ‘family’, supporting each other through difficult coming-outs, organising parties and balls for up to 200 people.
But they were also a highly political group, making interventions at public events and lobbying the East German authorities for official state recognition. Their links to Western gay activists were extensive – indeed a visit from Peter Tatchell was one of the key events in their early history.
How was all this possible under a dictatorial regime which was insistent that homosexuality should remain behind closed doors? Josie explains all, drawing on a series of interviews with members of the HIB, as well as their archives of photographs and film.
Dr. Josie McLellan is Reader in Modern European History at the University of Bristol. Her research focuses on the social and cultural history of postwar Europe, with a particular interest in the way that economic and social change affects people’s everyday lives.
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