The state of NRW is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. Statistically speaking, during these six decades, lesbians and gays have consistently comprised approximately 5-10% of the population throughout the various regions of North Rhine-Westphalia. This minority has only been publicly visible for a good 15 years. Before that, social ostracism and, to some extent, even criminal prosecution marked the lives of gays and lesbians in NRW. The situation today, one in which homosexuals can live increasingly self-assured and open lives, is not something that can be taken for granted, since the social acceptance of minorities is not a permanent and guaranteed state, but rather a fleeting blessing that must be preserved and strengthened. As the newest addition to our movement, lesbian-gay senior outreach work in North Rhine-Westphalia was cut back to “0” by the black-yellow state government, and older lesbians and gays have been made invisible once again. It is important that we lesbians and gays continue to make clear that we are an integral part of this state; that we need political and financial support in our work on behalf of acceptance; and that 100% North Rhine-Westphalia can only exist with us. We need: 100% visibility!
Appreciation and acceptance by the majority are the natural goal of every minority. We gays and lesbians therefore demand that the state government, which was elected by the majority of the population, give us not only equal treatment in the upcoming cuts but also a positive sign that our work on social policy is welcome and appreciated. Financial cuts – independent of the fact that they always entail painful restrictions and the curtailment of substantive work – can only be tolerated if there is no reason to suspect that they are also connected with a lack of esteem. We demand: 100% acceptance!
In times of budget cuts in the public sphere, it becomes more important for the lesbian-gay community to think about how future projects in the area of gay-lesbian self-help can be developed, implemented, and given financial backing. We have developed a culture of personal responsibility and civic engagement, which we need to expand and which can provide positive impetuses to other social groups. The prerequisite for this is that we develop a separate identity as a lesbian-gay minority, one that makes it meaningful to invest private funds – for example, in the form of donations, foundations, or estate gifts – in gay-lesbian self-help projects. The willingness to assume more personal responsibility should not lead us to entirely absolve the state of its responsibility to promote the acceptance of lesbians and gays in NRW. Conversely, it is necessary that the state provide initial support to enable future-oriented financing models, which have no tradition in Germany, in the gay-lesbian sphere. We need: 100% self-confidence.
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Source: “Der CSD Köln/Cologne Pride sagt Danke!” [“The CDS Cologne/Cologne Pride says ‘Thank you!’”], www.cologne-pride.de.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap