The German Democratic Republic (GDR) had an ambivalent relationship with homosexuality. Under the principles of socialism, everyone was welcome to contribute to the greater good. The situation for lesbians and gay men was different: one of illegality or invisibility. A difficulty in analyzing these experiences is the theory and methodology necessary to find them and draw them together into some kind of an historical narrative. This talk offers a mode of analysis in which theories of ignorance, affect, and media illustrate long-term trends in East German conceptualizations of same-sex sexuality. Emerging before the East German state had been founded and continuing past the fall of the Berlin Wall, the powerful ambivalence toward same-sex eroticism left individual and collective expressions of queerness in a remarkably uncertain position. Referring to various texts and media, the presentation will discuss a number of points in queer East German cultural history in order to demonstrate the persistence and quirks of homophobic prejudice in the socialist state.
Kyle Frackman is Assistant Professor of Germanic Studies at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver where he is also Associate Faculty in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice and the Centre for Cinema Studies. He has a Ph.D. in German and Scandinavian Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Recent publications include An Other Kind of Home: Gender-Sexual Abjection, Subjectivity, and the Uncanny in Literature and Film (2015), Classical Music in the German Democratic Republic (2015, co-edited with Larson Powell), and journal articles on queer German documentary film and transgender in contemporary German film. Current projects include a monograph on queerness in East Germany and a co-edited volume on gender and sexuality in East German film and television.