How much queer party can straight politics stand?

Our commentary on the latest developments in the classification of public queer gatherings by the authorities.

This summer, the end rally of the CSD in Stendal was struck by it, and next year the queer “party mile” at the CSD in Dresden could suffer the same fate: no longer to be considered an assembly under article 8 of the german constitution, but an ordinary street festivity amongst many.

For anyone who is critical of the somewhat shallow character of the local CSD, this doesn’t sound like big news at first. Much sooner than the administrative body, left-wing queers have been asking themselves – and not just in Dresden – where the gradual depolitisation is going to lead.

Nevertheless, the debate affects far more than just a single date in the wide-ranging queer calendar. Far be it from us to jump into the fray in favour of the “CSD Dresden” association. However, just as with our statement on the draft for a new saxon assembly law, our aim is to defend our right of assembly against any attempt to undermine it.

As reported in the local press, the public order department of the city of Dresden is planning to no longer classify some part of the public CSD event as political gathering. This would probably mean more requirements for the organisation and higher costs for CSD Dresden association – but also, for example, the possibility of a permit to serve alcoholic drinks.

We would like to add to the press reports that CSD in Dresden is not the first target of such assessments from Dresden city officials. With the first Pride in 2021, there were already attempts at legal reinterpretations. Unlike the current discussion with the CSD, however, the public order department had only written to us about this four days beforehand and given us one (1!) day for a hearing. We were therefore forced to write a detailed statement in the shortest possible time in order to prevent the programme from being cancelled.

So much for lighting up the background, but what do we as Queer Pride Dresden have to say about the views of the municipal administration?

Even two years ago, our position was clear: a public, visible and self-determined queer presence always bears a political aspect. This presence – no matter what form it takes, whether as a militant street festival, a family-friendly riot or a queer pride demonstration – is always an act of rebellion against reactionary forces. It is practically lived resistance against all those who want to relegate sexuality, desire and diverse gender expressions to the private sphere or – especially when it comes to minorities – ban them altogether.

Even the selection of people on stage is in itself a political gesture. The “communicative act” that constitutes assemblies under article 8 of the constitution can manifest itself not only in content, but also and especially in form. For us, it is clear that a greeting from a non-queer mayor contributes far less to a “political character” than the approach of giving a platform to those who otherwise have few platforms. Marginalised groups need spaces to participate in the formation of public opinion – and this includes cultural life. If this is to be prevented or channelled into commercialisable channels on the basis of narrow formal legal interpretations, then this really is an attack on freedom of assembly.

How should the current debate and the publicly discussed solutions be assessed?

The idea has been put forward that the increased costs for registration and authorisation as a street festival could be offset by a corresponding increase in funding for the association. Financially speaking, this would be a zero-sum game for the city and CSD Dresden e.V. – initially. In our view, however, it is not a solution if the city buys its way out of criticism from the queer community and the organisation.

Firstly, it creates a dependency on the goodwill of the top oficials. Funding can quickly be cut again, especially when the local elections are over. Or when queerness takes over the streets demanding and daring rather than celebrating and cheerful. And if the city is short of money, the renewed awarding of a tolerance prize to the mayor will probably no longer help to raise municipal project funds. Our mayor can celebrate in the town hall for a lot of money anyway, even without a queer veneer, but together with the AfD (right wing party) parliamentary group.

Secondly, this would set a worrying precedent. The same procedure could also be used against other initiatives such as Queer Pride. Politically resistant and decidedly anti-capitalist Prides cannot afford the fees for such a permit. They often don’t receive extra funding, don’t want or can’t raise corporate money (which isn’t easy in East Germany anyway) and perhaps don’t want to refinance themselves through stand fees for beer stalls and the like. In addition, the barrier to entry is getting higher and higher: DIY Prides like those in smaller cities in Saxony or neighbourhood based gatherings could become impossible.

In addition, such a “special use” of public space require a permit from the city, unlike assemblies. This authorisation can also simply be refused. This may not seem like a pressing problem in a large city pretending to be liberal. However, it is easy to imagine what a potential right-wing extremist mayor in a small town in Saxony could do with such an instrument. We know what bureaucratic difficulties queer demonstrations in Riesa, Döbeln and so on already have to contend with.

Thirdly, we see a clear danger that the postulated “apolitical nature” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result of these new normative and regulatory boundaries.This would severely restrict an important opportunity for queer people to enter the public sphere with self-confidence and self-determination.

Our conclusion:

We clearly demand that the decision as to which type of assembly or event is best suited for public queer events must lie in the hands of the queer organisers and not by the municipal administration.The discussion about political content and objectives is important. However, the mutual criticism and exchange of views must take place within the queer community and not via legal reviews commissioned by the authorities!