• Germany's news in English

Gay Oktoberfest brings pride to Munich

AFP · 20 Sep 2015, 17:02

Published: 20 Sep 2015 17:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

After small beginnings three decades ago with just a few friends at one of the legendary beer tents, "Pink Wiesn" as it is known, has become a tradition at Munich's annual event, and a fixture on the global gay party calendar.

Soon after the opening Sunday morning, Los Angeles native Rozeboom, 30, toasted his wedding engagement just two days before with his fiance, Trent Dempsey, and two big glasses of German beer.

"I just love the fusion of the traditional with gay culture -- it's a wonderful feeling," Rozeboom, a bar manager, said.

"We didn't want to miss this while we were in Europe, especially after we got engaged," added Dempsey, also sporting lederhosen hastily bought from a vendor at the main railway station.

Gay Oktoberfest is held each year on the Sunday of the opening weekend at the Wiesn fairgrounds' Braeurosl tent, named after the fabled beauty Rosi, a daughter of the Pschorr beer dynasty.

It started with a misunderstanding, when Munich Lions' Club, a local gay fetish group, reserved a few tables at the tent and organisers mistook the name for a football team.

But as the numbers grew each year, the Heide family, who have run the tent since 1936, turned over more and more of its 6,200 capacity seating to gay party-goers until the semi-official "Pink Wiesn" was finally established.

Revellers began lining up at dawn to grab a table inside and by the opening at 9:00 am (0700 GMT), the tent was full to the rafters.

The beer chugging, table dancing, thigh slapping, drinking song antics of the more traditional tents can all be found at Rosa Wiesn, and nearly everyone wears Bavaria's festive "Tracht" clothing.

But along with oompah music, the soundtrack is leavened with Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue and Madonna dance tracks.

- Culture war battleground -

While politics is customarily left outside the beer tent, the talk this year frequently turned to Germany's "backward" ban on gay marriage following major strides made by proponents in Ireland and the United States.

Germany introduced civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2001, but they still do not have the right to marry and are forbidden from adopting children together.

"America is the prudest country the world has ever seen and even they are ahead of us on gay marriage," said 58-year-old travel agent Wolfgang Lies, nursing a wheat beer with two friends.

The CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, is seen as the fiercest opponent of extending full marriage rights, making the predominantly Catholic heartland a key battleground in the culture wars.

Lies has been coming to Gay Sunday at Oktoberfest since the 1980s and remembers well when gay couples had to be discreet or risk bashing by drunken visitors of the beer fiesta when they left the tent.

"We're just like everyone else and now expect to be treated like it," he said.

James Ratledge of the Munich Bears, a gay group of stout, hairy-chested men recalling their mascot, said greater diversity had also helped Oktoberfest, an event dating back to 1810 that now draws six million people a year.

"The Bavarians are very proud of their traditions and that means us gay Bavarians too," he said.

Story continues below…

"No one from here would think of going to Oktoberfest without their Tracht because even ugly people look good in it," he said with a laugh. "It's flattering to the figure."

Ratledge said that despite the hot, sticky atmosphere that can develop in the tent, the organisers enforce a strict shirts-on policy.

"Once one person takes his off, they all will. We want to keep it decent," he said.

Susanne Hoffmann, a 48-year-old waitress at the tent operated by Hacker-Pschorr, one of Munich's six brewing giants, heaves eight glass litre mugs to a table of bearded men with a smile.

"Gay Sunday is the best day of Oktoberfest," she told AFP later. "There are no fistfights, everybody is nice and easy-going. And the music is better too."

With a grin, she quoted a famous local drag queen who performs each year at the event: "A bissl Leder braucht a jeder" (Everybody needs a little leather).


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd