Craig GriffithsMar 18, 2022
The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation
Male Homosexual Politics in 1970s West Germany
Oxford University Press 2021
The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation: Male Homosexual Politics in 1970s West Germany (Oxford UP, 2021) explores ways of thinking, feeling, and talking about being gay in the 1970s, an influential decade sandwiched between the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1969, and the arrival of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Moving beyond divided Cold War Berlin, it also focuses on lesser-known cities, such as Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Münster, and Stuttgart, to name just a few of the 53 localities that were home to a gay group by the end of the 1970s. These groups were important, and this book tells their story.
In 1970s West Germany gay liberation did not take place only in activist meetings, universities, and on street demonstrations, but also on television, in magazine editorial offices, ordinary homes, bedrooms, and beyond. In considering all these spaces and individuals, this book provides a more complex account than previous histories, which have tended to focus only on a social movement and only on the idea of 'gay pride'. By drawing attention to ambivalence, this book shows that gay liberation was never only about pride, but also about shame; characterized not only by hope, but also by fear; and driven forward not just by the pushes of confrontation, but also by the pulls of conformism. Ranging from the painstaking emergence of the gay press to the first representation of homosexuality on television, from debates over the sexual legacy of 1968 and the student movement to the memory of Nazi persecution, The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation is the first English-language book to tell the story of male homosexual politics in 1970s West Germany. In doing so, this book changes the way we think about modern queer history.
Craig Griffiths is a Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches and researches queer history, the history of sexuality, and modern European history. He is an Associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and a co-founder and co-convenor of the Seminar Series in the History of Sexuality at the Institute of Historical Research, London.
Leslie Waters is a historian of modern Central and Eastern Europe and assistant professor at The University of Texas at El Paso.