Sunday, December 20, 2009

Die Freundschaft (December 1926)

In Europe, during the first half of the XXth, journals dealing with the same-sex love topic had to face censorship and social taboos. Such a high risk matter could be evoked only through many literary and artistic veils. Von Gloeden's neo-antique imagery provided a perfect setting for homoerotic desire, and this issue of Die Freundschaft, December 1926, testifies the fame of the Taorminian photograph and of his world of Greek ephebs and shepherds.

"Die Freundschaft was one of the more popular sex variant publications during Germany's Weimar era, running from 1919 until it was shut down by the Nazis in 1933.

In addition to its contribution to the legal struggles for homosexual emancipation, Die Freundschaft allowed its contributors to draw from a broad range of cultural and literary resources to articulate subjective experiences of same-sex desire. Through the use of personal narrative, the writers of Die Freundschaft sought to develop a new model for human relationships which would serve as an alternative and a challenge to what they called bürgerlich or bourgeois modes of alliance. The writers in Die Freundschaft acknowledged that their unique desires removed them from the world of marriage and family, but rather than re-articulating their desires so as to make them compatible with bürgerlich standards, the contributors chose to embrace the differences which marked them from the larger German society. The purpose of Die Freundschaft, then, was not only to serve as a medium through which a minority could petition society, but also a construction of a liminal space which allowed both readers and writers to "evade new regulatory regimes that operate primarily by inciting them to speak." In articulating identities to each other, rather than to an embodiment of authority, the writers in Die Freundschaft were able to move beyond the focus on materialistic notions of sexuality and explore the symbolic and religious aspects of same-sex love.

As a textual space in which Weimar Germany's sex variants were able to reformulate the identities provided to them by a body of scientific research, Die Freundschaft allowed for the creation of sex variance centered upon a subjectively spiritual experience, rather than scientific formulations. This led to an articulation of same-sex love that focused on the sacred bond of friends, a traditional German concept.

Moreover, it fused Hirschfeld's notion of a "third sex" with theosophical theories of reincarnation to argue that sex variants were karmically bound to find their soul mate. In this world view nature was seen as the ideal setting in which one could discover one's true self, one's spiritual destiny, and possibly one's soul mate. Die Freundschaft published articles in which authors described Eros as a sacred and powerful force which could affect the lives of sex variants. In this way Die Freundschaft facilitated the articulation of sex variance which built upon, and deviated from the materialist framework, engaging the spiritual world as a way of hallowing same-sex love."

Max Fassnacht, Enchanted Desires, Sacred Embodiements: Sex and Gender, Variant Spiritualities in Weimar Germany, Master Thesis, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 2008.
© Max Fassnacht, 2008.

The whole Master Thesis can be downloaded as a .pdf file here.

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