Press archive

Berlin, 09.12.2011

First international “rainbow neighbourhoods” conference in Berlin - Berlin’s “rainbow neighbourhood” welcomes the world

The first International MANEO Conference (IMC) took place in Berlin from 30 November to 3 December. The theme of the specialist conference was “Building a Queer and Tolerant Neighbourhood”. Some 130 experts from around the world came to Rathaus Schöneberg for the three-day event, which featured many speeches, workshops and discussions as well as intensive exchanges of experiences and ideas. International guests give their positive views on a successful conference.

Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, Cologne's  Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, International MANEO Conference, Rathaus SchönebergElfi Scho-Antwerpes, Cologne's Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, International MANEO Conference, Rathaus Schöneberg

“It was a great conference that brought great people to Berlin. The ‘rainbow neighbourhood’ is a current topic that will be taking up a lot of our time in the years to come. We are taking good ideas and suggestions and new contacts home with us.” Dr. William Graves, representative from the City of Chicago.

“I am truly overwhelmed by the people I have met at this conference. The event is bubbling with energy: the work, voices and messages you send out make you all strong! During the time of this conference, at dinners or when I was taking a drink at a bar, people would ask me: What are you doing here all the way from Wyoming? What brings you from the middle of nowhere to Berlin? In these moments, it was an absolute honour for me to tell them that I was here for the MANEO-Conference”. Jim Osborn, University of Wyoming and friend of Matthew Sheppard.

Different perspectives, diverse interfaces

Die International MANEO-Conference (IMC) featured 11 key speeches, 12 city presentations and a panel discussion in a plenary session. An additional 35 speeches were spread out across eight workshops. The selection of the key themes of the workshops focused on distinct interfaces that revealed the changeful relationship between a metropolis and its rainbow neighbourhood. International speakers provided information and revealed experiences that ignited exciting talks and discussions. The workshop titles were: History: Remembrance and Memory – Preservation of Cultural Heritage (1); Tourism: LGBT* Marketing and the Impact of the LGBT Sector (2); Media, Networking, Marketing, Events (3); Urban Governance 1: Partnerships in and between Rainbow Neighbourhoods (4); Security and Policing: Security in Rainbow Neighbourhoods (5); Economic Development – Queer Economy (6); Urban Governance 2: Forms of Organisation and International Co-operation (7); and Rainbow Neighbourhoods: A Local Community – Social Development and Health Care (8).

The question about the need for rainbow neighbourhoods came up time and again during the conference, and each time participants agreed on the importance of such a place and that such a neighbourhood was once, or continues to be, a very important place in their life. Such neighbourhoods help with self-identification and offers experiences and proximity, everything that is important for young people. Such places also give rise to dangers that need to be discussed openly rather than hidden in order to learn how to deal with them and thereby promote self-confidence and allow a mature personality to develop.

“When we talk about creating a queer and tolerant neighbourhood, I think we should not only think of physical neighbourhoods, the neighbourhoods you can actually visit. Especially for us in the Middle East, the queer neighbourhood is something bigger: it is the opportunity to build an alliance to protect democracy, which is often under threat nowadays. We need conferences as these to be able to support each other not only as LGBT people, but as human beings, and to build mutual respect. It was a great pleasure and honor for me to be here“, Sharon Jaegerman, Agudah, Tel Aviv.

International Guests

Among the international guests were the Vice President of the European Parliament Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, the Argentinean Ambassador Victorio Taccetti, the Mayoress of Cologne Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, the Alderman of Amsterdam Andrée Christine van Es, the former District Mayor from San Francisco Bevan Dufty, the District Mayor of Tempelhof-Schöneberg in Berlin Angelika Schöttler, the Cologne councillor Ralph Sterck, Frank van Dalen from Amsterdam, Yaniv Weizmann from Tel Aviv, official representatives from the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Zurich, representatives of the EU Commission in Brussels and the OSCE in Warsaw, police representatives from Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Zurich, Munich and Berlin, representatives from the queer economy and queer events in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Paris Sydney, Montreal and Cape Town, as well as other representatives from organisations and institutions in Los Angeles, Laramie, San Francisco, Montreal, Belfast, Dublin, Oslo, Liverpool and Tokyo.

Rainbow neighbourhoods – places around the world with particular attraction and appeal

Representatives of these metropolitan areas came to Berlin to exchange information and experience about developments in the world’s “gay villages”, “queer neighbourhoods”, “boys towns”, “Bermuda triangles”, “gay hotspots” and “rainbow neighbourhoods”. These and other names refer to districts in cities that offer lively day and nightlife for LGBTs (e.g. businesses, bars, restaurants and clubs that attract LGBTs every weekend, either as locals or tourists) and in which many LGBTs live and live together. These districts are developing and could be established in every major metropolitan area sooner or later. Such districts often have a tradition or history of being a rainbow neighbourhood, e.g. at Nollendorfplatz, where LGB activities can be traced back 100 years. Such regions today receive different levels of attention. Local government measures either promote or ignore them.

Personal insights and individual perspectives

International representatives came to Berlin with different experiences and backgrounds. Three well-known activists opened the conference by talking about their own personal ways to, and access into, the “new neighbourhood”, which then took shape in a completely different way to what they had been used to. Jim Osborn from Laramie, Wyoming, a good friend of Matthew Shepard, whose brutal murder in Laramie in 1998 provoked a wave of concern and outrage in the USA; Ayala Katz, the mother of Nier Katz, who was shot in an attack on the Agudah organisation’s Café Noir, a meeting place for young LGBTs, in Tel Aviv in 2009; and Thomas Hermanns, German comedian and entertainer who is known for his Quatsch Comedy Club television show. They all came to a point in time where they sought access to the LGBT scene, to people and to scene life.

Community rather than “ghetto”

The term “rainbow neighbourhood”, thought up by MANEO in 2009, describes a district that has only existed to date as a model. A “rainbow neighbourhood” refers to an area of a city where people live together in all their diversity and with mutual respect for each other. It is an area where people can feel at home precisely because of their sexual orientation. The “rainbow neighbourhood” concept presents a positive picture as well as a goal and a vision. This picture is different to a ghetto. A ghetto is home to people who have been excluded and rejected, and forced to the margins of society. Ghettos are the result of failed politics. Every neighbourhood could become a rainbow neighbourhood. Many LGBTs want to live in such an area, i.e. in an area where they don’t have to fear being excluded by neighbours, where they can participate in public, social and economic life and be valued for their contribution and commitment. “We want to live surrounded by diversity with mutual respect for one another, this is our goal, and we call these areas ‘rainbow neighbourhoods’,” says Bastian Finke, director of the IMC and head of MANEO.

Rainbow neighbourhoods differ from each other in practice on account of their different social-cultural development and the associated, varying social experiences. This is why the conference was mainly about exchanging experience. Rainbow neighbourhoods from 12 international metropolitan areas were presented: “Boystown” in Chicago, “Oxford Street” in Sydney, “Regenbogenkiez” in Schöneberg, Berlin, “L’Eixample” in Barcelona, “Green Point” in Cape Town, “Gay Village” in Montreal, “Shinjuku Ni-chome” in Tokyo, “Castro Street” in San Francisco, “Queer Marais” in Paris, “Ipanema” in Rio de Janeiro, “Stanley Street Quarter” in Liverpool und “Gay Amsterdam”.

Success factors for a prosperous city life

“I am pleased that MANEO has organised an international conference on ‘rainbow neighbourhoods’ in Berlin and has brought together many ideas and experiences in our city,” said Berlin’s governing mayor Klaus Wowereit. “As a city of diversity, openness and tolerance, Berlin is an ideal location for such a conference that focuses on the challenges of these principles and values. I was very happy to support the International MANEO Conference Berlin 2011.”

Vice President of the European Parliament Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, said: “Only by living together in peace and mutual respect can city life prosper and rainbow neighbourhoods develop freely. They are a visible symbol of tolerance in a city.“

In memory of the already 100-year history of the Schöneberg rainbow neighhourhood in Berlin, District Mayoress Angelika Schöttler said: “This close network of business clubs, etc. offers lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders a feeling of being able to live here securely and being able to walk hand-in-hand down the street with their girlfriend or boyfriend. I would like to thank MANEO for its long-term commitment to increasing acceptance of sexual diversity and for the idea of bringing the world’s rainbow neighbourhoods to Berlin.”

Important and valuable impulses from LGBT* communities

Cologne mayoress Elfi Scho-Antwerpes said: “I never fail to be impressed by the innovative ideas lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have for improving their situation, for ensuring recognition of sexual equality and for ensuring equality before the law. It is important for politicians and local and governments to follow and support this movement ideologically and financially. Ms Scho-Antwerpes pointed to the successful work carried out by the city of Cologne’s “Working Group for Lesbians, Gays and Transgenders”, which aims to involve more lesbian and gay organisations in key local policy decisions affecting community life.

City responsibility

Social intolerance of diversity leads to exclusion and stigmatism. It represents a threat to LGBTs in a given society and jeopardises scene life and neighbourhoods. Amsterdam must lead the way, said Alderman of Amsterdam Andrée van Es: We have a duty to set the bar very high and support freedom. This means that we cannot afford to sit back when it comes to homosexual rights. Our Gay Capital programme aims to promote the visibility of homosexuality in the city’s image. I myself visit schools and talk to young people. We support different homosexual and bisexual organisations and there is also a special programme for young lesbians. It goes without saying that we accept no violence against homosexuals, that police officers intervene and the law takes action against offenders.”

Cross-neighbourhood partnerships to enrich the future and set the pace of change

“I can assure you that MANEO’s work enjoys a high level of recognition in Berlin. The high number of participants from around the world is proof of the importance of the conference and the level of interest the conference theme arouses in many cities, not only among LGBT organisations but also among city officials, police officers, tourism experts, businesses and representatives from the cultural sector, to name just a few. Berlin maintains city partnerships with a total of 17 cities around the world in addition to project-related contact with many other cities. This is why Berlin’s Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit also invited other mayors from cities with ‘rainbow neighbourhoods’ to the conference. We intend for the exchange of ideas and experience to enrich both participants and international partnerships with new and up-to-date content.” Rolf Schütte, Head of Protocol at the Berlin Senate.

Theory meets practice

Die International MANEO Conference (IMC) Berlin 2011 formed part of a social programme that set out to present Berlin’s credentials as an event location. LSU Berlin and Pink Schöneberg invited international guests to the offices of the Berlin CDU (Germany’s Christian Democratic Party) where they were welcomed by CDU MP and member of the Magnus Hirschfeld foundation Dr. Jan-Marco Luczak on 30 November 2011.

Berlin’s Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit received conference guests in the “Wappensaal” room of the Red Town Hall and emphasised Berlin’s status as an attractive conference location that contributed to international networking and the strengthening of LGBT rights around the world. Mr Wowereit said this was the reason he had invited mayors of Berlin’s partner cities to the conference personally. He thanked the conference organisers and the Director of the IMC Bastian Finke, and he expressed a warm welcome to conference guests in Berlin. Mr Wowereit also took the opportunity to congratulate the Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Berlin Lala Süsskind on winning this year’s European Tolerantia Prize. It is the sixth time the prize, an initiative of German, French, Polish and Spanish LGBT anti-violence projects, has been awarded.

The conference’s international delegation was also invited to the "Berlin Erleuchtet" show at the Friedrichstadtpalast followed by an end-of-evening reception at the German Film and Television Academy at Potsdamer Platz. The final event in the conference’s social programme was a historical tour around the “rainbow neighbourhood” district of Schöneberg followed by a city tour that ended at the Homomahnmal (Homosexual Memorial) in the Tiergarten. MANEO has started working with historian Andreas Pretzel in recent months in order to bring to light the LGBT history of the “rainbow neighbourhood” district of Schöneberg, which was believed to have been lost. A guide and exhibition showing LGBT sites of interest in the neighbourhood have already emerged from this work.

Effort pays off

Guests awarded MANEO directors with a standing ovation when the International MANEO Conference (IMC) Berlin 2011 was officially closed in the BVV room of Rathaus Schöneberg.

Bastian Finke, IMC Director, said: “We have worked through almost four whole days and the conference took almost one year to prepare. It was only in August when we knew we could stage the conference. The event was only made possible by the support of numerous sponsors and co-workers, and in the end could only be carried out thanks to the support from 23 helpers. The MANEO team was international: more than half had roots in 12 different countries: France, England, Poland, Spain, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Moldavia, Brazil, Turkey, Iran and Vietnam – and it was made up of gays, bisexuals, lesbians and heterosexuals.”Als die International MANEO Conference (IMC) Berlin 2011 im BVV-Saal des Rathaus Schönebergs für beendet erklärt wurde, dankten es die Gäste der MANEO-Leitung mit Standing Ovation.

The conference will be documented in the coming weeks and the results published online.

 

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