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German LGBTQ actors come out in droves to fight discrimination

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On the front page of Sddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, one of Germany’s largest publications, 185 actors are out as members of the LGBTQ community. The cover is filled with photos and actor names, along with the message: We’re here.

In one movement called #ActOut, the actors advocate for LGBTQ representation on screen and behind the scenes of German media productions.

Actor Karin Hanczewski started planning the statement about a year and a half ago when she experienced LGBTQ erasure at a movie festival with her girlfriend. Before stepping onto the red carpet, Hanczewskis’ agent told him that it was best to appear in photos without his partner.

People told us to be invisible. And, of course, it hurts, Hanczewski said.

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Hanczewski had spent years hearing similar acts of discrimination from other queer actors. She says she knows of casting agents who would threaten to reject cast members’ auditions if they came out publicly.

Along with another queer actor, Hanczewski decided she would go out despite the risk of losing her career. She said they wanted to make structural changes in the media industry, and going out en masse was the only way to do it.

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To really change something to really change the structures, it was clear and obvious that we had to bring together a large group of people. “

Karin Hanczewski, actress and co-founder of the #ActOut movement

To really change something to really change the structures, it was clear and obvious that we had to bring together a huge group of people, Hanczewski said.

She started talking with other actors who were in their personal lives but not professionally.

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Responses to the proposal ran the gamut. Some were supportive from the start. Others hesitated even after several discussions on the subject.

There were people who said they wanted to be a part of it and then spoke to us again and said: No, I answered too quickly. I am not there emotionally. I can not do it.

In 18 months, the group gradually started to grow.

Actor Joo Kreth d’Orey heard about the movement through other actors. Kreth d’Orey was immediately excited but didn’t expect him to attract so much attention. When the magazine cover and story came out on February 5, Kreth d’Orey knew it was a historic moment.

Kreth d’Orey is exhausted the next day to buy the print edition, but copies had already stolen from the shelves. Kreth d’Orey went to a supermarket and three other stores without success.

And then someone on Instagram posted that they were all exhausted. Tragic! Kreth d’Orey added laughing.

Jules Elting is one of the lucky actors who was able to grab a printed copy of the paper before it ran out.

Elting says output as non-binary a person whose sex is not strictly male or female with such a large group felt capital.

But like Orey’s Kreth, the significance didn’t strike Elting until they saw the front page of the South German newspaper.

It was so moving because I went, really, from one picture to the next, and said hello and thank you to each person for their courage, Elting said. And by recognizing each life story, which is so different.

The group includes people of all genders and sexual orientations. The 185 German actors have intersectional identities and belong to several generations. This diversity is the key to his message that there is no such thing as a stereotypical lesbian or transgender person.

The document also included the #ActOut manifesto.

We’re newcomers, household names, as well as those you might not have heard of yet, the English translation of the manifesto reads. We grew up in villages and big cities; were people of color, people with immigration experience and people with disabilities; we are not a homogeneous group.

The manifesto, translated online into more than 15 languages, talks about common goals such as including more LGBTQ characters on screen.

I have never seen a non-binary character at all on German television or in German cinema. Like, we just don’t exist. “

Jules Elting, non-binary actor

I have never seen a non-binary character at all on German television or in German cinema. Like, we just don’t exist, Elting said, adding that the idea of ​​being able to play a character who might one day be a role model for others is beautiful.

Lamin Leroy Gibba, a black and queer actor, wants the same. He says German media do not reflect German streets.

When you walk around you see so many different people with different perspectives, different lives, and different identities. … But this is just not reflected in the media, I have never seen myself on German TV, nor in German in the cinema or on German stages.

Lamin Leroy Gibba, black and queer actor

When you walk around, you see so many different people with different perspectives, different lives, and different identities, Gibba said. But it’s just not reflected in the media. I have never seen myself on German television, nor in German in the cinema or on German stages.

When Gibba says never, he really means it.

LGBTQ [representation] just doesn’t exist, said Professor Elizabeth Prommer, director of the Media Research Institute at the University of Rostock.

She has studied thousands of roles on TV and in the movies, trying to determine the percentage of gay and lesbian characters.

We had so few non-heterosexual characters that I can’t give you a percentage. It was just a handful [out] of 11,000 characters.

These appalling statistics come as no surprise to those in the industry.

Kai S. Pieck directs the Queer Media Society, an organization that promotes LGBTQ representation in the German media. Pieck partnered with Hanczewski to help organize the #ActOut movement. As a gay man in the industry, he’s a cause close to home. It was important for him to present #ActOut as serious news and not as a show.

It’s not about each of us. This is the situation here, which must end. Telling an actor not to go out in public is discriminatory.

Kai S. Pieck, Queer Media Society

It’s not about each of us. This is the situation here, which must end. Telling an actor not to go out in public is discriminatory.

Pieck and other industry professionals have said media officers and executives largely attribute the discriminatory actions to the German public. Pieck, also a director, said production companies told him queer content is kind of a niche.

We are faced with people in their ivory castles judging what people want to see, he said.

Hanczewski says #ActOut disproves this notion. She says she receives gratitude messages daily from audiences who are all ready for queer stories.

They say now that we have done that they can live a little more freely now.

Overall, the reaction to this mass exit has been positive.

In addition to selling these newsstands, film institutions, The television channels and the big theaters declared to be in solidarity with the actors.

German actor Gibba awaits the sequel.

How are they going to make the industry in which we are all more inclusive, more diverse and more equitable?

Hanczewski admits that there is still some fear that she and her fellow actors will lose their jobs. But putting that fear aside, she said, empowers.

What I feel now is amazing, she said. I really feel that I put this shame that is always done to me I put it aside. Now it can be someone else’s shame. It’s not my shame.

Members of #ActOut know there is a long road to equity and diversity on screen. But with a growing list of LGBTQ actors now visible, it’s a journey many feel ready to take.



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