The post-World War I era in Germany, often called the Weimar
era for the Weimar Republic, was a booming time for Germany’s LGBT community. In the 1920s, there were
anywhere from 90 to 100 gay bars and nightclubs in Berlin that thrived in spite
of anti-gay laws, as well as whole collections of LGBT specific publications
that made the rounds across German cities in spite of censorship laws. The
lesbian magazine Frauenliebe was one
such publication that celebrated its first issue on June 9, 1926!
Women sit around a table at The Eldorado, a lesbian bar in Berlin that came to prominence in the Weimar-era (x).
Translated to English, “frauenliebe”
means “woman love.” Weeks before the magazine officially became open
to the public, the women behind the publication ran advertisements that
described the magazine as “Weekly for friendship, love, and sexual
enlightenment.” It was the second lesbian-specific magazine to originate in
Berlin at the time, with Die Freundin
having been the first. Although the language we use today was not available to
the women behind Frauenliebe, they
made it explicit that transgender women were a part of their community and even
acknowledged those trans women who had relationships with men.
1930 covers from Die Freundin and Die Insel, popular German magazines for lesbians and gay men respectively. When Frauenliebe hit the scene it joined Die Freundin as the only two lesbian publications in Germany at the time (x).
The Berlin legal authorities had been searching for a valid
reason to shut down Frauenliebe ever
since its first issue and they finally succeeded in 1928. Having not been able
to shut down the magazine based on its actual contents, the police
finally pinpointed the magazine’s advertisements as “facilitating obscene
sexual relationships” and
shut it down. But not two years later, on October 15, 1930, the magazine was
back with a more covert advertising campaign and a new name – Garçonne.
In its new form, Garçonne published
short stories, poems, news articles about the lesbian scene in Berlin, and
allowed lesbians to write opinion pieces responding back to the burgeoning
scientific field of sexology and the study of homosexuality.
Although it was produced and mainly shared around Berlin, like most gay
magazines and publications in history, Garçonne
eventually found its way to where it was perhaps needed the most – the more rural
areas of Germany where there was no such thing as a lesbian subculture. In a
1931 issue, a reader from the small town of Görlitz writes that “this
paper means everything to me.” Unfortunately, the magazine ceased publication just
a year later in 1932, the same year Hitler was first elected to power.