Pride month: A guide to Christopher Street Day (CSD) celebrations across Germany
Summer is here and oh baby, it’s queer! With pride month already upon us, here’s your ultimate guide to Germany’s marvellous plethora of CSD demonstrations and pride parades across the hot, sticky months.
International LGBTQ+ Pride Month is typically in June. Throughout the month many events are held to demonstrate against the international oppression of queer people, commemorate those who have died as a result of homophobic crime or government policy and celebrate advances in queer liberation.
Though June is dedicated to Pride Month in Germany, there are large CSD parades and demonstrations held throughout the months between June and September.
What is Christopher Street Day (CSD)?
In many countries across the world, the annual June celebration of and demonstration for further queer liberation is called “Pride” or “Pride Parades”. In Germany and Switzerland however, the name used for the same event is, “Christopher Street Day (CSD)” harking back to Pride’s origins at the Stonewall Inn, a queer bar on Christopher Street in New York City.
The Stonewall Inn first opened in the 1930s and, as was the case with many gay bars at the time, was partially operated by the Mafia. When Prohibition ended and the US government began to regulate the sale of alcohol, establishments that were considered “disorderly” were still prohibited from selling alcohol.
At the time, the Stonewall Inn was considered “disorderly” merely by virtue of being an LGBTQ+ space - and the fact that same-sex relations would not be fully decriminalised in New York until 1980. This obfuscatory, government-approved label of “disorderliness” meant the bar was subject to regular and often violent raids by the police.
After one of these regular raids on a summer’s night in 1969, Stonewall patrons decided they’d had enough and a days-long uprising ensued on the streets of Greenwich Village. What started as a protest by the Inn’s regulars, homeless LGBTQ+ teens, trans women, lesbians, drag queens and gay men, spread into a movement across the United States and the world.
From 1970 onwards an annual Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (CSD) was held in New York to commemorate the original uprising. Though pride parades and demonstrations in Germany had already existed in various incarnations, in 1979 CSD officially made it all the way to Berlin.
Today, there are over 60 registered CSD events in Germany each year. Though the event’s namesake and origins recollect its more revolutionary beginnings, many mainstream pride events in Germany have become increasingly commercialised. In recent years many queer activists in Germany and across the world have adopted the adage “Pride was a riot” in a bid to emphasise the messy, unjust beginnings of Christopher Street Day.
Pride calendar 2023
In chronological order, these are Germany’s biggest CSD demonstrations and pride celebrations happening in 2023:
- CSD Munich: June 24, 2023
- CSD Cologne: July 9, 2023
- CSD Berlin: July 22, 2023
- CSD Hamburg: August 5, 2023
CSD and LGBTQ+ pride events across Germany
From Hamburg to Freiburg, here’s a guide to Germany’s grandest CSD demonstrations, pride month plans and parades running from June through to September and what you can expect from each event!
Berlin pride (CSD Berlin)
Berlin is Germany’s shining star when it comes to queer culture in the federal republic: home of Berghain, its own Schwules Museum (gay museum) and the country’s largest CSD event, Berlin Pride. It is estimated that 100.000 revellers joined the demonstration and parade in 2022.
The route traditionally begins at Kürfurstendamm and passes through one of the capital’s gay neighbourhoods, Nollendorfplatz, before heading down Straße des 17. Juni. and ending at the Brandenburg Gate.
Expect big crowds, perhaps the most awe-inspiring and risque outfits you will ever see, and lots of fun!
CSD has been an annual event in Cologne since the 1980s and is now one of the top three biggest pride events in the country. CSD Cologne usually consists of three separate events on three days between late June and early July: the Cologne Pride parade, the street festival and the demonstration.
If you’re wanting to get more involved than your average parade reveller, anyone can also sign up to be one of the events’ volunteer Demo Angels, which involves wearing the most fab outfit you can craft and making sure everyone stays safe and knows where they’re going.
Christopher Street Day Hamburg
In 1974, Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen chose Hamburg as the home for the first-ever exhibition of his Tom of Finland drawings, homoerotic enough to make even those who proclaim their "100 percent straightness” question their sexuality. Today, Tom’s Saloon in the St. Georg district still bears his name.
Hamburg Pride typically happens at the end of July and passes through St. Georg gay village each year, a neighbourhood which has long had close connections with the queer community in the city.
In the only German federal state still without a policy action plan for LGBTQ+ equality, Munich’s annual CSD events are of particular importance in Germany.
In the run-up to Munich’s pride parade, hundreds of queer organisations hold events for fun and in preparation for the big day, including sign-making workshops, hikes to the peaks surrounding the Bavarian capital, pool parties, polyamory workshops and a… Schlager rave.
Christopher Street Day Frankfurt
The first CSD Frankfurt event was held back in 1992, while the AIDS crisis was devastating the queer community but before it had even reached its peak. That year there were a humble 1.000 attendees, the stages were built from beer crates, demands were painted on bedsheets and a giant pasta salad was reportedly passed around in a baby bath to hungry protestors.
In recent years, around 250.000 attendees have been expected each year. Like many other pride events in Germany, CSD in Frankfurt is made up of both a street festival and a demonstration on two separate days. Find a spare bed sheet and get painting!
Christopher Street Day Stuttgart
In 1979, the first Stuttgart demonstration for queer liberation was held. Similar demonstrations followed in 1985 and 1994, the year that the city’s CDU mayor, Manfred Rommel, refused to be a patron of the Baden-Württemberg event, not because of a “question of affection” but due to “private matter[s].”
The show went on, revellers dressed up as nuns and tossed out free condoms to the camp choruses of Boy George. The original incarnation of today’s CSD Stuttgart events began in 2000 and now draws around 25.000 attendees each year. Like other CSDs, workshops and smaller parties are held in the weeks running up to the big day, on which you can still expect wanton nuns and free condoms for all.
Christopher Street Day Düsseldorf
CSD in Düsseldorf is one of the relative newbies of Germany’s CSD celebrations and demonstrations, which started off as a small street party on the city’s Schadowplatz back in 2004.
Each year since there has been a theme: in 2011 the legend of East German Neue Welle and FC Union Berlin super fan, Nina Hagen joined the stage for the theme “Gotseidank?!” (Thank God?!), which centred around homophobia in football and the church.
CSD Düsseldorf’s weeks-long programme is made up of a street festival, demonstration, party and church service.
Christopher Street Day Leipzig
CSD Leipzig started with just 100 people gathering at Moritzbastei cultural centre back on a summer’s day in 1992. After a pause, the event was started up again in 2004 by the student council at the city's university, this time with around 400 participants. If you’re curious to learn more about Leipzig CSD’s timeline, organisers have created a whole podcast series, Inside CSD Leipzig, which tells the event’s now 30-year-long history.
Each year there is a dedicated motto and focus for Leipzig pride and events are always kicked off by the traditional hoisting of the pride flag outside the New City Hall. Participants then continue on to a demonstration followed by a street party at Augustsplatz.
CSD Dortmund has been run by the SALDO umbrella organisation for LGBTQ+ people since 1998. Just as it was back then, today’s CSD is made up of a street party, a programme of stage performances, info stands and demonstrations.
In the run-up to the main pride demonstration and parades, you can also expect a warm-up party!
Bremen’s event claims to be the first CSD ever held in Germany, a title which still seems to be up for debate since it began in 1979, the same year that the first event in Berlin took place.
Bremen CSD is organised in connection with CSD Bremerhaven, the nearby port city. The whole project started with a group of only 10 to 20 people and to this day everything is still organised by a group of volunteers.
The Bremen and Bremerhaven CSD events are keen to stay away from pinkwashing, the event has no sponsors, is funded through donations and grants, and organisations with floats aren’t allowed to sell tickets for a ride on the truck through the parade. “The trucks on the parade should be recognisable by their political demands,” the organisers say, “not by self-promotion.”
CSD Bremen is as colourful an affair as any other in Germany and is sticking close to Pride’s origins.
Christopher Street Day Dresden
Dresden’s CSD originated in 1994 with a few info stands and around 100 attendees on the city’s Altmarkt. 20 years later the crowd was 4.000-strong and the event included a demonstration and a street party.
In the run-up to the big days, smaller parties, events and workshops in line with the changing annual motto and theme are also held. Previous mottos have included, “Warum nicht gleich?” (“Why not now / equal?”) and “Gleiche Liebe, Gleiche Rechte, Gleiche Pflichten” (“Same love, same rights, same duties”).
Christopher Street Day Karlsruhe
Another newbie on the queer scene, CSD Karlsruhe has been going strong since 2011, when Catholic governor and LGBTQ+ campaigner Winfried Kretschmann took over as patron of the event.
AIDS-Hilfe Karlsruhe, The Left Party’s queer group and the Gothic Gays are among the groups which take part in the parade and demonstration day, and anyone can apply to perform on stage as part of the drag, dance and music performance programme.
Christopher Street Day Freiburg
As German cities go Freiburg is pretty small, but with a large student population and a focus on queer emancipation at the heart of its annual demonstration, this Pride event really packs a punch.
The event emphasises its ties to queer feminist politics and like the annual Munich demonstration, CSD Freiburg’s is focused on the shortcomings of queer-exclusionary politics in southern German states.
Expect lots of glitter, minimised doses of pinkwashing and a great after-party!
The Pride flag
2022 marked the first year that the Pride flag flew from the German parliament. The rainbow pride flag is the umbrella flag of the LGBTQ+ community as was designed in 1978 by a group of artists and activists including Gilbert Baker, Lynn Segerblom and James McNamara.
As well as the Gilbert Baker pride flag, there are around 20 further flags which represent more specific groups of the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Bisexual, Transgender and Queer People of Colour Pride Flags.
Whichever demonstration or street party you find yourself at this Pride Month remember, “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going shopping!”
Thumb image credit: Lina Zavgorodnia / Shutterstock.com