Our lives before living in Berlin were different in many ways: we didn’t have a home base, our routine was much less fixed and we didn’t have a steady group of friends. After making the decision to move here in 2014, we quickly learned just how queer Berlin was, and soon found our place in that community.
For me, my life was noticeably less gay before moving to Berlin. I have been openly gay since I was about 13 and of course being in a relationship with Zab for the last 11 years, it’s not something that has ever been hidden, but being gay was not really part of my identity or have much impact on the ways in which I’d spend my time.
Now, basically all my friends in Berlin are queer in one way or another. Growing up and in early adulthood, I had a few lesbian friends, but never any gay guy friends, but now the majority all the people I hang out with regularly in Berlin are foreign gays like me. Also, many of the events, parties and social activities we take part in are organised and frequented by fellow queers.
I’m really very happy about just how gay my life has become. If you know me well, it may not be obvious, but I now realised that I certainly used to have some internalised homophobia. I have now stripped any last remnant of that away and am embracing fabulousness, partly in thanks to the wonderful people I’ve got to know in Berlin and who I’ve been able to celebrate my queerness with.
So, as a peek into our gay lives in Berlin, here are some of my and Zab’s favourite queer events, shops, spaces and things to do in the city.
This was one of the first events we attended here in Berlin, and through it we made some good friends. Originally organised by our friend Nicole, it takes place roughly every other week in a bar in Neukölln, occasionally changing location.
It’s always a mix of people living here (German or not) and people passing through interested in meeting up with fellow queers in Berlin. The atmosphere is inclusive and welcoming, and makes it relatively easy to meet people in a low-key setting.
Usually happening on the last Sunday of the month, this group puts on a screening of two queer or queer-adjacent films with a common theme at Tristeza in Neukölln. Films range from Hitchcock classics to small modern indie productions, and are usually in English without subtitles.
There’s a brief introduction, and then the two films are played with a short break in between to get more drinks or snacks from the bar if you wish. Donations are welcome, but there is no set entry fee.
Mongay at Kino International
Every other Monday evening, there’s a new gay film shown at this striking DDR-era cinema along Karl-Marx Alee, the grand boulevard of former East Berlin. The auditorium itself is worth coming to visit and the atmosphere at the event is convivial and friendly despite it being so huge. Seating is not assigned, so come early to get a good spot.
Dragoholic at Silver Future
This cosy queer bar in Neukölln host many and various events, but by far my favourite is the monthly Dragoholic show, hosted by local drag queen, Judy LaDivina, every fourth Sunday of the month at 7pm. Judy shares stories from her questionable past, interweaving stand up and musical extravaganza, lip-syncs in just about any language you can name and hosts queens to perform who've never been on stage at Silver Future before.
She also does important work teaching the children from the Dictionary of Drag and entices audience members onto stage to lip-sync for their lives! It's a fun, bawdy and riotous show where you're bound to make friends, perfect for lifting your mood and restoring your faith in humanity after a long week!
Taking place usually on the last Tuesday of the month, this delightful little event takes place in a second hand English language bookshop called Another Country in Kreuzberg. From around 8pm, there is a buffet dinner in the basement for €6 with some vegan options (just how much changes each time), then there is a mad shuffle of tables and chairs and the tiny space is transformed into an informal stage and audience area.
Anyone can share something, just let the hosts, Finn and Jane know beforehand. Typically, people read stories, either their own works or others they admire, ranging from the profound to the absurd, tell true stories, read poetry or play music. It makes for a wonderfully intimate evening and is a good place to meet nerdy queers (the best kind).
This queer, vegan, eco-friendly, feminist sex shop is everything you probably do not expect from a sex shop. “Bring your mum”, proclaims their site. Indeed, it’s a delightfully welcoming and well-lit environment, featuring a nice range of sex toys including butt plugs, dildos, strap-ons, lubes, restraints and (non-leather) whips.
There’s a dedicated book section at the back of the shop, where you can also sit down and enjoy some complimentary tea. Books include history, manuals, comic books, porn, poetry and magazines. There are no toys for sale specifically for use with penises (so no cock rings, cock cages or fleshlights, for example), but staff are open, helpful and non-intimidating and will answer any of your stupid questions without judgement.
This monthly event, hosted by drag queen Pansy, is based on a similar event from London and aims to provide a judgement free space for people to talk openly about their experiences with sex and drugs in Berlin. The crowd is almost entirely cis male, and it is presented in both English and German.
If you wish to speak, you can tell an organiser at the beginning, or if there is space and you are suddenly inspired, they are flexible enough to let you jump up in the middle and talk. I’ve heard people talk about their fondness for cruising in parks, the difference between having sex sober and high or drunk, the use of drugs in the party scene and experiences with HIV and negotiating safer sex.
FKK in Hasenheide
In case you didn’t know, FKK stands for Freie Körper Kultur, literally “free body culture”, and basically means nudism. It’s a common concept in Germany and Austria, and there are often designated places in nature where you can sunbathe, swim or socialise naked.
In Volkspark Hasenheide there is a small FKK section near the southwest corner, which happens to be very gay. On hot, summer days, it’s packed with naked guys of all shapes and sizes letting it all hang out. Take a blanket, a book and some sunscreen, lay out and flirt with some naked gays. If it’s your thing, the bushes behind the FKK area are also a popular cruising area.
Taking place roughly every three months on the last Sunday of the month at Schwuz, one of the most famous gay clubs in Berlin, this is a naked party where you go to dance in the buff to German Schlager music. The crowd is almost entirely cis men, but it is open to everyone. Upon entry, you undress (while keeping shoes and socks on) and you are given a large plastic bag to put all your clothes and belongings in and a wristband with a number that drinks are charged to, which you pay for when you leave.
The atmosphere is fun and playful, and once you get used to the absurdity of dancing naked to supremely cheesy music, it’s actually quite freeing! It starts early (8pm) and definitely becomes sexual after a couple of hours. There is an improvised dark room in one corner, but you’ll likely see people having sex in all parts of the club. At midnight, the DJ plays Moskau, and everyone dances in circles, singing along. After that, the music changes and any lingering inhibitions melt away.
Possibly the nicest gay sauna in Berlin, Boiler offers a clean, modern, spacious, sauna experience with two dry saunas, a steam room, jacuzzi, areas with screens showing porn and several private cabins of various sizes and with different equipment, such as slings or chains. There’s also a pleasant bar and restaurant upstairs as well as a quiet room for taking a nap or just escaping from the heat downstairs.
There is two for one entry on Mondays, and it’s free if you come on your birthday and can prove it. The guys who tend to visit are pretty mixed, though they skew somewhat younger and musclier than the average crowd. You get a towel with entry and pay your bar tab when you leave. Condoms are freely available.
For a non-gay sauna experience in Berlin, check out Vabali.
What are you waiting for? Come and join us in Berlin for a queer old time!