Have you ever accidentally discriminated against someone?

The Paritätische Gesamtverband blogs here

When Peter Hölscher came out, he was twenty years old. He went to his “old lady” and gave her a letter from his love affair with the words: “Here you know.” She only said later: “My God, I can't change that either” and to others: “Have a look first you at home! ". The young man was then allowed to bring his friend home to stay overnight. That was in the seventies. The 67-year-old may have had a harder life overall.

Because for ten years Peter Hölscher has been sitting in a wheelchair after a domestic accident. He fell and was alone in the apartment for seven hours before he was found. After that, the Düsseldorf resident was operated on for six hours. Diagnosis: an incomplete cross-section. “In the beginning nothing worked,” the 67-year-old recalls. He was able to laboriously work his way back up his ability to move in his upper body, his legs remained paralyzed. “As a gay man, I've never met with rejection. I've always found that the more openly I deal with it, the more disarming it is, ”reports Peter Hölscher. It is different with disabilities. Sometimes the man from Düsseldorf has the feeling that he is not really perceived as a person. Some would act like it wasn't quite right in the head either. He was not only talked about once in his presence, as if he were not there. "Can he still walk?" Someone asked his companion. “He can and he can also hear,” answered Peter Hölscher. He feels discriminated against.

"There is still a long way to go"

Multiple discrimination: This is the name of the people who are treated worse because of several incidents in public life. Like Peter, who is both gay and in a wheelchair. "There is a whole lot of discrimination," says Ina Rosenthal from the association "Rad und Tat - Open Initiative of Lesbian Women" (RuT) in Berlin. For some people, discrimination actually increased. Disabled lesbian women are even more affected by discrimination because they are women. The association and the institution of the same name in Berlin Neukölln were founded more than 30 years ago by a group of elderly and disabled lesbian women. You are lobbying, have a visiting service, an infrastructure project and are planning a housing project. As far as equality is concerned, they still have a long way to go, said Ina Rosenthal.

Can't go on stage at the CSD

After his injury, Peter Hölscher also noticed that a lot is not going well: As a gay man with a disability, he does not even take place in the community. Barrier-free local access in the scene is practically non-existent, and at the CSD, the man from Düsseldorf cannot go onto the stage of the closing event. People always say that accessibility costs too much money, but: “It's not that simple,” says the 67-year-old. The gay men’s magazine also shows a typical role model that does not appeal to people with disabilities: “Young, flawless, body-conscious and body-conscious,” says the 67-year-old. “Discrimination against disabled people is particularly pronounced among gays, even if it is unwanted,” says Peter Hölscher with conviction.

The result of a symposium on LGBTIQ people with disabilities in Bielefeld (2019) confirms Peter Hölscher's assumption: In the “queer scene”, discrimination against people with disabilities seems more noticeable than in the general population. That is why RuT also offers an infrastructure project in Berlin. The aim of the project is to sensitize the LGBTIQ * scenes to these exclusions from society and to break down barriers. A lot of lobbying in the queer community is part of it, says employee Ina Rosenthal. Although RuT is a local association, they are asked for help across Germany. “The need is unbelievable.” Peter can confirm that, he does things, goes with the Rose Monday procession, goes to the CSD's closing party, although he has to reckon with difficulties. Others are not so brave.

Would his life have been different?

Perhaps his courage is also a result of his difficult life path: The life event that may have shaped him and his sisters most is the early death of his parents. When the native of Lippstadt was nine, his father died of a heart attack. Three quarters of a year later, his mother died of an inoperable brain tumor. “For a long time I blamed my fate on my father to a certain extent,” remembers Peter Hölscher - because his father had children in old age. Today he doesn't quarrel with his fate. "If my father had known that I was gay, my life would have taken a completely different course," says the 67-year-old. The man from Düsseldorf is a positive person who loves life. Live and let live, in this point he was particularly influenced by “his old lady”, an aunt who took the children with her husband.

After all, the man from Düsseldorf has found meaning in his fate: Peter is on the board of the gay network NRW, member of the round table, in the forum of the equal opportunities committee of the city of Düsseldorf and board member of the association queer handicap. His voluntary work is currently focused on the LSBTIQ * project with disabilities funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the specialist day with forum and benefit gala that will take place in November 2020.

A lot is happening: The members of queerhandicap are also building a nationwide network and creating the infrastructure for local groups. "So that the problem becomes visible, people come out of isolation," says Peter Hölscher. In addition, a nationwide study on the living situation and challenges for queer people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, psychological and other impairments in outpatient or inpatient care started in Bielefeld in February. So that needs can be identified and situations can be improved. Peter already knows: "There will certainly be a need for change."

This is also confirmed by Ina Rosenthal from RuT: LSBITQ people with disabilities need their own safe rooms. This is one of the reasons why the Berlin association wants to implement a housing project. Lesbian women with and without disabilities between the ages of 70 and 90 can live together without having to hide. For many it would be the first time. The Berliner knows a couple who have lived together for 50 years without ever having come out. This is the generation of wartime children who were extremely discriminated against. Generations come together in the homes for whom homosexuality is not tolerated. People also need an opportunity to spend their retirement in the best possible way. “It's also about sharing experience”, which is very important, especially for people with dementia.

Peter Hölscher looks into the past: He kept coming up with the idea of ​​starting a different life. The Westphalian thought about marrying his childhood friend of many years or was once about to go to the seminary. But then the voice of his old lady resounded in him, which has become his own: "Well, you have to know that yourself, but I doubt whether you will be happy with it," she said in such situations. Peter knew he wasn't going to do it like that.


Annabell Fugmann

The article first appeared in the association magazine Der Paritätische, edition 3/20.