Sociohistorical project
Kevin from Germany
Kevin, Berlin
39 years old
Okay, all right, I am recording. First of all, could you introduce yourself? Name, age, job and also sexual orientation.

What? You want to know something like this? (Laughter)

Exactly, I want to know everything about you. (Laughter)

You want to know everything…. I'm Kevin, I'm 39 years old, I'm a general practitioner, and I'm gay... Always been.

Okay. Would you briefly describe your family and geographic background? The parental home, the religion, the place of origin of your growing up.

I come from a small town in Saxony-Anhalt called Aken. When I was a child, there were around 12,000 inhabitants, now there are only 8,000. I grew up in a well-protected home with a brother who is three years older than me. My parents are still my parents, they are still married. There has never been any stress. Everything was always very familiar and happy.

Did religion play a role in your family?

Oh... no. I come from the East of Germany. I was born in 1980 and the East wasn't that religious. That was what the system wanted. And therefore my parents are not religious, and I was never baptized and I have no connection with the church at all.

Would you briefly describe the social situation of LGBT+ people in the context of your growing up?

At some point you notice that you are more into men than women. I think it started with me, when I was 13 or 14, you can't remember it, you're too young. But there were also the TV channel Sat.1, where you can see always so dirty sex films. I was always annoyed that only the naked women could be seen and not the men. Those were the first points where today, when I think about it, I think yes, somehow there was something. I was more interested in the man. But it took a long time until I somehow saw it for myself. Then I know that two years before that, someone above me in school was gay, and he was always bullied by other pupils and I then dutifully participated, to protect myself. I would do everything differently today. It was like that back then. It was the middle of the 90s. Then I had a girlfriend when I was 16, because you had to have a girlfriend in puberty. And at some point when she was 19, she broke up with me. Sex was never a big issue. She didn't want to and it didn't bother me. And when she broke up with me, I somehow started, like that ... that was difficult in the village back then. There was no WhatsApp, there was no Snapchat. There was no Insta (Instagram), there were just a few cell phones where you could write SMS with 160 letters, and the first cell phone, I got when I was 18 or 19. And then I started reading and writing lonely hearts ads. And then I met an idiot from today's point of view. But the one I fell in love with, as it is when that is the first man. And then it started like this….
Did you just talk about your current husband, the one from the ad?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, my current husband, wasn't my first partner after all. Back then I already met a guy who I fell in love with the time, but he screwed me from front to back. I noticed that relatively quickly, but of course at first I didn't want to admit it.

All right, I asked, only just to clarify, who exactly did what in your life.

Yeah, right, no, jesus. (Laughter)

Exactly, back to your childhood: How did your personal realization process with regard to your sexuality, i.e. your internal coming out, go? There is the external coming-out, i.e. with family and friends, and the internal coming-out, i.e. in front of yourself?

Yes, I don't think you can really describe that at all. I think I realized relatively quickly that I was more interested in men's bodies than women's bodies. But I successfully suppressed that until my eighteenth birthday. I liked my girlfriend too, but I just liked her.

So there was no internal conflict or a certain fear?

Well that has developed. That already existed. So, as long as I was with my girlfriend, it was in the background. So when I've been horny in any way, I've been more focused on men than women. But that was in the background. Only when we broke up, I had a free game, because I was a loyal soul. I noticed, somehow, that I don't want it, I want rather a man, that was a conflict for me because I couldn't and didn't really want to say it.

And how did your external coming out go? Coming out in front of family and friends?

Yes, that happened when I had my first boyfriend. You don't want to secretly meet every time and hide with him. And then I ... the first step I took was with my best female friend from kindergarten on... to say: Hey, let's meet, I have to tell you something. And I sat down with her and told her that. It wasn't a problem for her at all. She was totally okay with that. We are close friends to this day. I think she encouraged me to tell my parents and then, by the way, I told my parents or more precisely my mother, my mother than told it my father. And that was hell on earth then. Mama cried every day for what felt like three months when she saw me and my papa hadn't spoken to me anymore.
What was that time? Did you work or study at the time of your external coming out?

I was just doing community service, I was in the nursing home and it was shortly before I left home because I had to go to Darmstadt for apprenticeship.

Did moving out of your parents' house represent a turning point in your personal development in relation to your homosexuality? If so, to what extent?

The move out from home, that was certain, that was independent of this coming out, that is, that I went to Darmstadt to do an apprenticeship, that was certain. But it helped me. It helped me a lot because I got some distance from my, my village environment. In the meantime I also had my second boyfriend. As I said, I knew that the first kidding me and the second was, then my age too and that was a very personable and dear one, whom my parents got to know once. And that came from Berlin too. And then I bought such an educational book for parents here in Berlin. I put it on my mom's table and then said: either you read it or you don't. And then the day came when I moved to Darmstadt. And then my parents also rethought. So my mother read the book. That helped her to understand incredibly, the book was called: "Why my child?" And that helped to understand what was actually going on, and that I am not the type who now has AIDS, who goes on the streets and prostitutes, who takes drugs and totally crashes, that I could not choose, that I'm in love with a man. And then my papa understood that too. And then it came closer again, and we developed enormously. And the family relationship is better than ever. Interesting is, that my grandma in the village, the 82 year old grandma, who said just from the beginning: "It doesn't matter, my boy. Bring your friend, I'll make you something to eat." (Laughter)

(Laughter) Okay, that's interesting. That worked immediately with your grandma. With your mother it took a while …

Yes, that was a moment of shock, you were just shocked.

And how exactly did it go with your father? Did it take even more time with your father?

Well, mom had influence on him. She said: Hey, this is your child and blablabla. And then he did ... My dad was never the type of guy who talked or talks about feelings or anything. He's doing that now. That has really changed. He is now much more emotional. Well, he was always the sweet dad and cuddled and hugged and played, but he never expressed feelings like that. He can do that much better now than he did then.
Do you think that might have something to do with your outing?

No, that's more the gentleness of age or the age sensitivity, I put it that way.

Did your sexual orientation have an impact on your choice of study or profession?

No, no it didn't. Well, originally I wanted to be a teacher too. (Laughter) At some point I rejected that. I actually did the apprenticeship because after graduating from high school I didn't know what I wanted to do and that was kind of laboratory work. And over time the thought has come that this is not enough for me and that I want to do something with people. I always knew that. And the laboratory, all this anatomy and biochemistry, everything I've learned, I found that exciting. Then I also thought: That's medicine. It was never like that as a child I said I wanted to be a doctor. How? I came from a working class family or I come from a working class family. I'm the first in the family to go to college and probably the only one. It was a process … But my sexual orientation, no.

How did you deal with sexuality in your professional life? What is your experience in this regard? So the connection between your job and sexuality.

Well, inasmuch as I was looking for a student job as part of my studies. And what could be more natural for a young gay student than to read the Siegessäule to see all the job advertisements. In this context, I also came across an HIV-focused surgery and applied for it. Yes, I have always been cautious about HIV because I was always scared. But I never really looked at it. And then I applied and became a study nurse, so to speak, and then the career path was HIV, the subject of HIV, the subject of venereal diseases, the subject of homosexuality and then it became much more present for me, and then I got stuck there. I think I would combine that with my sexuality in such a way that I threw myself into focus on HIV and STDs and all in all focused on health.
Have you always been openly gay when dealing with employees? Were you outed openly, or did it happen later?

That's always difficult in your study-time. Well, among the students, I never made a secret of it, and never was. That was always accepted. I was never bullied by any fellow students during my studies because I was gay. And since I had to do a thousand internships during my studies and always in different clinics, always on different wards, there were always times when I didn't walk in and said: Hey, I'm Kevin and I'm gay, but : I'm Kevin and I'm a medical student. And then first see what happens when someone asked me: Do you have a girlfriend? Then I said: Nope. So and when you then, when you got used to the ward, and often I ... mostly I was never the only gay person on the ward. Caregivers are often gay. And the gay-radar worked, because you knew you were on the same wavelength. And that was always clear relatively quickly. Never, never, anywhere, I had any bad experiences. I was always, always ... I can really say that. It was always a nice atmosphere. I've always been popular. I still notice that today, when I return to some clinics or call them. Some of them can still remember me, even though it was somehow 10 years ago and are happy to hear from me. So I haven't hidden it.

So there weren't any big changes? Have you always been able to work in an open environment from the beginning until today?

Always... I can really say that. I've always been around where I've never faced homophobia or anything like that. My friends or in the work environment, I really never had anything like that. But in my younger years I was more defensive about it. You know? I always let it come that way, and when someone asked, I answered. Today I would say yes, I'm gay and are there any problems? Well, I would be a lot more offensive today because I just think that no one justifies being straight. So I don't have to justify myself for living with a man. So I've always done well so far. If you don't like it or if, for example, someone comes into my surgery, who doesn't like the fact that I'm gay, then please, there is the door, I don't force anyone to sit in front of me ... They can all go.

How would you rate the medical education or health care for LGBTQI * people in Germany? Where do you see problems? Are there stigmatizations towards homosexual patients, are there barriers in the health care system for homosexual people.

I think you have to look at it very differently. So, on the one hand, it selects where a patient goes and where he trusts and with whom he talks about what. I would say that for the big city. In Berlin, gay men usually go to a specialized surgery or to a gay doctor or a homophile doctor. So I don't think that's a big problem in the big city. It is another thing, I think, in the suburbs and often in the small towns and in the rural areas because people don't have that much choice. They have to take what is there. Unless you have a car and drive to the next larger city where there is some surgeries with medical specialisations. And I think the stigmatization is relatively large. So I know that from a friend. He was once lying near our hometown in the hospital with an epididymis inflammation and they asked him if he was gay and he said: Yes. And then they said: yes, we'll do an HIV test right away. So of course, that was legitimate. If a young man has inflammation in the adjoining room, an HIV test should be done, yes. And then, unfortunately, it was also positive. But they were right, they had the right nose, but they communicated it wrong. I think that's exactly what will happen in Berlin. I often experience that with my HIV patients that e.g. at the dentist or dermatologist, where my patients should have an operation, that they were kicked out because they were positive and the doctors did not want to treat the patients.
Is this still happening today?

Less now, but three, four, five years ago I saw it, and the patients sometimes sat crying in front of me, but then I immediately act, so I pick up the phone and call the surgery . Then I do educational work as far as I can and say: My HIV patient is no problem at all for you. But this affects more HIV patients than LGBT patients. That gay patients are discriminated in other surgeries, I have not experienced that, I have to say. But I can well imagine that in rural regions or something like that, here in Marzahn or Neukölln it's also a bit difficult because of the cultural background. There will certainly be.

Exactly. We are of course privileged in Berlin. Interestingly enough, the phenomenon can also be seen very clearly in other countries.

I think, I think, even in Istanbul you don't have as many problems as in other parts of Turkey. I think Istanbul is actually much more open to the world and more tolerant than we all think and it is not that classic Turkish image. Although I was never there. That's what I hear from stories. But I don't think that's like when I'm in the worst corner of Neukölln. I also believe in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, that is somehow a completely different world from the rest of Russia.

I can imagine that from a Russian perspective it could be very exciting to hear that there are still problems in the health system with stigmatization in many parts of Germany.

I think that's really the picture that is influenced by the fact, that we just live in the big city. It's all quite normal for us. We see men holding hands, women holding hands or we see trans-identical people. I mean, none of this is a problem for us, for us now, for us, both of us too. But when a trans person sits in front of me now, I'm always so insecure. How do I address the person now? I read a male name on the computer and a woman is sitting in front of me, and a male name is still on the ID card. And these people are quickly offended if you address them incorrectly because they have experienced a lot of stigmatization and rejection, I can totally comprehend that. But in the meantime I've found the way for myself to address it directly. I say: well, I see a male name and in front of me there is a woman from my point of view. How would you like to be addressed? Or what's the plan? What happens where, in what phase of treatment, transformations whatever. No transformation is not right, gender reassignment is right. I ask that very openly and I actually drive quite well with it, although I'm always unsure about it. And if I, as someone who has zero fear of contact and who deals with it and also thinks that's completely okay, because it's just part of human life. If I'm already unsure, how should someone feel who is not concerned with it or for whom it is totally alien, that suddenly a woman with a penis stands in front of him or a man with breasts? I believe that for many people this is simply intellectual and not comprehensible either. And that's why it's alien to them. It creates insecurity, insecurity creates fear and fear creates hate. And then you have this spiral, which I find very bad. And you have to work against it and therefore keep arguing, saying: Nobody judges you based on your behavior. Nobody tells you either, you are not allowed to be Hartz IV now and you are not allowed to smoke now, and you are not allowed to drink now, that belongs to every personality.
Right. You said that you also have transgender patients?

Not much, not much.

I don't know how much you talk about personal problems with your transgender patients, including topics like transphobia for example. If so, would they describe completely different problems and experience other problems or stigmatizations in everyday life, for example also in healthcare?

So ... they don't portray it. I just don't have enough to do with transgender patients. If I say little ... Right now I have only one transgender patient. And I know three transgender people. So that's really not much. There are other specialized surgeries in Berlin, which I send to when it comes to hormone treatment, for example, because I simply don't know enough about it. I don't want to treat medically wrong, so I'd rather send them to a professional. But if they are with me as a general practitioner and want normal treatments, then everyone is very welcome. And that's why they're allowed to come to me. But with the patient, who is coming to my surgery, I am not yet ready to have somehow talked about whether she has any problems in the social environment. But she seems very self-confident in her feminine demeanor, I have to say. But I can quite well imagine, and I think it's a harsh reality, that people experience a lot of stigma and discrimination.

Interesting. You said earlier that you experienced very little or any discrimination. Nevertheless, I would like to ask again, using a few specific examples, whether you may have felt discriminated by the state in your private life because of your sexuality, for example through legal regulations on marriage or adoption rights?

Getting married, definitely. When Andy and I got married, we weren't allowed to get married yet. We have only become partners. And when they say in the registry office, life partner 1 and life partner 2 ... I thought, I already thought ... Well, I could handle it because I knew it would be like that. But I thought that was stupid because … we did it for us ... emotionally we got married, period. And these hurdles that you only get a partnership book and not a family book. And these little things, I found them discriminatory. That has now, thank God, been adjusted and the adoption right is the same, although at the moment I would never use it for myself because it simply do not fit into my lifestyle to adopt a child now. But to have the chance to be allowed to do so, I find that is discrimination and completely inadequate, because I look at how some children grow up, I would rather wish them two fathers or two mothers than a drunk father and a drug Mother, to express it very hard and clearly now. Certainly they can get their lives under control again, and the child can normally grow up, but what you look at sometimes is tough stuff. Or donating blood, you are not allowed to donate blood, that is absolutely absurd. Of course that is due to the HIV epidemic in the 80s, no question about it. But HIV is no longer what it used to be. And people protect themselves too. For example, you take PREP today. The number of infections is low and to say that a gay man is not allowed to have sex for 12 months to be allowed to donate blood as a rule and law ... Yes, thank you for all the heterosexuals, who jump around in brothels and swinger clubs and elsewhere or sleep with another person every day, thanks Tinder. Their risk ... It is much lower because the HIV contamination in the heterosexual world is not as big as in the gay world. But of course they also have a risk of hepatitis or sexually transmitted diseases. I also find that pretty discriminatory.

Absolutely understandable. What were social milestones for you in your personal development with regard to sexual orientation? What is such a big thing in the last decades of social development where you would say: Yes, now society is really changing in the better direction.

There is actually... I didn't notice Paragraph 175, I was a child. That's why it doesn't matter to me in my head, because I'm always happy for those who have been affected. Otherwise actually only 2000-, I don't know, was it -4 or -6 … the law change about the civil partnership. That was a milestone. It wasn't an issue for me then. And then in 2017 the opening of marriage. I also found that good, that „Mutti" (chancellor Merkel) practically played her trump card, that she did not clearly admit, but waved through. That was a good thing.
Has the social change towards homosexuality had any personal effects on you or on how you deal with yourself in your private and professional life in relation to your sexual orientation?

I think I can't answer the question very well because I never, because I never had to live with aversion and stigma. Nothing has changed in my social environment. Because for them it has always been: love is love, and human is human. In my private as well as in my professional environment, that was never an issue. Everyone can do what they want, was always standard. That's why nothing really changed for me. I think if I had grown up in a different environment, the steps would have been more meaningful. But for me it was a fluid process.

Understandable. How specifically do you think you, as a doctor, are contributing to the equal treatment of LGBTQI * people in Germany?

(Laughter) Of course I'm the hero in this field. No, I think that everyone has a life worth living, everyone equally. And everyone is treated equally, no matter what problems or what sexuality, religion, color, whatever which ... diversity. It's just a variety, which is defining us. It just doesn't matter to me. I see a person in front of me who needs help. And he gets it. But if I notice that a person is crossing borders and restricting the freedom of others, then I say something. I use my position as a doctor and as a bit of an authority figure and try to intervene. I have no example specifically for LGBT, but I have an older gay man who has a problem with our junkies in our surgery. I intervene because his freedom ends where he restricts the freedom of others. Point. He doesn't have to cuddle with them. He doesn't have to sit on their lap with them either. But he has to accept them, as a patient and above all as a person who seeks help in my surgery. And then I intervene very strongly. I definitely say: if you don't like this, then you have to look for a surgery, where this is not the case. That sets a very clear edge, and I am also very clear in the definition of what I allow in my rooms. This is my kingdom, I have built it.

Does it often happen that patients complain to you in your surgery about the diversity of patients?

No. They are patients, they are selected. Patients who come to me would definitely not go to other doctors. And these ones, who go to others, would never come to me, because my type is just too different and also from the environment, from the clientele, that really selects itself out. That is quite amazing. I never believed that before, but in the old surgery there was still a certain clientele of patients, I knew exactly that they would go to one colleague and no other. That was very clear. You already knew from seeing that they were going to this specific doctor. And I think that's how we select it out too. That's why something like this happens, no question, but they'll never come back, that's why you didn't have this problem.

Very interesting. Okay, then we're almost at the end. I only have one question left and that is usually my favorite question: Do you have any advices for queer young people in Germany with regard to your personal life story?

The problem is that I'm quite old when it comes to gay life. And the time when I had to admit my homosexuality was completely different, 20 years have passed. At that time there aren´t any cell phones, a face-time conversation like the one we have, for God's sake, video telephony, I didn't even know that. Nowadays you can get and send dirty things with your cell phone. So the approaches to communication and for sexuality have become completely different. I mean, there used to be no internet with any porn sites, that's what young people use today at 14. So and that's why so much has changed. Here in Germany in big cities it is no longer a problem to say: hey, I'm gay or I'm lesbian. No, even in front of the family ... they live in the country and their girl is 15 and can say: No, I'm a boy now! And that is ... For the fact that it is a rural region, in your circle of friends, as far as I can tell, no problem at all. So I think the generation that is now in puberty or around 18, 19 no longer see this as a problem as much as we may have seen it or as the older generation may see, here in Germany and in certain regions. In the dark brown Saxony that is something else. But apart from that I can only say to everyone that it makes sense to be authentic, it just doesn't make any sense to lie to yourself because you are unhappy with it, because then you simply cannot live your life like that and you will never experience satisfaction, because you always have to hide something, always have to pretend somehow. It makes sense to talk to family members about it with people you trust and to know that you have a certain basis. I think that doesn't always work, but there is someone you can trust in the environment, otherwise it won't work. And for very desperate people, who of course there will be in youth, because you are simply not at peace with yourself.
Do you know what is much worse? It is much more problematic for trans-ident people, for whom there is an even stronger conflict with themselves. I can really only say that there is always a way out of this, trough therapy or youth groups and so one, whatever. But suicide is never the way out. Never. And here we have to encourage young people to stand by themselves, to communicate that and even if there will be setback, always: get up, straighten the crown, move on ...

Thank you very much, that is a simple and beautiful final sentence. The subject of suicide is a very terrible but also an important one. Unfortunately, in Russia this is a big problem among LGBTQI * youth, especially trans-youth.

Yes, it makes sense that this is an even bigger topic. We only get what is presented in the media. I don't even know what the reality is like in Russia. But, if that's really what I'm getting conveyed and these propaganda laws ... and when you see these people being mistreated on street demos, then I can very well imagine that you feel very bad and like a monster when you are now suddenly feels that there is something different in me. And if you then … also the stories about Chechnya, if everything is so true with the persecution ... If you then grow up in a family like that, where you know that you will be killed by the family if you say so. Well then in many cases suicide is the solution for many people. But it just isn't. Out of my sight. Of course I can understand people, but I think there is always another way.

I understand. Thank you. We have reached the end. I will stop recording at this point.

Interviewed by Alexander Charkov
September 2020