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Zurich Pride and Discovering Switzerland’s LGBT Culture

Wednesday Jun 4, 2014
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  (Source:myswitzerland.com)

Over the last few decades, the tolerant, liberal-minded city of Zurich has become home to a lively LGBT scene. Within the realm of late-night bars and clubs ‒- the largest and most vibrant assortment in Switzerland ‒- countless party labels and establishments create a nightlife that is more colorful than a rainbow. Homosexuality is not just addressed out in the open on the street, but also in the form of special libraries and colorful events, first and foremost the Zurich Pride Festival.

Situated on the shore of Lake Zurich, near Bürkliplatz, the sculpture"Ganymede", portraying a young man and an eagle, is a lasting monument to the homosexuality of the ancient world. According to Greek mythology, Zeus took on the form of an eagle and abducted the handsome youth, Ganymede, to the top of Mount Olympus, where he took him as his lover.

As early as the end of the 1920s, Swiss legislators debated the decriminalization of homosexual acts between adults; following the referendum in 1938, this became firmly anchored in the Swiss Civil Code with effect from 1942. Consequently, at the time of the Second World War, Switzerland had one of the most progressive laws in Europe as regards gay and lesbian rights.

In the 1990s, the German AIDS Foundation, in collaboration with artist Tom Fecht, implemented the project, "Denkraum: Namen und Steine" (Place of reflection: names and stones) in Zurich. This project commemorated the numerous AIDS victims, many of whom were homosexuals, by inscribing the names of the deceased in the paving stones in front of the Fraumünster church. Registered partnerships have been recognized here since 2007, granting same-sex couples virtually the same rights as married couples. In addition, in 2009, Corine Mauch was the first openly gay person in Swiss history to be elected mayor, and still holds the position of Mayor of Zurich today.


During the Second World War, the events in the rest of Europe led to Zurich’s rise in importance as a gay capital. And from the beginning of the 20th century, human rights movements started to be formed, which fought for the rights of LGTB people. One of the most important of these was "Der Kreis" (The Circle), which had developed from the Damen-Club Amicitia, a ladies’ club founded in Zurich.

As the first ever organization for gays and lesbians, it influenced and inspired the entire Western world between 1943 and 1967. From 1948 to 1960, its club venue, Eintracht, was located on the site of the present-day Theater am Neumarkt. After the organization was disbanded, some of the members founded Club 68, which later evolved into the Swiss Organization of Homophiles (SOH).

In 1978, together with two other interest groups, the SOH organized the first Christopher Street Day in Switzerland at Zurich’s Platzspitz. All three institutions subsequently merged to become the present-day umbrella association, Pink Cross, which together with the Lesbian Organization Switzerland (LOS) continues to actively promote gay rights. In 2014, the history of the Swiss gay organizations is to be filmed. The movie, "Der Kreis", will be shown as a Swiss contribution at the 65th Berlinale Film Festival.


Zurich has countless bars and meeting places for people of the same sexual orientation; the Niederdorf quarter, in particular, is regarded as the center of the LGBT community. Hanging above the entrance of the Barfüsser -- the oldest gay bar in Europe -- is a rainbow flag, but these days the clientele here is mixed. The modern-style bar and lounge are renowned for their sophisticated cocktail list and delicious sushi.

The Predigerhof bar-bistro can look back on a long tradition in the gay scene and opens its doors to a liberal-minded public 365 days a year. In Petra’s Tip Top Bar, men can enjoy a sophisticated evening to the sounds of hit music, while the disco-bar, Les Garçons, which opened at the end of 2013, is distinguished by its 1920s-style art deco interior and the huge model railway suspended over the heads of the bar staff.

Since opening in 1997, the Cranberry Bar has become something of an institution among Zurich’s gay community -- thanks, among other things, to its fantastic cocktails. Other favorite venues are the Dynasty Club and the Magnus Bar. Every Wednesday, the Provitreff in Zurich-West organizes the Heldenbar (Hero Bar) for a "queer, gay, lesbian, bi and hetero" public. In addition, the women’s group, Lakritze (Licorice), meets once a month at the Xenix movie theater.

In the early 1990s, a specialized party scene started to develop, beginning with the Gay Night Company in Zurich’s industrial quarter. Nowadays, Zurich’s nightlife offers the LGBT community a
broad and varied bouquet of clubs and parties. In March 2013, the Heaven Club, in the heart of the Niederdorf, succeeded the renowned club, T&M. The club owners ensure a good mix -- in terms of both guests and music.

In addition, various party labels in changing locations guarantee a lively ambiance -- such as the Offstream Party with rock and alternative music, which has been regularly held in Zurich for the last 10 years. Having run for 25 years, Tanzleila is the oldest series of parties in the city of Zurich, and is still a guarantee for a great women-only night out, offering a musical journey from disco fox to pop, right through to techno beats.

Also particularly popular are the events staged by the largest gay party organizers, Angels. They include the Kitsch Party, featuring bizarre decorations, and the White Party, where guests are required to wear white. The parties staged by Player Z are also geared towards a gay public. Aviator parties take ravers on a journey to an exotic destination, while twice a year the internationally renowned, colorful WE Party comes to Zurich, attracting up to 1,000 guests.

Other party labels, such as Wonderworld, Jack Party and Boyakasha Events regularly succeed in firing up their audiences. Night owls who prefer things a little quieter can opt for the Come Together Party 30+ at the Marquee Club or the Equality Dance pair dancing evening at the time2dance dance school. Somewhat more out-of-the-ordinary is the Gay Cruise on Lake Zurich, complete with dinner and DJ, which is held twice a year.

Since 1994, Christopher Street Day has been regularly celebrated in Zurich. After hosting Europride in 2009, Zurich decided to organize a Zurich Pride Festival every year. The three-day program features an opening and closing party, bars and food stands at the festival site, a series of concerts and shows, various parties, conferences on specific themes, and a parade through the inner city. Up to 3,000 people take part in the Festival every year, demonstrating for civil rights and against the discrimination of gays and lesbians.

Resources

Zurich Pride

Pink Apple Film Festival

General Information - zuerich.com


This article is part of our "Summer 2014" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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