In my first year at the Panorama, I watched Max (1992) by Monika Treut. It’s a portrait of an impressive, highly charismatic character who changes from being a lesbian woman to a heterosexual man. Max speaks very openly, yet at the same time self-analytically, about the difficult, expensive and painful process of undergoing a sex change, a process in which you are entirely on your own. It created another of these really strong impressions that we want to screen again.
Were people already aware of these topics, or did they only discover them at the Berlinale?
WS: We knew about them, because we were a part of the subculture at the time. Manfred Salzgeber made them a public topic in his very first year. That was the idea: to really make a point of showing topics that were not yet “suitable” for society. And it’s still something that is possible today, even though everyone now claims to already know everything, thus again suppressing or stifling certain topics. Progress in emancipation entails the danger of falling prey to the illusion that everything has already been achieved. The fact that it’s once again possible to suppress these things is a very curious phenomenon. Homophobia, for example, manifests itself in the West today more in marginalisation than in direct repression.
The Flip Side of Diversity
Yet today, there’s hardly any word more overused than “diversity” and how it can be cultivated and encouraged to grow...
WS: Diversity is something we don’t need to strive for, because it’s already here. When we talk about it, it’s because we are fearful of losing it. And this is something where the baby is sometimes thrown out with the bathwater, if you listen to the discussions and the way these have become professionalised and are threatening to stiffen into a dogma. Because that leads to the loss of diversity. There is always another side to the coin. Among other things, emancipation has given us a right-wing senator for health and an American ambassador by the grace of Trump, who now proudly parades through the Brandenburg Gate with his husband. Ten years ago we were still proud to have an openly gay mayor who did that with state guests. You can’t pick and choose who you take with you on the road to emancipation.