Gays and Fascists

I noticed this morning that some fool who celebrates the Nazis followed me on Twitter overnight. My first reaction was just to block him, but then I changed my mind and decided to educate him a little bit about why gay men shouldn’t be worshipping fascists. So this post is for you, “Heinrich”. I hope you enjoy it.

When Hitler began his rise to power he formed a paramilitary unit known at the Sturmabteilung, the ‘Storm Detachment’, which was basically the inspiration for the Proud Boys. The SA was a basically a bunch of disaffected young men who were unemployed or former soldiers, literal losers who felt humiliated by Germany’s loss in WWI and their own inability to support themselves in post-war Germany’s disastrous economy. Hitler’s group gave them a sense of purpose and restored masculinity by putting them in cute brown uniforms, having them march around, and telling them that they belonged to a ‘Master Race’ of supposedly genetically superior people who should have won the war but didn’t because the Jews had outfoxed them.

So the SA did what Proud Boys do. They caused trouble at political rallies, beat up Jews and Communists and others that their Führer told them to hate, and generally made people too scared to oppose the Nazis. Ultimately they turned into a group of around 3 million men under the leader of Ernst Röhm, large enough that in 1933, when the Nazis ‘won’ the only election they ever won (they had a plurality but not a majority of the votes), Röhm proposed absorbing the German military into the SA.

But Hitler and his generals were uncomfortable with this and eventually they decided that the SA was a problem. So they arrested the SA leadership, including Röhm and executed about 200 of them in an incident known as the Night of the Long Knives. To justify this rather shocking turn of events, Hitler revealed that Röhm and a number of the other men executed were homosexuals and it was necessary to purge the SA to prevent homosexuality from becoming established in the Third Reich. This led to a myth that the SA had been a hotbed of homosexuality, but that’s probably wildly exaggerated.

But it’s a good lead-in to the fact that fascists of all stripes are anti-homosexual and have to be, because homosexuality defies the gender assumptions that fascism is rooted in. In Nazi ideology, there is a very simple but very powerful heterosexual gender binary. Men are expected to be strong, aggressive, dominant commanders and women are expected to be attractive, yielding, submissive followers. Together this complimentarian couple procreates and creates genetically pure offspring who carry on the superior qualities of the Master Race. There is no room for men to be anything other than procreative heterosexuals who only have sex with women. The idea that men could have sex with other men collapses this arrangement and reveals it to be not genetic destiny but rather a social fiction.

The homosexuality of Röhm and some of his inner circle had become quite well-known by 1933. Hitler was well-aware of it, and in fact he and Röhm were quite good friends; Röhm was one of the few members of the Nazi party permitted to use ‘du’, the familiar form of ‘you’ in German that conveys a sense of intimate friendship, with Hitler and was permitted to call Hitler ‘Adi’ instead of Adolf. Leftists and Communists had been using Röhm’s homosexuality in anti-Nazi propaganda; they had started showing up at Nazi rallies and basically shouting ‘Heil Faggot!’ at Röhm. So once the cat was out of the bag and rumors were beginning to circulate that maybe Röhm wasn’t the only important Nazi who liked butt-fucking, Hitler decided to disband the SA, execute about 200 people, and force Röhm to commit suicide.

And this was not the only attack the Nazis made on homosexuality. Berlin in the 1920s had become a center of homosexual culture. While it wasn’t exactly open homosexuality in the streets, the police tolerated homosexuality even though it was against the law. There was a network of gay bars and a lively cruising scene. British author Christopher Isherwood chronicled the gay men of the period in his Goodbye to Berlin, the basis for the Broadway musical Cabaret, and in his autobiography, Christopher and His Friends. From 1919 to 1933, Berlin was home to the Institute for Sex Research, which campaigned for tolerance for LGBT people and conducted research on issues related to them; it performed the first gender affirmation surgeries on trans people (what used to be called ‘sex-change operations’).

In the lead-up to the 1933 federal election, the Insitute’s chief administrator, Kurt Hiller, was arrested and sent to a concentration camp where he was brutalized, but eventually released. There was a crackdown on gay bars and the SA (which hadn’t been liquidated yet) attacked LGBT people. On March 5th, the Nazis won the federal election, and on March 6th a Nazi student group attacked the Institute and may have killed Dörchen Richter, the first recipient of FTM gender confirmation surgery. Two days later, Joseph Goebbels led a raid on the Instititute that looted its archives and burned more than 12,000 books and journals dealing with its research. Its records were confiscated. When the Nazis began to aggressively deport gay men to the concentration camps about a year later, the Institute’s records were used to track down LGBT people for deportation. All totalled, the Nazis arrested around 100,000 LGBT people (mostly men), tried and convicted about half that number, and sent somewhere between 5 and 15,000 to concentration camps (not counting LGBT people who were tried and sentenced for unrelated reasons).

The concentration camps were brutal places, and the brutality doled out to gay men there was nearly as horrific as what was directed against Jews. While homosexuals weren’t actively sent to gas chambers, they were frequently used as target practice in rifle ranges, subject to gang rapes, sodomized with pieces of wood, had their testicles boiled, and were subjected to experiments seeking to cure their homosexuality or to understand the progression of diseases like typhoid. Lesbians were frequently forced to serve as sex slaves in brothels or simply passed around by the guards for raping.

But it’s not just the Nazis who are anti-gay. It’s fascists in general. Mussolini’s regime teamed up with the Catholic Church to impose an aggressively heterosexual view of gender identity. Mussolini’s regime was not as strident as Hitler’s, it but worked to drive perceived gay men out of public life. Italian fascists deported some gay men to an island prison (where, amusingly, it was essentially ok to be an out gay man because that’s who the prison was for, so that the prisoners actually experienced a degree of sexual freedom).

The revival of fascism in Eastern Europe in the past decade has predictably produced an anti-homosexual movement. In Hungary, the current ruling Fidesz party is drifting toward a full-out fascist dictatorship under Viktor Orban. Their new constitution bans gay marriage and the government has moved toward banning gay adoption, and Orban recently took steps to define gender as gender at birth. There is a proposed amendment to ban “promotion of homosexuality or other disorders of sexual behaviour”. Fidesz politicians have resorted to increasingly violent language toward LGBT people. In an amusing but not surprising turn of events, a Member of the European Parliament for Fidesz who helped write the new anti-LGBT constitution was discovered taking part in a homosexual orgy in Brussels. He quickly resigned after being caught.

In Poland, another state drifting to the hard-right, there is a very active campaign against homosexuality. The country does not permit LGBT marriage. President Andrzej Duda campaigned on an anti-LGBT platform and recently vetoed a bill to grant recognition to gender changes. Dozens of towns have declared themselves to be “LGBT-free”, to the point that about 1/3 of all Poland has such a designation. The Polish Church has been actively supportive of such efforts and has begun promoting centers that promise to cure homosexuality. In 2019, a small Gay Pride parade in Bialystock was mobbed by protesters who threw bricks and eggs.

Vladimir Putin, a full-out fascist, has made anti-LGBT efforts central to his alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian constitution bans same-sex marriage and no alternative civil union is permitted. Gay Pride events have been banned. Gay bars and similar venues are frequently subjected to violent harassment and several murders of gay men have been reported; authorities rarely investigate such killings. Since 2014, it has been illegal to distribute information about homosexuality to children, a law that has been used to harass teachers. Russian nationalists have become notorious for using gay dating apps to lure gay men into ambushes, beat them, and then post videos on the assault online; hundreds of such videos have been posted but have not resulted in any criminal prosecutions. Nationalists have also circulated lists of ‘known’ homosexuals and threatened them with death; at least one has been killed and photos of his corpse have been sent to other LGBT people on social media. 1 in 5 Russians polled favors the ‘elimination’ of LGBT people.

And under the US’s recently ousted fascist President Trump, anti-LGBT violence rose considerably. Between 2016 and 2018, documented incidence of anti-LGBT violence rose from 1180 to 1347, to the point that 1 in 5 hate crimes is anti-LGBT. Increasing hate crimes have targeted people rather than property. All this was happened while violent crime overall dropped 4%. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the number of anti-LGBT organizations climbed from 49 to 70 in 2019, making it the fastest-growing sector in hate, especially since the total number of hate groups it tracks declined from 1020 to 940. The Trump administration focused its energies on attacking trans people and on pushing a concept of ‘religious freedom’ that would allow people to deny LGBT people basics rights and services in the name of a bigoted version of Christianity.

This is the reason I am so vehemently anti-fascist. Not only am I aware that fascism will strip me of my political rights, I’m intensely aware that fascists will probably seek to kill me or at least try to drive me into the closet. Because that’s what fascists do to LGBT people. Our very existence is a living disproof of their claims that men and women can only behave in one sort of way and express their gender in one specific way. Fascism may try to hide its hatred of LGBT people while it rises to power, but once it’s in charge, it WILL start persecuting gays and lesbians and trans people. It has to.

So, “Heinrich”, if you’ve read this far, celebrating Nazis is an incredibly stupid thing for gay men to do. It’s always fun and sexy until Hitler orders you to put a bullet in your brain or tells his followers to boil your testicles. Wise up.

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