Although there were plenty of parties at the Institute, there wasn’t a club on site. However, bars, clubs and dance halls were an important part of queer and trans life in early 20th century Berlin. These offered LGBTQ+ people spaces to socialise, dance, drink and enjoy cabaret and drag performances, although they also served as a site for cishet tourists.
Hirschfeld and fellow sexologists frequented the Berlin bars and clubs both as scientific observers and as members of the queer community. Hirschfeld was known as “Tante Magnesia” (Aunt Magnesia), and there were rumours that he might have appeared in drag himself.
We invite you to mix yourself a cocktail and let Laura Bridgeman take you for a spin around The Eldorado Club
Come with me to the Eldorado, (it waits in Charlottenburg for us). There we can grab a Corpse Reviver, a cocktail that can raise you from the dead, it’s got a blend of gin and absinthe all topped off with a Maraschino cherry. The Eldorado has crisp white table cloths and glitterballs that twist with a thousand mirrors. If you want to dance at The Eldorado you can pay a hostess a chip to be whatever sex that you wish. You can have all your dreams realised at The Eldorado, don’t quiver my friend come with me! Let’s go and find a table by the stage with the rouched curtains. There, all your dress-up dreams will come true. We can wear our finest rags – you can be a monk, or a sailor, and I’ll dress in heels and feathers. We can oggle at the boys with their nipples out and their shirt sleeves rolled to their armpits, or the dancers in their bras and g strings. Otto Dix paints transvestites at The Eldorado and Francis Bacon craves all the otters and the sissies. Look over there – is that Marlene in the tailcoat or a man with an elegant neck? It doesn’t matter (no it really doesn’t) we’re at The Eldorado. Is that Hirschfeld by the bar waxing lyrical: “The woman who needs to be liberated most is the woman in every man, and the man who needs to be liberated most is the man in every woman.” I couldn’t agree more! So let’s kick back with our Corpse Revivers next to those dapper lesbians in their tweeds and short haircuts – and watch the girls on stage with their beards and lipstick. Maybe we’ll even catch the main act singing The Lavender Song.
What makes them think they have the right to say what God considers vice?
What makes them think they have the right to keep us out of Paradise?
They make our lives hell on earth
Poisoning us with guilt and shame
If we resist prison awaits
So our love dare not speak its name
The crime is when love must hide
From now on we’ll love with pride!
Come with me to The Eldorado (it waits in Charlottenburg for us). Then if you like it and I know that you’ll like it, next week we’ll hit the Dorian Gray …
Laura Bridgeman or Dr.B (they/them/she) is a writer. They define as non-binary. They wrote The Butch Monologues that has been selling out since 2013 . They have written for BBC Radio 4, have a feature film waiting for post C-19 and are currently completing a novel. Bridgeman runs hotpencil press with Serge Nicholson. They will change their name soon. But in the meantime, they are delighted to be travelling thru time.
cover image: Jo Yardley – second life project https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en