Commentary

Strength in smaller numbers

25. Sept. 2016
Hans Kellett by Merja Hannikainen

Hans Kellett on their evolving "place in society"

Sep. 26, 2016 – All my life, wherever I have lived, I’ve had this weird neighbor. Goes by the name of Society; first name, Western. Society seems a pretty fickle type, especially when it comes to my sexuality. Until thirty years ago, Society in my home country thought it was a good idea to put people like me in prison. In 1993, the year I came out, Western Society decided I shouldn’t be discriminated against anymore in my school or my workplace. Within a relatively short space of time, Wes S. was announcing me at parties as its new “gay friend“, declaring itself an ally and giving slaps on the back to confirm what good buddies we had become, while I cringed and feigned gratitude. Western Society’s latest kick seems to be feeding my sexuality into its propaganda machinery, insisting that its attitude towards my sexual freedom is one of the cornerstones upon which it stands. It gets especially vocal about this when defining its enemies.

In the beginning, I made the mistake of looking to society when it came to my questions of self – hoping I could take on the form of the space I had been allocated to peacefully occupy. My “place in society” has shifted so much during my lifetime that had I tried to keep up with it, I would doubtlessly be an identity wreck by now. Society, I came to realize, is batshit crazy. After all its flip-flopping, I think a lack of respect for its whims is well deserved.

For years I thought I might make it on my own, getting by with a little help from my friends. The individualist approach, so popular over the last twenty years or so, certainly got me a long way. I know what I like; I know what I don’t. It became ultimately a pretty lonely path to walk, though, even with my nearest and dearest beside me.

Over the past two years that I have been penning this column, I’ve had the great fortune to become active in two communities. One, the smaller one, is the sixty-odd-person cultural and residential project I live in, where it has been made clear to me time and again that collective communication, with all the mess that comes with it, is the key to building our home in the world. My second community is much larger, more difficult to define, but just as tangible. You, dear reader, are part of it. As unlikely and improbable as it is, despite our threads of identifications coming apart over the years, we keep touching base here in the pages of the SIEGESSÄULE. We are family in the real sense that, whether we like it or not, our lives are related – slightly more closely related than to the rest of society. We are queer Berlin, it says it on the tin.

This is my last regular column here. It has been a privilege, in all senses of the word, to have had these chances to speak to you. I look forward to all the chats to come.

New Zealander Hans Kellett has lived in Berlin for over a decade and sings in cabaret duo Princessin Hans