LGBTIQ+ on German TV: how queer is television?

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Written By Maya Cantina

He turns every show into a catwalk: Jorge Gonzalez sometimes enters the studio of the RTL dance show “Let’s Dance” in tight-fitting purple vinyl pants, sometimes decorated with yellow feathers, and his sometimes sky-high hairstyles would even make Marie Antoinette jealous: the gay choreographer and television star is a true bird of paradise – and one of many queer entertainers to have conquered the screen in recent years. Whether it is Conchita Wurst, Riccardo Simonetti or Julian FM Stoeckel: they are all committed to the visibility of queerness and the acceptance of diversity.

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What I would like is for people to think about my unusual appearance – about sexual orientation, but also about being different itself.

Tom Neuwirth, aka Conchita Wurst, after his ESC win in 2014

One of the most prominent representatives of queer culture in the media is the Austrian singer Tom Neuwirth alias Conchita Wurst, who won the ESC in 2014 with his glam ballad ‘Rise like a Phoenix’ – a diva with a full beard. “What I would like is for people to think about my unusual appearance – about sexual orientation, but also about being different itself,” the artist said after his win. Neuwirth has long been one of the icons of the international LGBT scene and is a much sought-after TV presenter: for example, he was recently a jury member in the casting show ‘I want to go to the ESC’, which ran in the ARD media library.

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Simonetti’s talk show hidden in niche programming

He believes “that diversity and socially critical topics can take place in a relaxed way in a primetime show,” says 31-year-old Riccardo Simonetti from Bavaria. The author of the autobiographical bestseller ‘Mama, I’m Gay’, who loves dazzling performances in a glamorous look, hosts the make-up show ‘Glow Up’ (ZDFneo) and had a guest role on the ‘Dream Ship’, the long-running ZDF show. at the service of entertainment ship, at Easter. However, his WDR talk show ‘Salon Simonetti’ was hidden in the late-night niche program, in which he talked to his guests about tolerance and diverse lifestyles – including with the entertainer Thomas Herrmanns, who came out of the closet at the age of 17 and died in 1993, “Quatsch Comedy Club” was brought to television.

Today’s birds of paradise have prominent predecessors, people like the lesbian Hella von Sinnen or the drag queen Lilo Wanders, who became known in 1994 as the presenter of the erotic show “Wa(h)re Liebe” (Vox). Fashion designer Julian FM Stoeckel is one of the queer stars of the new generation. The bisexual entertainer became known in 2014 with the jungle show ‘I’m a Star’ and said in a conversation with the podcast ‘Queerkram’: Of course he was deliberately cast by RTL as a ‘loud, shrill twat’, but in the end it was he just he, you were allowed to be yourself. He believes that the reality show, in which drag artist Olivia Jones participated, among others, has contributed to greater LGBT acceptance. Most recently, the 37-year-old Berliner – signature colorful turban – ruined the well-behaved cake show “The Great Celebrity Baking” and moderated the nude dome show “Naked Attraction.”

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How diverse is German television actually?

But how diverse is German television, apart from such extroverted show stars? Many experts agree that a lot has happened lately. A lesbian couple recently got married in the daily soap ‘Everything that counts’, the next ‘Bachelorette’ Stella Stegmann on RTL is open to men and women, and actor André Kaczmarczyk has been in the first position since 2022 as gender fluid ‘Polizeiruf’ 110” Commissioner Vincent Ross seen with skirt and eyeliner.

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An assessment of the queer media database QUEERmdb concluded that LGBT topics are still underrepresented on TV screens, but the trend is increasing: “2023 was a positive year for queer presence in German media.” Binary Janboris Rätz of ‘SWR Aktuell’, who defines herself neither as a man nor as a woman, or the transgender Newstime spokeswoman Kira Alin (Pro Sieben), are by far the exception.

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