How can I protect my rights in Germany?
In Germany, every person is free to live out their sexual/gender identity, and the law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer and asexual individuals, i.e. the LGBTQIA+ community. Nevertheless, LGBTQIA+ persons still face hostility and discrimination from some people in the society. Find out more about your rights and how to fight discrimination.
What do I need to know?
LGBTQIA+ (or LGBT) is an English abbreviation. In Germany, the German abbreviation, LSBTTIQ ("lesbisch, schwul, bisexuell, transgender, transsexuell, intersexuell, queer") is often used. Lesbians are women who prefer women. Gays are men who like men. Bisexuals like both men and women. Transgender refers to women born in a male body or men born in a female body. Transsexual individuals, too, feel they are born in the wrong body -so they change their bodies with the help of hormone therapy and surgeries. Intersex individuals are those who have both male and female genitals. And asexual people have little or no interest in sexual activity. The "+" in LGBTQIA+ acknowledges the fact that there are other sexual and gender identities. The term Queer stands for all people who do not fit in the traditional gender roles and partner preference norms.
No. In Germany, everyone is free to love whoever they choose, which means your sexual and gender identity are accepted and respected by the state. You may be a man who loves men, a woman who prefers women, a man who lives as a woman or vice versa- long story short: you have the right to be as you feel right. Such laws, however, were not always in place: Homosexuality was banned in Germany for many centuries and the LGBTQIA+ were prosecuted. The prohibition was finally abolished in 1994, although the corresponding law (§175 of the Criminal Code) has hardly been enforced even before this date.
According to some studies, the members of the LGBTQIA+ community are accepted by the majority of the population in Germany. But many LGBTQIA+ individuals still experience hostility and discrimination when they "come out". According to the law, you can take legal actions against the offenders: If someone harasses you or discriminate against you because of your sexual or gender identity, you can contact the Anti-discrimination Agency. In Germany, there is an anti-discrimination law known as the "General Equal Treatment Act" ("Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz") which protects individuals against the discrimination they may face because of their skin colour, country of origin, sex, religion, disability, age or sexual/gender identity. If you are mistreated or discriminated against during job-seeking, at work or in a restaurant, club, shopping centre, bank, or during flat-hunting, you can contact the Anti-discrimination Agency ("Antidiskriminierungsstelle"). They will check the case, see if you can take legal actions against the perpetrator and further advise you about your options. You can learn more in our chapter “Discrimination”.
You can reach the Anti-discrimination Agency Mondays (13:00-15:00) and Wednesdays and Fridays (9:00-12:00) at 030-185551855 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Their staff speak German, English and Arabic. You can also search for one of the counselling centres of the Anti-discrimination Agency in your area.
Please note: If you face verbal, physical or sexual assault, you can always call the police at 110.
Yes. Since 1 October 2017, same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Germany, i.e. you are allowed to take another man as your husband or another woman as your wife. Before 2017, it was only possible for same-sex couples to register a so-called "civil partnership" ("Lebenspartnerschaft"), which, from a legal perspective, was almost equal to marriage. Since 1 October 2017, individuals who have had a civil partnership can officially change it into a marriage. To do so, you need to contact the Civil Registry Office ("Standesamt") responsible for you. You can learn more at lsvd.de (in German). Learn more about registering a marriage in Germany in our chapter "Marriage".
If you do not identify with the gender attributed to you at birth, you have the right to change your documents and your body in Germany, e.g. as a man, you can become a woman and vice versa. The medical procedure -hormone therapy and sometimes surgery - usually takes several months. Since 2011, you can have your sex changed in official documents before going through or even starting to plan for your physical transformation.
In many countries, children who do not have distinct female or male sexual characteristics are still officially categorised as male or female at birth. Since 2013, parents in Germany do not have to attribute a gender to their children on their birth certificate.
There are many counselling centres for the LGBTQIA+ community in Germany. They can help you with all sorts of questions in the areas of love, sex, illness, discrimination, coming out, and alike. You can find a counselling centre in your area, e.g. on the website of VLSP. You can also receive counselling from GLADT e.V. in German, English, Arabic and Turkish, Farsi, French, Hebrew, Urdu and Punjabi by calling 0152-11859839 or by sending an email to email@example.com. It is also possible to arrange for counselling in other languages. As an LGBTQIA+ refugee, you can also find specialised counselling services at queer-refugees.de.
If you are under 27 years old, you can also reach out to the staff of comingout.de. They speak German and English and could be reached at 030-67122671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also become a member of the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), which is committed to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Germany.
In larger cities, there are various bars, clubs and other LGBTQIA+ gathering places. You can find places where other LGBTQIA+ people meet and socialise in your city at inqueery.de. Plus, many counselling centres organise open meetings and recreational activities for LGBTQIA+ individuals. To find a counselling centre in your area, To find a counselling centre in your area, check the section “Where can I seek advice and support?”. At least once a year, many larger cities host a so-called Gay Pride or Christopher Street Day festival (CSD), where numerous LGBTQIA+ individuals and also others gather for a street party - you can find the relevant dates on queer.de.
Do not hesitate to seek help if you face discrimination or hostility. The German law is on your side and will protect you against discrimination, hatred and violence. If you need help, contact the Anti-discrimination Agency or seek counselling from queer-refugees.de.