LGBT housing project unites generations out in Berlin

The Guardian
|
November 29, 2012
Issues: 

Over wine and coffee in the Wilde Oscar restaurant, Peter Sibley and Gottfried Stecher are swapping stories of the bad old days when being gay was outlawed.

"I was a late developer, and didn't even learn the word 'gay' until I was 30," says Stecher, 84. "I only came to the slow realisation that I myself was [gay] because I knew it wasn't usual not to be interested in girls," adds the retired confectioner who now works as an extra at the national opera house, the Deutsche Oper. "I've spent most of my life being a lover to married men."

Sibley, 70, a former London theatre and music manager, says he had the fortune "of working in a profession where it was considered normal to be queer". Apart from his parents, he says, "I've lived with other gay people all my life."

They may have had different life experiences, but in retirement both men had a similar wish: to grow old in an environment in which they could be open about their sexuality.

Now neighbours, they are meeting for the first time in the plush restaurant on the ground floor of a revolutionary housing project both call home in west Berlin. In Europe's first multi-generational house for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual residents, Stecher has a two-room flat on the second floor, Sibley a single room in a fourth-floor flatshare.