Lesbianism is the most natural thing in the world, according to Germany's new women's magazine "Straight." It blasts clichés by not putting all lesbians in a box.
Spiting digitalization, Germany's magazine industry remains one of the largest in the world. There are magazines for teddy bear lovers ("Teddy & Co"), for men passionate about food ("Beef!"), and for city dwellers dreaming of a countryside lifestyle. Altogether, there are nearly 1,600 popular magazines available in German kiosks.
And now a new lifestyle magazine has recently come out: "Straight" caters to lesbians, but carefully avoids using the L-word. In Germany, just like its counterpart for men, "schwul" (gay), it is still used as a pejorative term.
Still, it might take a while for people to get it: "Straight," a designation which normally refers to heterosexuals, might confuse a few people. It probably wouldn't be the first word to come to mind when thinking of homosexual women.
Yet beyond the antithesis created by the title, the editors also picked it to show that they aim to be straightforward and frank: "That's exactly what we are," says editor-in-chief Felicia Mutterer, "'Straight' embodies self-confidence and obviously wants to provoke."
Cut the lesbian clichés
The creators of the magazine want to avoid the usual clichés of the short-haired man-hating lesbian wearing lumberjack shirts and driving with a rainbow sticker on her car.
"It's difficult to convey the idea that you can be a lesbian without conforming to the stereotypes," says Mutterer. Fashion pieces ("Cool Summer Looks"), cosmetic tips ("Miracle Cures for Your Skin") can be found in this publication just like in any other women's lifestyle magazine.
This is new. The other lesbian magazine published in Germany, the "L-Mag," deliberately avoids such content. Its co-publisher, Gudrun Fertig, feels it propagates an established image of women, which only suits part of their readership.
Felicia Mutterer, on the other hand, says it's ok if other publications chose not to write about make-up, but "Straight" will. "Straight" follows the lines of a typical women's magazine, but throws in issues specific to a lesbian audience. Alongside articles covering issues such as same-sex marriage, coming out at work and bondage games, you'll find interviews with a lesbian filmmaker and a sperm donor, as well as relationship advice, book and music reviews, recipes and travel stories.
Angela Merkel, a lesbian?
The magazine's marketing campaign didn't go unnoticed. They created a video showing a Merkel lookalike - who's suddenly embraced from behind by another woman.
Is Chancellor Angela Merkel a lesbian? No. She is married to a man and has said that she is opposed to recognizing same-sex marriages, even though some other members of her party conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, would be ready to accept it. Civil unions among homosexuals are legal in Germany, but unlike married couples, these unions are restricted and don't allow, for instance, adoption.
Magazines aims to make lesbian lifestyle self-evident
The magazine has a circulation of 15,000 copies. Its target market not only includes the estimated two million gay women in Germany, but also all women who love women or who want to find out more about lesbian issues.
The editor-in-chief told DW she was very satisfied with the magazine's sales just a week after its release. She says they didn't have any international model for "Straight," but aimed to create something original.
"We did everything on our own and didn't align with anything that already exists," says Mutterer. Although the publication strives to entertain, it is also political: "We want to create different role models to get things moving in society," she explains.
As long as rights remain unequal and homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty in nine countries, there's still a lot to do. Still "Straight" wants to redefine the way this battle is tackled: "We don't want to be using the old 'fight for rights' approach, but rather show this lifestyle as a given," Mutterer says.
The "L-Mag" also shares the goal of making lesbian lifestyle self-evident. Although the new magazine is a direct competitor for ads, co-publisher Gudrun Fertig still sees "Straight" as a gain: "Anything that adds to lesbian visibility is a good thing."
Happy without extra labels
In countries where gay women can live openly, there seems to be a fundamental problem: They feel falsely represented in popular media. This has a simple cause. Lesbians only have one little thing in common: They love women. They are very different in all other respects.
Gay women can just as well be the closeted-type who prefer to stay discrete on their relations as activists involved in all same-sex marriage protests. They can put on a butch or femme appearance - or, as most happily do, just prefer to stay invisible, says Felicia Mutterer. Women tend not to be as demonstrative as men in this area, she adds.
Yet there aren't that many more magazines in Germany for gay men, if you don't take into consideration the free leaflets and erotic booklets which can be found in pubs and clubs. And it appears to be the same internationally.
Online magazines instead of print media
If state legislations were more liberal towards homosexuals, there would also be more magazines, believes Gudrun Fertig. But even in the US or in the UK there is only one magazine clearly directed at lesbian readers.
There are more online, says Klaus Jetz, director of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, which fights for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide. In countries like Russia as well as in many African countries, there is not even one print publication for gays. In comparison, two magazines for lesbians is a great exception.