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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Oldereide

A Luxembourgish Queer History

Luxembourg made history when its current head of state, Xavier Bettel, became the first openly gay prime minister in the world to be reelected for a second term in 2018. Nevertheless, Luxembourg’s queer history is rather hard to tell, with very little evidence of documented LGBTQIA+ events.

According to Andy Maar, member of the Rosa Lëtzebuerg non-profit organisation, there were hardly any establishments advertised as being a “gay bar” between the 1970s to 1980s.

Even though Rosa Lëtzebuerg is in the process of setting up a Queer Archive that will allow researchers, journalists, and history amateurs alike to do research on the queer contemporary history of the community in Luxembourg, finding material to complete the archive is a rather enigmatic task.

“We only have indications of some [gay] bars that were particularly frequented by queer people (mainly people who identified themselves as gay men), but not exclusively. From the oldest contemporary witness I have been able to interview so far, I know that the earliest location he could remember was the bar "Ënnert de Stäiler".

“Regular meetings are said to have taken place here from around 1972-1985. Also the ‘Pôle Nord’ was similarly popular at the same time. Due to a lack of time, however, I have not yet been able to verify this information, for example through interviews with other people,” Maar said.

As Rosa Lëtzebuerg built its “Rainbow Centre”, where LGBTQ+ identifying people will be able to socialise in a safe and queer space in Luxembourg, the organisation’s collections to complete its Queer Archive are still packed in boxes.

According to Maar, there were isolated drag or gender bending performances in Luxembourg in the late 1970s, at a café called the "Fada", often identified as the birthplace of Luxembourg's travesty culture.

“The Fada's Family, which is still active today, was founded here in 1978. This group was the first to organise travesty performances at regular intervals,” Maar explained.

Nowadays, mainstream queer culture embodies drag culture. But according to Maar “nobody knew this term in Luxembourg in the 70s and 80s”, and the artists labeled themselves “rather travesty artists”.

“The difference lies in the imitation of an ideal image of women (mostly female icons from pop culture), whereas drag tends to be artificial figures that portray rather heavily exaggerated characters and do not claim to imitate as believable a woman as possible,” Maar said.

In terms of LGBTQ+ rights, same-sex relationships remained a taboo subject up until the end of the 20th century, with the dominant Catholic Church condemning “homosexuality”. During WWII, when Luxembourg was invaded by the Germans in May 1940, Gauleiter Gustav Simon, a nazi, was appointed head of the civil administration in Luxembourg. According to Rosa Lëtzebuerg’s "LGBTIQ+ History in Luxembourg" exhibition which was shown during Pride Week 2022, Simon’s mission was, among other things, to lead the country back “home to the Reich” and to integrate it into the German Reich.

“German law was introduced in Luxembourg, which means that from 1941 homosexual men were also targeted by the German occupiers,” Rosa Lëtzebuerg said.

According to Rosa Lëtzebuerg, the German Penal Code from 1872 criminalised homosexual relations between men in the German Reich. In 1935, the National Socialists tightened this paragraph.

As a result, gay men were considered “effeminate” and a threat to the continued existence of the German people. Moreover, if men engaged in “homosexual acts”, there were prosecuted and sent to concentration camps. They were also to wear the infamous pink triangle, subject to brutal abuse in public.

Lesbian women were “considered less harmful to the “body of the people” because they were still available for procreation,” Rosa Lëtzebuerg explained.

Despite fleeing the country and sometimes marrying an opposite gender as a cover, some were still prosecuted and sent to concentration camps, as well as made to wear the pink triangle of shame.

During the postwar era, Luxembourg’s legislation was reintroduced, and same-sex sexual activity, which had been decriminalised in 1794 under French possession, was no longer punishable.

In 2004, official partnerships were made available for same-sex couples. Five years later, Luxembourg announced its intention to legalise same-sex marriage, and the law finally took effect on 1 January 2015.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg currently ranks seventh on the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe)’ Rainbow Map and Index, which annually reviews the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe.

Despite ranking amongst the safest countries in Europe to be an LGBTQ+ identifying person, ILGA-Europe has recommend that Luxembourg should allowing for automatic co-parent recognition, so that children born to couples, regardless of the partners’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity, do not face any barriers in order to be recognised legally from birth to their parents.

ILGA-Europe has also advised Luxembourg to update the existing legal gender recognition framework so it includes a non-binary or third gender option, in order to improve the legal and policy situation of LGBTQ+ people in Luxembourg.


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