Tagged: zurich

Robi and Ernst, Retired, Zurich, Switzerland

Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (right), photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi and Ernst, in their own words: “Ernst: We have been together now for 59 years. And we met when we were 26. We met at the Kreis. and Robi was performing on stage as a lady. And I thought this is a woman and it’s not a man doing this. I bet 100 franks and I lost it, and I found Robi. He was in the theatre group of the Kreis. And he was the star in the Kreis. I was working with the section of the editors of the magazine, in the three languages of the magazine in German, French and English. Since I spoke these three languages I became familiar with all three editors.

Robi: I was also very happy in the Kreis because theater was my life. In private I was always in theater, and I had a main part in a Swiss film also. So theatre and cinema is just a big part of my life and I was very pleased all the time.

Ernst: But you started when you were a boy.

Robi: Yes, when I was seven years old my mother worked in theatre, and the director came and asked her ‘You have a boy, can you bring him once?’ And from that time, I had children’s parts and so many things in the theatre.

Ernst: The Kreis, was a homosexual organization, the only one existing in Switzerland, it was founded in 1932 and it went on until 1967. It at first had a different name, but it was always the same organization. And they also had a magazine, first in German only, and it had a different name, but then it also started to get subscribers in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so it was in two languages, the Kreis and le Cercle, and then after 1943, they started with the third language, in English. And then the Kries became an international magazine, since it was the only one in the market with subscribers all over the world. And very good connections especially to America, because the Mattachine Society was founded in 1951 in Los angeles and they started with a magazine called ‘One’, because it was the first of the gay magazines in the USA. And they had connections with the Kreis, and that was going to and fro, and similar with Paris, and other organizations in the Netherlands, in Denmark, and Sweden and Norway. And in Germany. In Germany of course, very clandestine, only hidden, because they still had the Hitler paragraph of their famous paragraph 175, and it was all forbidden. (Back then being gay) was very difficult.

Robi: Yes, you had to live a double life because it was not popular and homophobia was very big at that time, also in Switzerland. So it was quite difficult for us. We couldn’t go together walking, or I never went to the school where Ernst was working. It was really impossible.

Ernst: And the most difficult thing for us was that for the first 30 years when we were a couple, we could not live together, we had no flat together, because it was two dangerous!

Robi: And they would not give an apartment for two men, two women was good, but two men, no.

How was your coming out?

Robi: For me it was very easy. I feel when I was very young, 10, 12 years, I looked always at boys, I had never the will to go with a girl.

Ernst: And you were dressing like it!

Robi: Yes, and I was dressing like it. And that was another thing, I looked androgynous when I was young.

Ernst: You tried to act a woman’s part as a child already, drag gin up, I think you were gay before you were born! (laughs)

Robi: Maybe. (laughs)

Ernst: I knew from very young that something was different, and I didn’t like to play with boys. And I knew I had to hide this. And then when I was 11 I found out that I was looking after young men and just at the same time that my comrades at school started to look after girls and I thought, ‘They’re so silly’ and I found out, ‘Well you’re looking after boys, well you’re just as silly! Actually, and you feel the same but the other way around. But you can’t tell this to anybody, not even at home. Well this is my secret.’ And it was a big secret, indeed. And I thought I was the only one. I looked up in all sorts of lexicon, and I didn’t find any hint on what I was feeling. Until I finally found the word homosexuality, but that was in medicine and medical illness and psychological illnesses and pathology. And I knew I was not ill, this is part of my nature. All these learned men writing this lexicon, they don’t know anything about it. But I know.

Robi: My family was quite normal, they accepted me like I was. It was never a problem. And when I met Ernst, my mother was very very happy for me to have a young friend. And she was always saying to me, ‘Be serious and don’t leave Ernst, he is wonderful for you.’

Ernst: My family, well for my family it was a no go. I felt this immediately so I never talked anything about it. It was a total secret. Also in schools, because they sent me to Christian schools, which was interesting, I was interested in christian religion, and just finding out that I don’t believe in all they say. But it was an interesting way of making philosophy with the hypothesis that there is a God creating everything. And I thought, ‘This is wrong, this is against nature to believe in a God.’ But then again, I was not to say this to anybody because this was a religious school and I would have left it. And so there were several secrets, on the whole, this was an interesting time because the teachers were very good and I could learn a lot. I was not a very good scholar, because I was interested in more things that were outside of what was taught in school. And I read lots and lots of books on Indian philosophy and on French modern literature, on Existentialism, and all this was no subject at the school.

What is the secret to stayng together for so long?

Robi: We respect each other, and we won’t change the personality of the partner. We accept him like he is. And we speak always openly, we never lied. And when one had an adventure we told the other, and that makes it good.

Ernst: Because also we had sort of an open relationship, we had some friends outside, but we talked to each and we introduced them to each other, and sometimes we had sex the three together and it was fun, and we thought ‘Well this is going on very well like this.’ But in the deeper part, we never wanted to separate. we knew we belonged to each other, and we would never find anybody else to whom we have the same feelings. I love Robi because he is a little androgynous and he always has new ideas and he never can decide on this or that, it’s always me that has to tell him, ‘How do you think, I think this is better for the moment, what do you feel like?’ And then he finally makes his decisions. This is a kind of game and it is every day new.”

Robi: And this is very good, I learn a lot from Ernst, and it makes our partnership so wonderful because he helps me an in a way I help him also.

Ernst: Yes sure, I would have gone lost without you.

What advice would you give to someone struggling to come out?

Ernst: First of all try and accept yourself as a gay individual. This is your nature and you can’t change it. When you start to accept this fact, as part of yourself, then you can also start talking to a close friend, girl or boy, about your difference of the majority and you then can go on opening yourself slowly. Coming out is not done at once, it ’s a long process, and it’s always going in as well, accepting yourself, and then you can go out again. This is a long process. But once you have finished really to get through, you accept yourself, and you are accepted by the others, then you are a ripe personality and you are further with lots of things than many of your colleagues who had not to do this process.

Robi: I’m very happy I am gay, it’s perfect for me.

Ernst: I couldn’t imagine myself being hetero, the whole life would have been different. And I’m sure it would have been much more dull.”

The movie, The Circle was made about Robi and Ernst lives. Robi and Ernst were the first couple to have their registered partnership legally recognized in Zurich.

Philipp, Systems Engineer, Zurich, Switzerland

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Philipp, in his own words: “Schwul zu sein heisst für mich, dass ich erkennbar anders bin. Ich bin Teil einer Gruppe, die potentiell Ächtung, Diskriminierung und Verfolgung ausgesetzt ist. Gleichzeitig gibt mir Homosexualität – vielleicht gerade dadurch – eine besondere Perspektive: ich nehme die Vorgänge z.B. in Russland und Ägypten mit Sorge zur Kenntnis, auch wenn sie mir nicht täglich durch die Medien in Erinnerung gerufen werden.

Und, meine ganz persönliche Meinung, Homosexualität erlaubt es mir, freier zu sein. Niemand erwartet z.B. von mir, dass ich eine Familie gründe. Und ohne diesen unterschwelligen Druck, ohne diesen normativen Zwang, so habe ich den Eindruck, kann ich mein Leben freier leben. Gleichzeitig bin ich mir aber auch wieder bewusst, dass Homosexuellen in vielen Ländern diese Freiheit noch immer verwehrt ist.

Wenn ich über mein Coming Out nachdenke, war mein „inneres Coming Out“ wohl meine grösste Herausforderung – und mein grösster Erfolg. Es war sehr schwierig für mich, meine Homosexualität zu akzeptieren. Ich habe sehr viel Zeit und Energie damit verschwendet, meine Homosexualität zu ignorieren, zu verdrängen und zu verstecken – bis ich mir dann eingestehen konnte, dass ich schwul bin (auch wenn meine Eltern und Familie nie irgendwelche Andeutungen gemacht haben, dass dies ein Problem wäre).
Mein „inneres Coming Out“ und später bei meiner Familie war dann auch ein Befreiungsschlag. Es mag wie ein Klischee klingen, aber jetzt, wo ich mich nicht mehr verstecken muss, fühle ich mich frei und kann all die Zeit und Energie, die ich früher aufgewendet habe um mich zu verstecken, sinnvoller einsetzen.

Mein eigentliches Coming Out war sehr einfach, aber der Weg dorthin war steinig. Wenn ich zurück denke, dann fühlte ich mich noch nie zum anderen Geschlecht hingezogen. Es hätte mir auffallen können, als sich in der Schule die ersten Jungs mit Mädchen anbändelten. Ich für meinen Teil… interessierte mich nicht dafür. Warum auch? Die 80er Jahre waren das „goldene Zeitalter“ der Computertechnik, die Zeit des Atari 800, des Commodore C64, der ersten IBM PCs. Ich fand das alles viel spannender…

Irgendwann fiel dann im Biologie-Unterricht das Wort „Homosexualität“ und mir fiel auf, dass ich Jungs attraktiver fand als Mädchen. Ich versuchte mich über das Thema zu informieren. Ohne Internet war meine erste Informationsquelle ein alter medizinischer Brockhaus, in dem Homosexualität noch als psychische Störung beschrieben wurde. Ich wusste noch nicht genau, was mit mir los war – aber ich war mir sicher, dass ich nicht geistig krank war.

Viel später, ich war bereits aus dem Elternhaus ausgezogen, geschah es dann und ich hatte meine erste Beziehung mit einem Mann – und es traf mich wie ein Schlag. Nach ein paar erfolglosen Beziehungen mit Frauen war da jemand, für den ich wirklich Gefühle hatte. Und das hiess wohl: ich bin tatsächlich schwul. Die Implikationen, so schien es mir, waren gewaltig: ich war schwul. Ich war anders. Ich müsste es meinen Eltern, meiner Schwester, meinem Schwager sagen. Ich würde keine Familie gründen.

Letzteres wog besonders schwer: nachdem meine Schwester und ihr Mann sich entschlossen hatten, keine Kinder zu haben, fühlte ich mich, als läge es an mir, die Familienlinie weiter zu führen. Dass ich keine Familie gründen würde und die „Blutlinie“ mit mir enden würde, machte mir sehr schwer zu schaffen und machte es mir extrem schwierig, meine Homosexualität zu akzeptieren. (Ich möchte hier noch einwerfen, dass meine Eltern und Familie nie eine Andeutung machten, dass sie mich als schwulen Sohn nicht akzeptieren würden – oder dass sie Kinder von mir erwarteten. Ich habe mir diesen Druck ausschliesslich selbst auferlegt.)

Es zogen etwa zwei Jahre ins Land, bis ich meine Zweifel abgeschüttelt hatte und bereit war, mich bei meinen Eltern zu orten. Allerdings wurde mein Vater in dieser Zeit plötzlich schwer krank – und verstarb bedauerlicher Weise bald darauf. Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass meine Mutter nun eher Unterstützung von mir brauchte, als dass ich sie nun zusätzlich belaste.
Es dauerte dann nochmals etwa zwei Jahre, bis ich mich dann bei ihr outen konnte: Ich reiste anlässlich der Europride 2012 nach Warschau und ich hielt es für richtig, ihr zu sagen, warum ich nach Warschau reiste – und dass ich schwul sei. Ihre erste Reaktion war ein fast schon klischeehaftes: „Oh, dann habe ich wohl keine Enkelkinder“. Die zweite Reaktion war das mindestens ebenso typische „Ach, aber das habe ich doch schon lange vermutet!“
Ich denke, sie tat sich anfangs schon noch etwas schwer damit und das Thema war ihr, wohl aus einer Unsicherheit, wie sie damit umgehen sollte, etwas unangenehm. Das alles änderte sich aber schlagartig, als sie und meine Schwester meinen Freund kennen lernten: beide schlossen ihn sofort ins Herz und ich glaube, meine Mom ist – wie alle Eltern – einfach nur froh, dass ihr Kind glücklich ist.

Ja, ich habe eine einzige negative Reaktion erlebt: meine Schwester beklagte sich, nachdem sich meine Mom am Telefon mit ihr verplappert hatte, warum ich es ihr nicht sofort gesagt hätte…

Zur schwulen Szene in Zürich kann ich nicht viel sagen, da ich mich kaum in Szenelokalen aufhalte. Ich habe einige schwule Freunde, engere und losere, die ich als sehr herzlich, aufgeschlossen und wichtig für mich beschreiben würde.

Welchen Rat würde ich meinem jungen Ich geben?
Mach’ Dir keine Sorgen – alles wird gut!”

Philipp, in his own words:“Being gay for me means, being recognizable as „different“. I am part of a minority, which is prone to discrimination, ostracism and persecution. At the same time, homosexuality gives me a different perspective: I am worried about what is happening e.g. in Russia and Egypt – even if the mass media do not remind me every day.

And – in my very personal opinion – homosexuality allows me to be free. Nobody expects me to start a family and have children. Without this subliminal pressure, without this normative restraint, I feel that I have free rein to do with my life what I feel is „right“. Never the less, I am aware that homosexuals in many countries are still deprived of this basic freedom.

When I think about coming out, I think my „inner coming-out“ was my biggest challenge – and my biggest success. It was exceptionally difficult at first, to accept my homosexuality and I have spent an awful lot of time and energy, trying to ignoring, hiding and blocking it out until I could accept the fact, that I was gay (even if neither my parents nor my family ever indicated in any way that this would be a problem).

My „inner coming-out“ and later on, coming out to my family, was a „coup de liberation“ for me. I know it may sound like a cliché, but as I now do not need to hide any more, I feel free. And I am able to make constructive use of all the time and energy I spent trying to hide.

My actual coming out was easy, but it was a bumpy road getting there. When I try to remember, I have to say I was never really attracted to the opposite sex. I could have noticed when the first boys started to have crushes on girls. Me… I did not. And why should I? The 80s were the „golden age“ of information technology. It was the time of the Atari 800, the Commodore C64, the first IBM PCs. The IT revolution seemed much more interesting than girls…

At one point, the term „homosexuality“ was mentioned in biology class and I suddenly noticed I liked boys more than girls. I tried to gather some knowledge, but without the internet, my only source of information was an aged medical encyclopedia, which still listed homosexuality as a „mental disorder“. I still did not quite know what was up with me – but I knew for sure I was not mentally ill.

A few years later, after I moved out from my parents, it suddenly happened: I had my first „relationship“ with a man – and it hit me like lightning. After a few (unsuccessful) relationships with women, there suddenly was someone whom I actually had feelings for. It was clear, what that meant: I was actually gay. The implications seemed unbearable: I was gay. I was different. I would have to tell my parent, my sister, my brother-in-law. And I would not have children.

The latter seemed most severe: after my sister and her husband decided not to have kids, I felt it was my duty to carry on the family line. The fact that I would not start a family and the „bloodline“ would end with me, made it extremely difficult for me to accept my homosexuality. (at this point, I would like to note that neither my parents nor my family ever indicated they would expect kids from me – or that they would not accept me being gay. It was all just in my head).

Another two years passed until I was finally ready to come out to my parents. Sadly, my father fell terminally ill and passed away shortly after during that time and I felt that my mother needed my support much more that she needed me to come out to her.

It took another two years until I could finally come out to her. I was traveling to the Europride 2012 in Warsaw and it seemed right to tell her the truth about the trip – and that I was gay. Her first reaction was an almost stereotypical „Oh, guess there won’t be grandchildren then…“. And her second statement was an almost equally typical „Well, you know, I always suspected…“

I think she still had some trouble adjusting to the fact and – I assume because she did not quite know how to handle the situation – got a bit insecure whenever the topic came up. But it all changed when she and my sister got to know my partner: they both immediately took him into their hearts and I think my mom is – just like every parent – just glad that her kid is happy.

Did I get any adverse reaction? Yes, but only one, from my sister: after my mom accidentally mentioned to my sister, that I was gay, she called me and complained that I did not tell her earlier…

I cannot say much about the gay scene in Zurich, as I seldom frequent the usual „scene bars“. I have a couple of gay friends, some close, some less, all of which I would describe as kindhearted, open and dear to me.

(Advice to my younger self) Don’t worry – it will all be well!”

Niklaus, Zurich, Switzerland

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Niklaus, in his own words: ” I have always seen my sexuality as only a part of my being human. Defining myself only through my sexuality seemed limited and restricting and didn’t feel right. So being gay means to me that I have a deep sense of respect for other people and I probably have a better understanding of feeling different from the rest. Therefore I’m trying not to discriminate or judge people for their choices and I am grateful to have been born into a family that taught me to treasure and respect the opinions of others.

Life is a continuos maelstrom of challenges and successes, I guess. My answer is: A lot and hopefully many more…

(With regards to coming out) Was 16. Told my mother and brother first, my father later the same night. Everybody was supportive and proud that I was able to come out to them. Boring, really.

The gay community in Zurich is as multifaceted and colorful as a rainbow.”

Samuel, Actor, Zurich, Switzerland

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Samuel, in his own words: “Being gay doesn’t actually mean a lot to me, cause for me it is totally a normal thing. I’m happy to feel love for someone and it doesn’t matter if this person is a man or a woman.

A big challenge in life for me is to accept. I’m a very sensitive person and I truly love when I really love. So there is no way anything would break that love except the other one decides to go it’s own way without me. My partner for life left me last summer and I will never forget him, but I will have to get pass him. This is a very hard time for me right now, but I will also succeed and manage it one day. I’m very happy to make my money from singing and acting. I wasn’t sure about that first, but since I am able to live from that, I feel very privileged. This is the biggest energy, that keeps me going on and on and on.

I never really had to come out myself. When I was younger I was always with girls, but then I fell in love with my best male friend… everyone knew and even when my parents asked me on a Sunday brunch if I was in love with him. It was simply clear.

I’m a traveler and not really into the gay scene, so I don’t really know a lot about (the gay scene in Zurich). There are some gay clubs and bars, but I barely go there. I’m the total private party lover.

(Advice to my younger self) don’t lose yourself. Always focus on yourself first and keep on holding to that, especially when you’re in a relationship. You will always be successful if you just belief in you!”

Martin Naef, Member of Parliament, Zurich, Switzerland

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Martin, in his own words: “(Being gay) is my life, I can’t imagine not being gay actually. That’s what I am.

(The LGBTQ community in Switzerland) is a very old one, it’s a traditional one, it’s a tiny one. Switzerland, being in the heart of Europe, has lots of tourist coming here. Zurich, especially, and Geneva are very liberal cities, it’s nice for gay people here.

(There are still) political challenges, we want total equality. We don’t have it, we almost have it, but that is the biggest challenge, but in the normal daily life it is quite good.

When I think of the last twenty or thirty years there has been a lot of changes (in Switzerland). (LGBTQ) people used to be in a sort of ghetto, which was the community, now it is mixing up. Society has changed a lot. It is quite a liberal society, nobody has a problem even when you are at work and tell them you’re gay or bring along your boyfriend. That’s changed a lot. I think that wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. And so in Switzerland we had a public poll about gay rights and gay marriage and more than 64% saying yes to this, which is amazing.

20 years ago when I came out and started working as a politician it was quite sensational. But now even the mayor of Zurich is an open lesbian and it’s nothing special anymore. Even from the conservative parties, there are now some openly gay people in the Parliament, some colleagues of mine, this wouldn’t have been possible just ten years ago.

I still think that it is important to talk to people, not just going to the internet. I’m working for several gay organizations and we have lots of phone calls and personal discussions, that’s what people really need now, when they’re 16 or 17 years old and coming out, to have contact and speak with people, not just to chat on the internet.”

Robi and Ernst, Retired, Zurich, Switzerland

Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (right), photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi and Ernst, in their own words: “Ernst: We have been together now for 59 years. And we met when we were 26. We met at the Kreis. and Robi was performing on stage as a lady. And I thought this is a woman and it’s not a man doing this. I bet 100 franks and I lost it, and I found Robi. He was in the theatre group of the Kreis. And he was the star in the Kreis. I was working with the section of the editors of the magazine, in the three languages of the magazine in German, French and English. Since I spoke these three languages I became familiar with all three editors.

Robi: I was also very happy in the Kreis because theater was my life. In private I was always in theater, and I had a main part in a Swiss film also. So theatre and cinema is just a big part of my life and I was very pleased all the time.

Ernst: But you started when you were a boy.

Robi: Yes, when I was seven years old my mother worked in theatre, and the director came and asked her ‘You have a boy, can you bring him once?’ And from that time, I had children’s parts and so many things in the theatre.

Ernst: The Kreis, was a homosexual organization, the only one existing in Switzerland, it was founded in 1932 and it went on until 1967. It at first had a different name, but it was always the same organization. And they also had a magazine, first in German only, and it had a different name, but then it also started to get subscribers in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so it was in two languages, the Kreis and le Cercle, and then after 1943, they started with the third language, in English. And then the Kries became an international magazine, since it was the only one in the market with subscribers all over the world. And very good connections especially to America, because the Mattachine Society was founded in 1951 in Los angeles and they started with a magazine called ‘One’, because it was the first of the gay magazines in the USA. And they had connections with the Kreis, and that was going to and fro, and similar with Paris, and other organizations in the Netherlands, in Denmark, and Sweden and Norway. And in Germany. In Germany of course, very clandestine, only hidden, because they still had the Hitler paragraph of their famous paragraph 175, and it was all forbidden. (Back then being gay) was very difficult.

Robi: Yes, you had to live a double life because it was not popular and homophobia was very big at that time, also in Switzerland. So it was quite difficult for us. We couldn’t go together walking, or I never went to the school where Ernst was working. It was really impossible.

Ernst: And the most difficult thing for us was that for the first 30 years when we were a couple, we could not live together, we had no flat together, because it was two dangerous!

Robi: And they would not give an apartment for two men, two women was good, but two men, no.

How was your coming out?

Robi: For me it was very easy. I feel when I was very young, 10, 12 years, I looked always at boys, I had never the will to go with a girl.

Ernst: And you were dressing like it!

Robi: Yes, and I was dressing like it. And that was another thing, I looked androgynous when I was young.

Ernst: You tried to act a woman’s part as a child already, drag gin up, I think you were gay before you were born! (laughs)

Robi: Maybe. (laughs)

Ernst: I knew from very young that something was different, and I didn’t like to play with boys. And I knew I had to hide this. And then when I was 11 I found out that I was looking after young men and just at the same time that my comrades at school started to look after girls and I thought, ‘They’re so silly’ and I found out, ‘Well you’re looking after boys, well you’re just as silly! Actually, and you feel the same but the other way around. But you can’t tell this to anybody, not even at home. Well this is my secret.’ And it was a big secret, indeed. And I thought I was the only one. I looked up in all sorts of lexicon, and I didn’t find any hint on what I was feeling. Until I finally found the word homosexuality, but that was in medicine and medical illness and psychological illnesses and pathology. And I knew I was not ill, this is part of my nature. All these learned men writing this lexicon, they don’t know anything about it. But I know.

Robi: My family was quite normal, they accepted me like I was. It was never a problem. And when I met Ernst, my mother was very very happy for me to have a young friend. And she was always saying to me, ‘Be serious and don’t leave Ernst, he is wonderful for you.’

Ernst: My family, well for my family it was a no go. I felt this immediately so I never talked anything about it. It was a total secret. Also in schools, because they sent me to Christian schools, which was interesting, I was interested in christian religion, and just finding out that I don’t believe in all they say. But it was an interesting way of making philosophy with the hypothesis that there is a God creating everything. And I thought, ‘This is wrong, this is against nature to believe in a God.’ But then again, I was not to say this to anybody because this was a religious school and I would have left it. And so there were several secrets, on the whole, this was an interesting time because the teachers were very good and I could learn a lot. I was not a very good scholar, because I was interested in more things that were outside of what was taught in school. And I read lots and lots of books on Indian philosophy and on French modern literature, on Existentialism, and all this was no subject at the school.

What is the secret to stayng together for so long?

Robi: We respect each other, and we won’t change the personality of the partner. We accept him like he is. And we speak always openly, we never lied. And when one had an adventure we told the other, and that makes it good.

Ernst: Because also we had sort of an open relationship, we had some friends outside, but we talked to each and we introduced them to each other, and sometimes we had sex the three together and it was fun, and we thought ‘Well this is going on very well like this.’ But in the deeper part, we never wanted to separate. we knew we belonged to each other, and we would never find anybody else to whom we have the same feelings. I love Robi because he is a little androgynous and he always has new ideas and he never can decide on this or that, it’s always me that has to tell him, ‘How do you think, I think this is better for the moment, what do you feel like?’ And then he finally makes his decisions. This is a kind of game and it is every day new.”

Robi: And this is very good, I learn a lot from Ernst, and it makes our partnership so wonderful because he helps me an in a way I help him also.

Ernst: Yes sure, I would have gone lost without you.

What advice would you give to someone struggling to come out?

Ernst: First of all try and accept yourself as a gay individual. This is your nature and you can’t change it. When you start to accept this fact, as part of yourself, then you can also start talking to a close friend, girl or boy, about your difference of the majority and you then can go on opening yourself slowly. Coming out is not done at once, it ’s a long process, and it’s always going in as well, accepting yourself, and then you can go out again. This is a long process. But once you have finished really to get through, you accept yourself, and you are accepted by the others, then you are a ripe personality and you are further with lots of things than many of your colleagues who had not to do this process.

Robi: I’m very happy I am gay, it’s perfect for me.

Ernst: I couldn’t imagine myself being hetero, the whole life would have been different. And I’m sure it would have been much more dull.”

The movie, The Circle was made about Robi and Ernst lives. Robi and Ernst were the first couple to have their registered partnership legally recognized in Zurich.