SAFIA, a German society primarily for older lesbians, has recently inaugurated the world’s first lesbian-designated cemetery area. “Some people might say this is historic, but today we're saying her-storic,” founder Hilde Heringer told the gathered crowd. These women hope that the 400 square meter space will become a place “where life and death connect, distinctive forms of cemetery culture can develop and where the lesbian community can live together in the afterlife.”
The area is expected to become the resting place for up to 80 lesbian women, though no rules prohibit the burial of men or heterosexual women there as well. SAFIA stated in a press release that the aim is not to exclude anyone. (A response to the annoyingly persistent belief that ‘feminism’ equates to bra-burning and man-hating.) “It is not a fight against men… All those who want to come and honor the dead women with respect are welcome.” The plots are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and many enthusiastic seniors have already made reservations.
Astrid Osterland, a 69-year-old SAFIA member, explains the need for a cemetery space designated for lesbians, stating that “[w]e are the first real generation of emancipated, feminist, open lesbians, and we need somewhere to be buried… Lots of us don’t have families to be buried with. Instead, we want to lie with those we’ve fought alongside, loved and lived with.”
The Lutheran Church has been one of the main supporters of the group’s efforts. At the inauguration Vicar Peter Stock stated that “We know that the way in which people live takes many forms, but connections to our loved ones stay the same… The Lutheran church supports the coming together of people in any form.” His church has given SAFIA use of the grounds for 30 years rent-free in exchange for their maintaining the space.
Vicar Peter Stock
While there has been a widespread positive reaction to the introduction of a cemetery space oriented towards a lesbian demographic, some have responded critically, stating that the space is exclusive and, thus, counterproductive to the goal of integration between the gay and straight communities. Then again, there have been religion-specific cemeteries for thousands of years and people haven’t seemed overly miffed. When it comes down to it, this is a question of community: do you support the engagement of women in a lesbian community, or does that seem exclusive?
The 4 founders!
In many ways the discrimination that many of these women have faced has forged their relationships with others experiencing the same troubles. Can you blame them for wanting to be buried with the women of the community that they have built? Not only is the desire to be buried together part of a natural progression in friendship and love, but the space is also not exclusive. Those who wish to be buried there may be, regardless of gender or sexuality.
“Death is a part of life; it’s about learning to live with it and accepting this,” says Osterland. “Families want to be together after death, and we want it too.”
So what do you all think? Is the creation of a lesbian-designated space within the cemetery a good idea? Is it exclusionary? Is it pointless? Share your thoughts!
Want to read more? Try ozy.com's article Lesbian Cemetery: A Gay Afterlife!
Images courtesy of vice.com and dailymail.co.uk.