On the first Sunday of every Oktoberfest, thousands of LGBTIQ people gather in Munich for a big gay piss up. Cocktoberfest, if you will. It’s not as publicised as some of its “pride” counterparts across Europe, but was the first thing that came up when I hastily Googled “Gay Oktoberfest” – suddenly fearful that once I was drunk, there might not be anyone to tell me how pretty I looked.
I rustled up my pal Elsie and two hippies who were fresh off the plane from Burning Man Festival, downed a few rounds of beer and headed in on the train. On the way, we made friends with a rather disheveled looking man from Munich. He guessed all of our ages and told us about how proud he was to be a Bavarian man. “Why? What fills you with Bavarian pride?” I asked him. He seemed startled by the question, but responded by saying quite simply that “it’s language” before raising his beer and shouting, “Proust!”
We stumbled off the train and asked a local vendor where we might find the “Rosa Wisen” or “GAY TENT” as I yelled loudly at her. We had to ask for directions twice more, once from a local and once from a policeman. “Ooooo, yes, I know this one,” they each said, smiling mischievously and raising their eyebrows. “Look for Braur Rosel!” they told us, sending us on our way with a friendly wave.
We looked to the skies, searching for a “Brau Rosel” sign amongst thousands of drunken punters, stopping only to marvel at the mammoth keg-carrying horses that trot up and down in between beer halls and to enjoy generous whiffs of freshly roasted sugar-covered peanuts. When we finally arrived at the “Braur Rosel” tent, we were swooped up by the masses and churned out inside the tent, sneaking past security as we went.
You don’t as much see a beer hall at Oktoberfest for the first time as much as you breathe it in. Looped stretches of blue and yellow ribbon line the ceiling of Brau Rosel tent, which are maybe 200 metres long and constructed entirely from wood. Men and women, perhaps 10 000 of them, stamp their feet onto tables while the sounds of clanging steins, overflowing with golden froth, ring out alongside the big band, perched in the centre of the hall and bellowing out traditional German anthems amongst a whole host of 2am bangers – everything from Seven Nation Army to Stand By Me. I wobbled back at one point, my arm wrapped around a cute twink from the Czech Republic and made an incoherent attempt at German “singing”. The tent glowed golden.
It’s worth mentioning that on the way in, I had torn my lederhosen right down the back and so for the remainder of the day, took on Oktoberfest with an exposed ass. Needless to say, I was a hit at the gay hall. At one point, I stood atop a table and danced, stein in one hand, slab of roast beef in the other, while three 60-year-old bears slapped my ass in a rhythm. “You look like a porn star!” one of them yelled at me, “Oh yeah?” I slurred in response, before leaning down to lick the side of his face.
Oh and be warned – toilets at Oktoberfest are notoriously chaotic. Many a durkl clad female will tell distressing tales of half-hour waiting times and subsequent desperate measures – but at Gay Oktoberfest, it’s the males who suffer. Squeeze your legs together, sing a little rhyme to take your mind off it or make up a dance routine, but be prepared – “I’m going to burst!” doesn’t even come close. And don’t try jumping the queue for the ladies, the “It’s okay, I’m gay!” card doesn’t cut it here.
It goes without saying that labels like “gay” are painfully counter-progressive and unjustified – Gay Oktoberfest being a prime example of this. There’s no difference between ‘Gay Oktoberfest’ and ‘Straight Oktoberfest’, other than the proportion of people having same-sex make outs in between steins. That said, I was surprised to see that the halls hadn’t been raped with rainbow flags. And why wasn’t the big band covering Kylie – Best Of on repeat? In all seriousness though – no one was there because of their sexuality per se, but just because… beer. This proves a nice reminder of Oktoberfest’s brilliantly futile history. The origins of Oktoberfest are not routed in some sort of tragedy or significance – the king and the queen threw a really big party, everyone got monumentally intoxicated and had an awesome time, so they kept doing it. For 181 years. Germany 18; world 0.
To me, Oktoberfest is a manifestation of the idea that everything is more or less meaningless. We’re all dying slowly, day by day, descending uncontrollably toward death, so fuck it – let’s have a drink. And drink we did. By the end of the day, I was stumbling home, arm in arm with a Munich local, endearingly calling him “my favourite mother fucker”. He spun around to me, winked and said, in a way that reminded me of Unta from The Simpsons, “Oh come on babe, I think we all know we’re father fuckers here.”