Birgit Meinhard-Schiebel

"The women were just always incredibly beautiful."

Birgit Meinhard-Schiebel was born in Vienna in 1946. She grew up with her liberal adoptive mother and her aunt, who lived in the same house and with whom she remained in close contact throughout her life. At 15 she began attending acting school. The atmosphere there was quite open. As an adult, Birgit realized that her mother also hung out in lesbian circles. In spite of this, it was still not easy for her to find her way in life. When she was 17 she attempted suicide and then began to see one of the first social psychiatrists in Vienna. He encouraged her to discover her identity and reassured her that he was working to change the law – §129.

She also received support from her friends. "My boyfriend went to the movies with me, and we watched The Children's Hour with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. That was one of the first stories about lesbians, which of course ended tragically. I thought that was horrible. I was really pretty shocked back then. And after the movie I said to him, I think I know now. He didn't say much about it. Then he took me to a gay bar, one of the first ones in Vienna. I didn't even know such a thing existed. That night I kissed a woman for the first time in my life, or she kissed me, and I knew that was it. That was it. I was on the floor, so to speak. I was totally blown away." After a busy career, Birgit now does volunteer work in her retirement. She works with the Green Party retired women and in involved with gay and lesbian issues. "What does being a lesbian mean to me? When I think about the positive side, being a bit exclusive. I like that part, not living a regular old life. ... For many years I have also considered it a political duty, a mission, to help other people with what I was lucky enough to have managed well myself."