A world behind the words.
Kesser Vater is a term used in Germany to appoint lesbians. On many occasions it can be found translated into English as “Butch” and into Spanish as “Marimacho”, however these translations and explanations describe just a hint of the reality behind this expression.
Even before the appearance of this form of naming, kesse Väter (1) movement began in the cities of Berlin and Cologne back in the 30s, probably imported from the United States. The expression appears later, in the 50s, when we find the first references in the literature.
Some point out the relationship of this expression in its origin, with Rotwelsch, a jargon based on the German language with additions and mixtures of Romany and Yiddish, related with crime and street vending. However this association of the term with marginality may be due more to the illegality of anything that was not heterosexuality and the approach that the kesse Väter implied, than a real relationship with the underworld and crime.
Later in the 70s, Kesser Vater was a term used by the German LGBT groups, and today can be found in the press without explanation, also with the initials KV, so it may be a relatively well-known expression. But it has not been easy to know what Kesser Vater means and finally, tired of searching, we decided to contact the professor Jody Skinner, from Koblenz University of Cologne, who kindly made us a present sending his great books, published in German, about homosexual slang in Germany. María Cano has translated into Spanish Kesser Vater entry of Jody’s book, and with the appropriate video about the Thai Tomboys sent us by Mª Ángeles Rodríguez, we have come full circle.
Kesser Vater, fresh father, cool father.
Kesser Vater has no equivalent term in other languages, but its literal translation, as on other occasions, has given us some clues.
Translation of Vater is Father, and Kesser is the augmentative of Kess which translates as sassy, fresh, new, modern, cool, etc. A first approximation of the translation would be very cheeky father, cool father, very modern father, new father, fresh father, expressions, intuitively, give us an idea to know which way the wind blows.
A Kesser Vater is a lesbian who dresses and acts like a man, but also complies with the traditional role reserved for men. Her partner is usually a very feminine lesbian with which fulfill all the functions attributed to couples made up of most traditional men and women. This phenomenon is also found in Thai Tomboys (or Toms), that don't define themselves as lesbians or as transgender people and, as you could see in the following video, they pose three conditions to be a Tomboy: 1st To have a flat chest, 2nd Be able to protect his girl, 3rd Be a Sugar Daddy, that is, pay his girl everything.
Despite playing a traditional model of couple and men, the Kesse Väter actually question the established order because they pulverize assigning tags and let us make a few questions. Who has decided and who determines what a is man and what is a woman? Who determines and Who has decided what is a homosexual person? Why a woman can not have dick? Why a man with cunt can not be a man? Should a transsexual man built a penis? And a transsexual woman built a vagina? The kesse Väter give us another viewpoint relativizing concepts and realities as transsexuality and sexual orientation.
Kesser Vater, papi chula.
Not the first time we address the issue of constructions and labels, and although the Kesse Väter deserve in-depth article we will address in the future, today we focus on the translation of the expression that we will give in our German Lesbian Dictionary.
As mentioned at the beginning, translate Kesser Vater as butch or Marimacho, although very common, kept out a lot of nuances that the German expression did have. As much as we seek we were unable to find an expression in English that we could use, so we decided to invent one. The theme of the father had to be present, as well as traditional stereotypes. One of the texts that Jody Skinner attached in its book as a reference read:
“The kesser Vater has his pretty girlfriend as an object of prestige.”
And this text brought to mind that point of exhibition and cockiness the known expression Papi Chulo (2) has. We found it very appropriate the gender discordance, note that chula is the feminine of chulo, and papi is a masculine word. So we decided to translate Kesser Vater as Papi Chula in spanish language and keep this translation for english language. As always, any proposal or objection will be well received.
Anneliese W. better known as Johnny, a Kesser Vater who lived in Nazi Germany, photographed young and older.
Marlene Dietrich, Kesser Vater, bisexual and very sexually active.
More Kesser Vater pictures.
1. Kesse Väter: is the plural of kesser vater.
2. Papi Chulo: some latin american women call his boyfriend or husband papi (daddy). Chulo, meaning cool, cocky, sexy, handsome, good in sex, etc, reinforces the male idea and the traditional role assigned to men, and consequently, the traditional role to women, submissive, dependent and subjected in a patriarchal society. All this with a sexual halo.
Header picture: Gertrude Sandmann, Berlin artist and founder of group L'74 (Lesbos 1974) and his partner Hedwig Koslowski a Kesser Vater.
Source: Bezeichnungen für das Homosexuelle im Deutschen. Jody Skinner (1998), translated by María Cano.
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