ADVERTISING

HISTORY

Magnus Hirschfeld: the German activist who fought for gay rights

Magnus Hirschfeld was a physician, naturopath, sexologist, sexual reformer, socialist, and educator in an era where these type of thinkers were persecuted.

Magnus Hirschfeld was a pioneering physician in fields that many people never imagined would be explored at the time. A forerunner of sexology and an advocate for the rights of what is now known as the LGBTQ+ community but what he called Sexual Intermediaries in the 20th century.

His activism played a pivotal role in various struggles involving the rights of gay people, including attempting to overturn the German law criminalizing same-sex relationships.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jewish man born in 1868 in Germany. He was the first physician to research and advocate for people whose gender did not correspond to the sex assignment they received at birth. Magnus studied linguistics and later medicine, but also worked for a few years as a journalist.

In 1919 he inaugurated the ‘Institut für Sexualwissenschaft’ a privately run institution where Magnus poured all his knowledge into research on the German homosexual movement and sexology.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Hirschfeld resided in the building together with Karl Giese, who was called ‘The Woman of the House’ and the couple’s guest room was the focal point for visitors to the Institute who were diagnosed as ‘intermediate sexual studies’ and Magnus himself had a certain appreciation.

‘Sexual Intermediaries’

Hirschfeld defined his specialty as ‘sexual intermediaries’, a concept that included anyone who did not fit the ‘archetype’ of heterosexual cisgender men and women. He also developed the theory of intersexuality, where everyone is a unique and unrepeatable combination of male and female traits in different proportions.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

According to Hirschfeld, the sexual intermediaries’ housed several categories, one of which consisted of cisgender gay, lesbian and bisexual people. He also considered transvestites, people who are comfortable with their assigned sex but prefer to dress in clothes that are considered to be those of the opposite sex; and ‘trans’, those who want to live fully according to their unassigned sex and even wanted to undergo a sex change. Such was the case with Lili Elbe, whom Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld accompanied during her reassignment process.

An advocate ahead of his time

Magnus Hirschfeld was interested in the study of a wide variety of sexual and erotic needs at a time when the naming of sexual identities was still in formation.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

As a gay man himself, Magnus was aware of the legal and social danger faced by sexual intermediates. He fought for sexual reform and called for a change in the conception of marriage and population policy, sexual information, and nudity.

Sexual intermediates frequently went to physicians for help, and Hirschfeld worked to educate the medical community with publications such as the ‘Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types’.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Not only did he become involved in educating the medical community, but also testified in court on behalf of men who were accused of violating the German law prohibiting same-sex relationships.

He was also involved in the first-ever feature film with a homosexual protagonist, ‘Different from Others’ where he had a small cameo and also co-wrote.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Hirschfeld created the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee for the political defense of sexual and gender rights in 1897. This committee managed to collect 5,000 signatures of German citizens showing their support for the campaign, among these signatures were those of geniuses such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann.

German citizens whose internal passport (a government-issued ID) indicated that their sex was male, but were dressed in women’s clothing, were victims of police harassment and arrested for disorderly conduct. By 1910 Hirschfeld and a colleague succeeded in getting the Berlin police to accept a ‘transvestite certificate’ signed by a doctor in order to quash the charges.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

He also got the Prussian judiciary to legalize the change of specific names from one gender to another, allowing transgender people to present themselves as the gender that best suited them.

His exile

Hirschfeld, who was a Jewish man, was lecturing on sexual science in Switzerland when the National Socialist party came to power in Germany; he quickly discovered while abroad, that the Institute for Sexual Science was burned by Nazi troops, its medical records, publications, photographs, all his work was destroyed.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

However, that didn’t stop him, Magnus stayed in Switzerland for a while, away from the growing hatred of his work and identity in Germany, then went to France. He continued to develop literary activity, publishing in international magazines about political events in Germany and sexological issues.

Hirschfeld died in 1935, in France, and the material confiscated by the Third Reich would, unfortunately, serve to persecute gender and sexually non-conforming people in the Third Reich.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Despite all that Hirschfeld achieved, homosexual relations between men were not decriminalized until 1968 in East Germany and 1969 in West Germany.

‘Love is a conflict between reflexes and reflections’.

Podría interesarte
ADVERTISING
ADVERTISING