Magnus Hirschfeld Rediscovered


The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture
by Heike Bauer
Temple University Press
236 pages, $34.95



MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD (1868–1935) was hailed in the press as the “Einstein of Sex” during an American lecture tour in 1930. He was a leader among the pioneering sexologists of the late 19th century, and the first openly homosexual one. Although his focus was on matters of sexuality, he was an outspoken radical on many other controversial topics, such as feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, socialism, and even nudism.

Born into a Pomeranian (German) Jewish family, his father was a physician and a regular writer on humanitarian issues. Hirschfeld was equally divided between a career in medicine or literature. After studies in philology and medicine, he took off on an extended tour of the United States, documenting his experiences in German newspapers. In 1896, he established a medical practice in Berlin and began publishing in defense of same-sex love. He helped organize the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1897 to deploy scientific arguments in support of homosexual civil rights and the decriminalization of sodomy. The Committee began publishing a journal on “sexual intermediates” (sexuelle Zwischenstufen) in 1899 under Hirschfeld’s editorship. His own research and publications covered a spectrum of sexualities and genders: homosexuality, “third sex,” transvestism, bisexuality, and transgenderism. He even documented the homosexual bars and cabarets of 1920s Berlin.

Vernon Rosario is a child psychiatrist and Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA. He is the author of Homosexuality and Science: A Guide to the Debates.

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