Magnus Hirschfeld opened the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sex Research) in Berlin
Hirschfeld led and organized the First Congress for Sexual Reform
Nazis burned and destroyed the archives at the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft
Hirschfeld suffered a fatal heart attack on his birthday, May 14, in France
Police raided New York City’s Stonewall Inn
CHRISTOPHER STREET DAY PARADE
The first annual Christopher Street Day Parade was held in Berlin
Pride Before Stonewall
In 1919, Magnus Hirschfeld, a self-identified gay man, opened the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sex Research) in Berlin Germany. His focus was on biological research, medical interventions, psychological assistance, and sex and marriage counseling opportunities. In addition, the Institute provided sex education, contraception, and fostered women’s emancipation. He was at the forefront of studying sexuality and trying to repeal Paragraph 175, a German proclamation that since 1871 had criminalized homosexuality.
Hirschfeld led the First Congress for Sexual Reform in 1921 and continued his work until the Nazis attacked the institute and burned all its books and archives in 1933. Hirschfeld went into exile in France where he lived until his death in 1935.
Stonewall and Christopher Street Day
It would be 36 years before the Stonewall riots on Christopher Street in New York City. In 1969, on June 28th, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, which resulted in the gay patrons violently demonstrating police and social repression. This incident is considered the beginning of US (and ultimately world-wide) gay rights and equality (please see link below for current gender nomenclature).
Berlin, leading the cause in Europe, had its first Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in 1979. Now there are annual large CSD parades in Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne.
Poets and Soldiers
Close to the heart of the Romantic ethos was the idea that heroic individuals could attain the freedom to make their own laws, in defiance of society. Literary figures pursued a cult of friendship that bordered on the homoerotic, although most of the time the fervid talk of embraces and kisses remained just talk. But the [German] poet August von Platen’s* paeans to soldiers and gondoliers had a more specific import: “Youth, come! Walk with me, and arm in arm / Lay your dark cheek on your / Bosom friend’s blond head!”
Alex Ross, New Yorker, January 26, 2015**
* Platen was involved in an on-going disagreement with Heinrich Heine, which began when Platen aired an anti-Semitic response towards writings of Heine, and Heine in turn exposed Platen’s homosexuality.
** Read the complete Alex Ross article, Berlin Story: How the Germans invented gay rights – more than a century ago.
Did You Know?
- Germany’s pre-Nazi history that included idealism and Romanticism was a foundation upon which a sexual revolution took root – not in London or New York.
- Leontine Sagan’s 1931 film, Mädchen in Uniform, was the first sympathetic portrayal of lesbians onscreen.
- The US Military’s, “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, policy lasted from February 28, 1994 until September 20, 2011.
Current gender nomenclature
Read the history of the Stonewall Inn
Have a centennial suggestion? Let us know!