The great German physician, sexologist, and Gay Rights advocate MAGNUS HIRSHFELD was both born and died on this day (1868-1935). Known as “the Einstein of Sex” he is credited with developing the theory of a third, “intermediate sex” between men and women. In 1897, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, which gathered over 5000 signatures from prominent Germans for a petition to overturn Paragraph 175, the section of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality (founded on this date as well — see below). In 1921 He organized the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform.
Hirschfeld co-wrote and acted in the 1919 film “Anders als die Andern” (“Different From the Others”), which featured the first homosexual character ever written for cinema. It was released a few years ago on DVD and still offers a fascinating view from the time. He also founded the Institute for Sexual Research which featured an immense library on sex and provided educational services and medical consultations.
The writers Christopher Isherwood & W.H. Auden both visited the institute while in Germany. When the Nazis took power, one of their first actions was to destroy the Institute and burn the library. At that time Hirschfeld was away from Germany on a speaking tour. He died in Nice on his 67th birthday in 1935, while in exile from his native Germany in Nice, France.
The word “transsexual” was coined by Dr. Hirschfeld to describe the phenomenon that he argued was a natural extension of human sexuality. His philosophy centered on the contention that there was a third sex, called the Uranian, which was neither male nor female, but a combination of both that was manifested in homosexuality, which was not to be considered an impure deviation, or even as an illness, but as a natural and phenomenal component of human nature.
For his work, the Nazis targeted Dr. Hirschfeld as an example of Jewish influence infecting the purity of the German people, luring the Aryan race into impure and destructive perversity. He was ultimately driven into exile and burned in effigy as an emblem of evil. The slogan with which he began his speeches, “Uranians of the World, Unite!” was not to be realized until our own time.