1905-05-31

On this date in Germany, a debate took place in the Reichstag on Gay Rights and the repeal of Germany’s sodomy laws. 

A few years later, in 1907 Adolf Brand, the activist leader of the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen, working to overturn Paragraph 175, publishes a piece “outing” the imperial chancellor of Germany, Prince Bernhard von Bulow. The Prince sues Brand for libel and clears his name; Brand is sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (The Society of the Self-Determined) was established in 1903 on the outskirts of Berlin to realize the social and political goals espoused by its leader: the author, photographer, and perennial activist, Adolf Brand (1874–1945).

Inspired by anarchist political thought, Brand and the organization’s members used a rhetoric of personal liberation to advocate for greater social acceptance of male bonding and intimacy and to promote a cult of youthful beauty. The group’s unwavering faith in the transformative power of culture was central to the realization of these objectives. A secondary goal was the elimination from the German penal code of Paragraph 175, the statute that prohibited “unnatural acts” between men.

The society published Der Eigene which was the first Gay journal in the world, published from 1896 to 1932 by Brand in Berlin. Brand contributed many poems and articles; other contributors included writers Benedict Friedlander, Hanns Heinz Ewers, Erich Muhsam Klaus Mann and Thomas Mann, as well as artists Wilhelm von Gloeden, Fidus and Sascha Schneider. The journal may have had an average of around 1500 subscribers per issue during its run, but the exact numbers are uncertain.