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Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschhfeld (1868-1935) was a prominent German physician, sexologist, and gay rights advocate, who developed the theory of a third, "intermediate sex" between men and women, consisting of homosexuals and transsexuals (a term he invented). His work was largely based on that of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs[?].

In 1897, Hirschfeld found the Scientific Humanitarian Committee[?] to defend the rights of homosexuals and repeal Paragraph 175[?], the 1871 law that prohibited sexual relations between men in Germany. The motto of the Committee, "Justice through science," reflected Hirschfeld's belief that a better scientific understanding of homosexuality would eliminate hostility toward homosexuals.

Hirschfeld himself was openly gay, and participated actively in the gay subculture of Germany. As a transvestite, he was also known as Aunt Magnesia. Critics have claimed that some of his financial support came from closeted but prominent German homosexuals, whom he blackmailed.

Though he was immensely popular in some circles, in others he was reviled intensely. Gatherings at which he spoke came under attack from anti-gay and anti-Semitic groups alike, and in one instance, in 1921, his skull was fractured and he was left lying in the street.

While advocating rights for homosexuals and supporting the idea that homosexuality was hormonal, his work opened the door for others to find a "cure" for homosexuality.

In 1919, under the more liberal atmosphere of the newly founded Weimar Republic, Hirschfeld opened the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Research[?]) in Berlin. His work was later condemned by the Nazis, who raided the Institute on May 6, 1933 and burned its library. Hirschfeld, who had left Germany on a world tour in 1930, never returned. He died in exile in Nice in 1935.

see also: Homosexuals in Nazi Germany



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