Queer Identities and Politics in Germany

A History

Clayton J. Whisnant

400 pages
Paperback, $40.00 ISBN: 9781939594099
Hardcover, $95.00 ISBN: 9781939594082
E-book, $19.99 ISBN: 9781939594105

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Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed key developments in LGBT history, including the growth of the world’s first homosexual organizations and gay and lesbian magazines, as well as an influential community of German sexologists and psychoanalysts. Queer Identities and Politics in Germany describes these events in detail, from vibrant gay social scenes to the
Nazi persecution that sent many LGBT people to concentration camps.

Clayton J. Whisnant recounts the emergence of various queer identities in Germany from 1880 to 1945 and the political strategies pursued by early homosexual activists. Drawing on recent English and German-language scholarship, he enriches the debate over whether science contributed to social progress or persecution during this period, and he offers new information on the Nazis’ preoccupation with homosexuality. The book’s epilogue locates remnants of the pre-1945 era in Germany today.

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(since 2/09/17)

Why Study Queer German History?

Queer German history has a great deal of relevance for any reader interested in LGBTQ issues. Unfortunately for English-language readers, though, much of the recent work has been written in German and is therefore inaccessible to those who do not read this language. Even looking for primary sources can be hard. Many historians still find themselves regularly citing James Steakley’s The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany—a pathbreaking book, but one published in 1975, at the very beginning of research into German LGBTQ history. Robert Beachy’s recent work, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity, very good in so many ways, focuses only on Berlin, largely neglects lesbian life, and stops at the beginning of the Nazi era.

Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880–1945 offers a useful and readable account of the history of homosexuality in Germany between the end of the nineteenth century, when the homosexual movement formed, and 1945, when the Allies finally defeated the Nazi state. The conclusion looks forward to the present, suggesting the ways that the long history of LGBTQ life and politics in Germany continued to be felt after 1945: in the gay scenes that reemerged after the war, in the various political movements that eventually reappeared, in the scientific theories of sexuality that continued to evolve, and in the different sexual identities that LGBTQ individuals have adopted. Queer Identities and Politics in Germany not only looks at the individuals, events, and movements of the era, but also briefly surveys some of the scholarly debates that have defined the historical literature. This book offers opportunities to consider important issues still facing lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender individuals, and others within the larger queer community—issues of identity, language, community building, and political strategizing.


(since 2/09/17)
1. The Birth of Homosexual PoliticsFree Chapter
The world’s first homosexual movement was launched in Germany in the 1890s. Magnus Hirschfeld organized the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (WhK). The committee’s goals were to use the latest scientific research to repeal the country’s sodomy law, Paragraph 175, and to promote wider tolerance for homosexuals. A magazine founded in the same decade by the anarchist and independent publisher Adolf Brand advocated for a revival of “Greek love.” This magazine served as the focal point for a group of men who championed a return to the “manly culture” of the classical era, which the group’s chief intellectual, Benedict Friedlaender, believed would revitalize all of Western civilization. This chapter discusses the history of this homosexual movement: Enlightenment-era criticism of the sodomy laws; writers such as Heinrich Hössli and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who paved the way; and nineteenth-century scientific research that gave Hirschfeld and others ideas about how Paragraph 175 could be challenged. This chapter also considers the complicated interplay that developed among science, same-sex identities, and LGBTQ politics at the end of the nineteenth century. It relates the emergence of the homosexual movement to the wider political context, considering its connection with the socialist politics of the 1890s and the appearance of the life reform movement.


2. Scandals and Alliances
3. The Growth of Urban Gay Scenes
4. Representations and Identities
5. The Politics of Homosexuality in Weimar Germany
6. Nazi Persecution
Gay and Lesbian Life after 1945
(since 2/09/17)


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