Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880-1945
Clayton J. Whisnant
June 28, 2016
Harrington Park Press
ISBN: 9781939594099 paper
ISBN: 9781939594082 hardcover
Available at Amazon US, UK, Columbia University Press
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06.09.16 New Book Reveals Surprisingly Modern, Relevant Gay Rights Activism in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Germany
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In the fascinating new book Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880-1945, just published by Harrington Park Press (June 28, 20016, New York, NY) and distributed by Columbia University Press, author Clayton J. Whisnant recounts the emergence of various “queer identities”–what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender–in Germany from 1880 to 1945 and the political strategies pursued by early gay and lesbian activists.
Drawing on recent English and German-language research, Whisnant 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.
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.
Additionally, jumping off from discussions began in Robert Beachy’s Gay Berlin, Queer Identities goes on to examine gay life in a range of cities beyond Berlin, including Munich, Hamburg, and Cologne. It reveals various lesser discussed aspects of lesbian life at the time, while also addressing the sexuality of several well-known literary and artistic figures including Thomas Mann, Klaus Mann, Stefan George, and Wilhelm von Gloeden. Perhaps most importantly, Queer Identities concludes with a consideration of how the Weimar and Nazi past connects with gay and lesbian life in Germany today.
Queer German history has a great deal of relevance for American readers interested in LGBTQ issues:
- The first writer to coin the term “homosexual” was a German-speaking Hungarian in 1869.
- The first homosexual activists were German, in the 1890s.
- The world’s first gay bar, one that catered entirely to–vs. one that was favored by or tolerated–homosexuals) opened in Berlin in 1880.
- Berlin’s gay life became internationally renowned/infamous, by the mid-1920s supporting nearly 100 gay and 50 lesbian bars and nightclubs. Police harassment was a regular occurrence, however.
- By the end of the decade, a national organization of underground gay social clubs in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart had over 48,000 members.
- The first periodicals addressed to gay men, lesbians, and transgender people were all German. Dozens of gay and lesbian magazines flourished, though furtively and under various names, from the 1890s to 1928, when the Law to Protect Youth against Trash and Smut shuttered all but a small handful.
- The first Institute of Sex Research was opened in 1919 in Berlin. As well as being a research library and housing a large archive, the Institute also included medical, psychological, and ethnological divisions, and a marriage and sex counseling office.
- A German scientist coined the term “transvestism,” paving the way for the distinction that we make between homosexual and transgender.
- The first step toward something like rights for cross-dressers came when the Berlin police agreed to issue “transvestite passes.”
- The first sex reassignment operation was done by a German doctor in 1920.
- The pink triangle attached to the inmate uniforms of homosexual men in the Nazi concentration camps has been transformed since the 1970s into one of the internationally recognized symbols of LGBTQ politics.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clayton J. Whisnant is Professor of History at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he teaches a range of courses in twentieth-century European history. His first book was Male Homosexuality in West Germany, 1945-1969: Between Persecution and Freedom.
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
Harrington Park Press is a specialized academic/scholarly book publisher devoted to emerging topics in LGBTQ diversity, equality, and inclusivity. Harrington Park Press is distributed by Columbia University Press. www.harringtonparkpress.com
* Source: Figure 15. Jeanne Mammen (1890–1976), Sie representiert, ca. 1928. Original watercolor and pencil (reproduced here in black and white). Private collection, Berlin. The artist Jeanne Mammen did a number of drawings and paintings representing Berlin’s nightlife in the 1920s and early 1930s. Born in Berlin, she also spent much time in Paris, Brussels, and Rome. Her artwork very often focused on women, especially the self-reliant “New Woman” of the Weimar Republic in different guises: eking out a living on rough city streets, enjoying one another’s company at a café in the evening, or dancing with men at a late-night club. Quite a number of them, including this one, offered a glimpse into Berlin’s lesbian scene. Source: Jeanne Mammen © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy of the Jeanne Mammen Stiftung, Berlin. Photograph by Mathias Schormann, Berlin.
“Cogent, well-researched and readable. Useful as a reader in a first year undergraduate course in the history of sexuality or alternatively as a reference work for a course on the Racial State or the Holocaust. This book is certainly also of interest to LGBTQ community groups and LGBTQ Resource Centers.” – Jennifer Evans, author of Queer Cities, Queer Culture: Europe Since 1945 (Continuum, 2013) with Matt Cook, Carlton University
“This is an outstanding survey book in all respects: intelligible to a wider readership while still pursuing an intellectual ambition, knowledgeable and precise, including stories and telling details while also offering interpretative food for thought and never losing the red thread. Different aspects and layers of queer history in Germany c. 1880-1945 are expertly covered, from Sexualwissenschaft to media scandals, from literary life to urban space. Recommended with enthusiasm.” – Moritz Föllmer, former reviews editor, German History, University of Amsterdam
Advocate.com | 7/19/16 | large excerpt
BoxTurtleBulletin | 8/8/16
Huffington Post Australia | US | 8/2/16
Lavender Magazine | Twin Cities | 9/1/16
LGBTSr | 6/21/16
Little Gay Blog | 6/10/16
MySoCalledGayLife | 6/10/16
OutSmart Magazine | 8/1/16
Reviews by Amos Lassen | 7/7/16
Stonewall Gazette | 7/31/16
Vital Voice | St. Louis/Kansas City | 6/20/16
Windy City Times | 8/8/16 | print