150 years ago, this queer activist invented sexual identity to stage a public protest

But a straight doctor stole the idea and rose to fame

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs staged the world’s first queer protest 150 years ago. (Wikimedia Commons/GVGK Tang)

I wait anxiously as the chairman reads my request to speak. Calling for a vote as to whether I should be heard, a resounding cry of “Yes!” echoes through the hall, punctuated by some protest. I approach the speaker’s platform, heart pounding in my ears as an audience of five hundred turns its attention to me. What gives me strength at this very moment is the distant gaze of my comrades fixed upon me. Should I return their trust with cowardice?

Karl Maria Kertbeny invented the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” (Wikimedia Commons)

“We should convince our opponents that exactly according to their legal notions they do not have anything to do with this inclination, let it be innate or voluntary, because the state does not have the right to intervene in what is happening between two consenting people aged over 14, excluding publicity, [and] not hurting the rights of any third party . . .” *

“The research in your writings on love between men has interested me in a high degree. . . . From that day on when you sent me your writings, I have given my full attention to the phenomenon. . . . It was the knowledge of your writings alone, which gave rise to my research in this highly important field.” *

There is a class of people being “exposed to an undeserved legal persecution for no other reason than . . . a sexual nature that is the opposite of that which is in general usual . . .” *

Ulrichs described the day of his protest in his sixth treatise “Gladius Furens” (“Raging Sword”). It was the first of his treatises to bear his real name. (OutHistory.org)

🏳️‍🌈 PLEASE 👏 and share this article. Join me in telling Ulrichs’ story. 🏳️‍🌈

Public Historian. QTPOC.

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