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A History of
In the United States
The highly influential Magnus Hirschfeld, a German physician and the man Hitler identified as “Germany’s most dangerous Jew.” Hirschfeld identified as a homosexual and worked from the late nineteenth century on to further homosexual rights. Unlike some of his predecessors and contemporaries, however, he differentiated homosexuals form transvestites, as distinct types of “sexual intermediaries.” Hirschfeld considered transvestism to be a “harmless inclination” and included in the transvestite group those with crossgender identification and those who crossdressed. Hirschfeld thought that variations in human sexuality were rooted in biology, and that a just society was one that recognized the natural order of things. A pioneering advocated for transgender people, Hirschfeld created the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin, a combination of library, archive, lecture hall, and medical clinic, where he amassed an unprecedented collection of historical documents, ethnographies, case studies, and literary works detailing the diversity of sexuality and gender around the world. He hired transgender people to work at the Institute and played a personal role in arranging some of the earliest-known transition-related medical care for trans individuals, including Lille Elbe, a trans woman portrayed as the protagonist in the (historically inaccurate) 2015 movie, the Danish Girl. Unfortunately, Hirschfeld’s story has a tragic end. In 1933, the Institute was ransacked and destroyed by fascist vigilantes, the contents of Hirschfeld’s extensive library lost to history in the most famous Nazi book burning. Hirschfeld died in exile in 1935.
1. Sidebar: Surgeons Felix Abraham (1901-1937 Suicide) and Erwin Gorhbandt (1890-1965) Not yet assigned 2. Sidebar: The First Patients: Dörchen Richter (1891-?), Lili Elbe (1882-1931) Not yet assigned
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