TransAlly: Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935)

Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jewish sexologist born in Kolberg, Prussia (now Kolobrzeg, Poland) in1868. He was a physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany. His practice was based in Berlin-Charlottenburg. He also served as a highly outspoken advocate for sexual minorities.

In 1897, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee which has been recognized by many historians as the first advocacy group for transgender and homosexual rights. The group aimed to overturn Paragraph 175, a clause in the German penal code instated in 1871 that criminalized homosexuality. The group argued that the law encouraged blackmail. Hirschfeld's believed that having a better understanding of homosexuality and transgenderism would eliminate societal persecution of homosexuals. Under Hirschfeld's leadership of the committee, they collected over 500 signatures from prominent Germans on a petition to abolish Paragraph 175, including Albert Einstein, Herman Hesse, and Thomas Mann. They brought the bill before the German Empire in 1898 but it had minimal support, most of which were from members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which was on the precipice of rebuilding its voter base at the time. Hirschfeld arranged for the bill to be reintroduced in the 1920's only to have that effort usurped by the Nazi Party.

Magnus organized the First Congress for Sexual Reform in 1921, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Summits took place in Copenhagen, London, Vienna, and Brno from 1928-1932. During a tour of the United States in 1931, he was dubbed "the Einstein of Sex" by the Hearst newspaper chain. He represented himself as a campaigner and scientist that studied a wide variety of sexual orientations and identities. He cataloged 64 different types of sexuality including the coining of the term transvestite, which was used to describe what would now be described as transgender or transsexual.

In 1919 Hirschfeld and his frequent collaborator Arthur Kronfeld opened The Institute of Sex Research. 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. Around 20,000 people visited each year. Poorer visitors were treated for free. Additionally, the Institute advocated sex education, contraception, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and women's emancipation, and was a pioneer worldwide in the call for civil rights and social acceptance for homosexual and transgender people.

The Institute became a hub for scientific research and piqued the interest of many scientists of sexuality, as well as scientific, political and social reformers around the world. In 1923 the Institute was visited by Nikolai Semashko, Commissar for Health in the Soviet Union. This was followed by numerous visits and research trips by health officials, political, sexual and social reformers, and scientific researchers from the Soviet Union interested in the work of Hirschfeld. In 1926 a delegation from the institute, led by Hirschfeld, reciprocated with a research visit to Moscow. When the Nazi's seized power in 1933, they attacked the Institute burning many of its books as well as the archives of research that had been gathered for over 20 years.

Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term transsexualism, identifying the clinical category which his colleague Harry Benjamin would later develop in the United States. Transgender people were on the staff of the Institute, as well as being among the clients there. Various Endocrinologic and surgical services were offered, including the first modern "sex-change" operations in the 1930s. Hirschfeld also worked with Berlin's police department to curtail the arrest of cross-dressed individuals on suspicion of prostitution.

Hirschfeld has a large bibliography, some have been lost over time and very little has been translated into English. The following is a list of works relevant to transgender issues that have been translated into English.

The Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress (1910),
Homosexuality of Men and Women (1914)
The Sexual History of the World War (1930)
Men and Women: The World Journey of a Sexologist (1933)

6 More Songs You Probably Didn't Realize Had Trans Themes

Arnold Layne- Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd is an English rock band that was best known for its unique sound and billboard smashing albums Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall,  and Wish You Were Here. However those iconic albums are just a fraction of their work. Their debut single, Arnold Layne, came during the more psychedelic wave of the late 1960's during Syd Barrett's tenure as frontman. The song, according to Roger Waters, is based on a real person who was a transvestite.

Royal Orleans- Led Zeppelin
Royal Orleans is a  track from Led Zeppelin's 1976 album Presence. The song is an account of an experience of the band's bassist John Paul Jones. The story goes that while on tour in New Orleans the band would stay at the Royal Orleans Hotel. On one these trips, Jones invited a woman who he was unaware was transgender. The two smoked marijuana together and fell asleep, causing the hot ashes to catch the room on fire and burning down the hotel with no fatalities.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da- The Beatles
This song appeared on the iconic album titled The Beatles, also known as The White Album. While there is no backstory to the catchy, reggae-esque tune that would give reason to believe it is about a transgender person, it does allude to a switch of gender roles. The second verse describes the two subjects of the song, Desmond and Molly. "Molly stays at home and does her pretty face, and Desmond's just a singer in a band". However in the last verse they change up the story a bit, stating "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face, and in the evening she's a singer in the band". I recall hearing the song for the first time and thinking "Wait... What?" just before the last go round of the chorus ends with a fun Ob-La-Di-Bla-Da!

King For A Day- Green Day
This song leaves nothing to interpretation or imagination. Plain and simple, it's about a kid who crossdresses when their parents aren't around. It starts at an early age,  and the kid feels great when they are doing it.  Of course the kid is caught and punished for it. The father throws him in therapy but it doesn't work. My favorite lyric is "Don't knock it till you try it Dad". Which is something my parents told me over and over again...of course they were really only trying to get me to eat my vegetables.

Rebel, Rebel- David Bowie
David Bowie was an amazing artist who I became enamored with early on. He had a fascination with the underground trans community and was widely rumored to be bisexual. Rebel, Rebel was a song that appeared on the album Diamond Dogs, the album widely regarded as Bowie's swan song to the Glam-Rock movement he helped create. Queen Bitch, the B-side to Rebel, Rebel, also has trans themes. "You've got your momma in a whirl,  she don't know if you're a boy or girl"

Transgender Dysphoria Blues- Against Me!
Unlike the previous entries on this list, this song on the album of the same name was written and performed by a transwoman. Laura Jane Grace formed Against Me! In 1997 in Gainesville, Florida. She came out in 2012, and after a few lineup changes which nearly put the band's future in jeopardy they released the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014 without a label backing them. Despite the hurdles the album was critically acclaimed. Shortly after they were signed to a new label. The title song speaks volumes about the feelings and inner thoughts of transgender people everywhere. While it's a bit coarse in language usage, few works speak so truthfully about the realities of gender Dysphoria.

Did you like this list? Any songs you think I missed? Be on the lookout for more posts like this one so you can expand your trans playlist!

Current Events: Transgender Military Policy

August 25th, 2017

Today, President Donald J. Trump, issued a memorandum ordering a reversal of policies that had begun to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military that had been put in place by the Obama administration. The move is sickening and heartbreaking for many military service members and their families. Many of which are wondering just what they can do to fight this change of government policy.

It’s estimated that over 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 trans people are serving in the military today. While support for transgender veterans has improved, many still have to overcome a variety of obstacles. These obstacles include obtaining updated service records, and from receiving VA coverage for medical procedures and care.

It's unclear how far the effect of this discriminatory change in policy may reach. Trump wrote in his memorandum, "the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments' longstanding policy and practice [against out transgender military service] would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources. " While the memorandum makes a clear strike towards service members who are transgender, it does not make any mention or allusion to service members who aren't trans but have dependents that are. That may be why discretion has been allowed to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, a move that may become important later on. However, the views held by Sec. James Mattis and H.R. McMaster on the issue are relatively unclear.

What is clear is that Trump is both turning his back on the many LGBT people that voted for him and making an attempt to disrupt the health and well-being of many trans service members and their families. These are people who have fought for this country, spent time away from their families, and earned their right to receive adequate health care. Not only is their health care on the line, so are their jobs...their livelihoods. Additionally, this sends a message to young transgender people that they are not welcome to serve in the military simply because of how they identify.

While this news is disconcerting to the transgender community, there is some good news. The first is that the goal for the new policies implementation is March, 23rd 2018. The second is that congress, the military, the joint chiefs of staff, and the two secretaries specifically mentioned in the memorandum; may provide Trump a recommendation to the contrary that he finds convincing. And the third is that two lawsuits are expected to take this policy change head on. One of these lawsuits was filed by the NCLR(National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLAAD seeks to file an injunction to halt enforcement of the policy. The other will be filed as soon as Monday by Lambda Legal and OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Find out more about advances and challenges for transgender veterans and service members, and how to get support.
Transgender American Veterans Association

National Center For Transgender Equality

GLAAD Transgender Media Program

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defense

If you click the "Merch" Link towards the top of the blog and buy a customizable T-shirt, I'll donate all the royalties I make from the sales from August 25th to September 15th to the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defense to aid them in the fight for transgender military service members.

Kristelle's Story: Post-Grad Blues

Graduation day was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was graduating. On the other, I had zero real plans for the future. I mean if course I had some schooling in the works and I  still had my retail job, but I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life or even how to go about accomplishing it. Due to the fact that I was struggling with my gender identity and the depression and anxiety that ensued as a result of having to keep up the charade of being a guy,  I had no real aspirations of figuring out my life plans. What was the point if I couldn't be who I really was? Why should I have cared about my future if all I could foresee in it was more misery and secrecy?

The following fall, I started at one of those awful for-profit schools.  You know the ones with the TV commercials where a guy makes you feel like a loser for not making a phone call? Yeah, one of those. I took a program that had to do with coding and computer programming. I only did so to keep my parents off my back and quickly realized that it was not for me. So I quit and went to work for the company I was already at full-time. A few months later, a wonderful person stepped into my life.

Amanda was/is the most cherished relationship I ever had and the most influential in terms of me coming to the realization that I HAD to come out as transgender. We had a lot in common and truly enjoyed each others company. But the most beautiful part of our relationship was how open she was with me about her sexuality and the struggles she faced because of it.  I had met other people who were gay or bisexual, but none of them were so open about how and why they felt the way they did. I admire her for that. However the transparency of our relationship was very much one-sided. I loved her so much but was so afraid of losing her to my secret that I kept it from her as well. That led me to become paranoid in the relationship and hide things from her and lie to her on a  number of things. Basically I became self-destructive and she eventually had enough and we went our separate ways for awhile.

During the same time I was also experiencing turbulence in my family life. The secret of who my biological father was and my knowledge that both myself and my sister had been lied to our whole lives was coming to a head. I was feeling like I wasn't truly a member of the family, and I had drifted away from them. They noticed and discussed it with each other when I wasn't around. One day my sister took it upon herself to voice the frustrations of the family with me and it turned into an argument where I laid out the uncomfortable truth to her.

Later my dad spoke to both of us individually about the situation. I don't know what he said to her but he sat me down and asked me if I knew what "biological" meant. Things between us only got worse for the next few months. Eventually he and I got in an argument that got physical and I moved out the next day....back to my moms house.

My life was unraveling at what seemed like light-speed and I felt as if I had no control over anything. I blamed Amanda for the problems in our defunct relationship, I blamed my family for setting me up for this kind of meltdown and I pleaded with God to lift the curse he had placed on me at conception.

Somewhere in this time period I met my biological father for the first time I could remember. I was nervous and had so many questions for him. But when the moment came, my mother and I discovered he was living in a nursing home. We went to meet him anyway. He was 69 years old, and was sitting in a wheelchair. He had Parkinson's so bad he couldn't hold a glass half full of water without spilling it.  But what was worse, he talked about things we'd done that never actually happened. That's when I knew I wasn't meeting my father. I was meeting the shell that my once was my father, and all the questions I had for him would never be answered.

Eventually I realized that the problems in my family life were what they were and I would have to square with the truth of that matter eventually. I also came to my senses as far as the relationship with Amanda was concerned. Our problems were a result of me being unable to be authentic and truthful about who I was as a person. And I  knew I would have to take the steps to become the woman I was supposed to be. And my first obstacle was figuring out how.

Kristelle's Story: Table of Contents