A Lost Piece of Trans HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: 1930s, German history, transgender history
“A final moment of reluctance overcame me,” Hans Hannah Berg wrote, “as I stepped across the threshold of the house.” Dressed in a custom black dress, white gloves, and fine pearls, Hans Hannah looked impeccable. She cut a fine figure walking down the street, announced by a hint of perfume and the gentle jangling of bangles. But Hans Hannah was anxious: this was her first outing as a woman.
Hans Hannah wrote about the occasion for the inaugural issue of The Third Sex (Das 3. Geschlecht), likely the world’s first magazine devoted to trans issues. First published in Berlin in 1930, The Third Sex circulated in the final years of the Weimar Republic, Germany’s democratic experiment between the wars. After the Nazis seized power, they destroyed the publishing house, and the magazine was largely forgotten. As a result, most accounts today name fifties America as the birthplace of trans periodicals. The recent republication of The Third Sex by the Bibliothek rosa Winkel revives lost voices from Germany’s queer past and recovers a remarkable piece of trans history.
Beginning in the nineteenth century, Germany was closely associated with homosexuality. The English spoke of the “German custom,” the French referred to the vice allemande, and Italians called gay men and women “Berlinese.” Queer people existed across Europe, of course, but German thinkers actively studied non-heteronormative sexualities and openly debated the rights of queer people, inaugurating the field of sexology. In the first decade of the twentieth century, more than a thousand works on homosexuality were published in German. Researchers from England to Japan cited German sexologists as experts and often published their own works in Germany before their home countries.
comments powered by Disqus
- Abraham Lincoln, Joe Biden and the politics of touch
- Why Good Friday was dangerous for Jews in the Middle Ages and how that changed
- The first African American major league baseball player isn’t who you think
- The story behind the towering Notre Dame spire and the 30-year-old architect commissioned to rebuild it
- A history of great cathedrals that have been lost to fire and war
- Livestream event: The Greater Reconstruction: American Democracy after the Civil War
- The Fate of the "AHA Interview"
- Gale Kenny on the Womens March, Church Ladies, and Grassroots Political Religion
- Russel Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum's New Book Shows Even Conspiracy Theories Have Gotten Dumber
- ‘Don’t they know Columbus never landed in America?’: Third-graders found error in their workbook. Here’s what they did about it.