Monday, May 20, 2013

before stonewall, after 1899 part 3 : scientific humanitarian committee

Today we have more LGBT groups and organizations than we can count, but where and when did it all begin? In my post on Henry Gerber I talked about The Society for Human Rights which he started in 1924 in Chicago. As I said, it was the first LGBT rights organization in the U.S. but it was not the first in the world. The first in the world was The Scientific Humanitarian Committee. It was started in Berlin in 1897.
    The main mission of the SHC was to repeal paragraph 175 of  Germaine's Imperial Penal Code, which made ''coitus-like'' acts between males illegal. The committee assisted defendants in court who were charged under paragraph 175. They also organized public lectures on Uranians[gay people] and gathered signatures on petitions to repeal paragraph 175. Some famous signatories included Albert Einstein and Leo Tolstoy. Of course, no organization would be complete without some sort of publication and the SHC had one called the Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types. It reported on the committee's activities and ran articles supporting Uranianism of a literary, combative and scientific nature. It was published regularly from 1899-1923 and then sporadically until 1933.
    At it's height the SHC had over 500 members and had spread to 25 cities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. But with the rise of the third Reich the SHC was disbanded by the Nazi's in 1933 and many of it's members were killed. There were attempts to reorganize the SHC in 1949 and 1962 but they failed.
    In-fighting prevented the 1949-50 reorganization of the SHC but another organization emerged called the Committee for Reform of the Sexual Criminal Laws.  It lasted until 1960. Germany did see the beginnings of the repeal of paragraph 175 in 1969 and the full repeal in 1994. These early Gay activist went through hell and back but we are riding on the coattails of their work today.

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