Many people are unaware of the LGBTQ+ movement before Stonewall. Broad accusations of queer identities becoming "trendy" are often debated without an in-depth discussion of life before the nuclear family.
There is a reason for this lack of contextual factors. And it's not a happy one. Simon LeVay, neuroscience known for his work with gay men, claims that "America was not the birthplace of the gay-rights movement." Berlin was. Was.
The erasure of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, has been amplified through historical revisionism and censorship throughout the years. An example? The Berlin book burning.
The Berlin book burnings occurred in May 1993, by German university students. This was the largest of the orchestrated burnings, but many occurred throughout the nation. These burnings targeted literature that did not fit within Nazi standards or had "un-German spirit." Many of these works were written and published by Jewish authors. The propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, claimed: "The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism has come to an end."
Magnus Hirschfield, a sexologist, was one of the many authors who would see the flames of censorship seize his work. Hirschfield formed the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, dedicated to the social recognition of LGBTQ+ individuals. It was the first queer advocacy group, ever.
Hirshcfield, along with Arnold Kronfeld, also ran the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, or loosely translated, Institute of Sexology. Hirschfield pioneered the term "transsexualism," and many transgender people were both clients and employees of the Institute, and presented at conferences. The Institute also provided gender-affirming surgeries -- The "Danish Girl," Lili Elbe, underwent surgery here.
In early Berlin, LGBTQ+ magazines existed. LGBTQ+ bars, bookstores, and travel guides existed. Berlin was the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ movement, and many individuals thrived despite laws against homosexuality.
But this all changed when the Nazis came into power.
On May 6, students broke into The Institute and stole the archives of the library, including 12,000+ books. Only four days later, they were destroyed in the burning.
After Nazism took full reign in Germany, life changed completely for LGBTQ+ individuals. An estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Nazi Germany. Up to 15,000 of these men ended up in concentration camps.
We have lost countless, irreplaceable research due to Nazism. We have lost countless, irreplaceable lives due to Nazism.
And we can't let this happen again. With the rise of the far-right, with the passage of laws targeting LGBTQ+ people under the Trump administration, we are losing the progress we've made over the past several years.
So educate yourself on LGBTQ+ history. Speak out against bigotry.
The more education we provide, the less power bigotry will have.