KARL HEINRICH ULRICHS
* 28th August 1825 in Aurich, today Germany
† 14th July 1895 in L’Aquila, today Italy
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was a German lawyer and writer, and one of the first champions for the legal equality of homosexuals. In 1864, he published the first of 12 papers entitled, Studies on the Riddle of Male to Male Love. He is also regarded as a pioneer of sexual science. Ulrichs attempted to prove, using diverse arguments, that homosexuality is not an illness but natural, and therefore should not be subject to prosecution.
On August 29, 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs gave a speech before 500 lawyers at the German Lawyers Association in Munich. For the first time, he spoke publicly about the phenomenon known today as “homosexuality” (the term had not existed before then). The speech led to tumultuous scenes in the audience and to the termination of the lecture.
Later, he commented on his speech, saying “Until I die, I will credit myself that on August 29th in Munich I found the heart to stand eye-to-eye with a thousand-year-old, multi-headed, angry-eyed Hydra, which has, for far too long, mouthed bitter and poisonous bile, spat fire and brimstone over me and my brothers in nature, induced suicide and poisoned all of their happiness in life. I am indeed proud that I found the strength to thrust the first lance into the body of the Hydra of public contempt.”
As a result of this “coming out” and other activities and initiatives, he was later referred to as “the first gay man in world history.”
Ulrichs‘ demands for impunity finally became reality in Germany almost 130 years later with the abolition of § 175 in 1994. The right to marriage between same sex couples was granted in 2017, 150 years after Ulrichs’ speech.