On 28 August 1825, a pioneer of the modern gay rights movement, Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs was born.
He wrote extensively on the nature of different sexual orientations and gender identities, at a time when such things were not only highly taboo, but when there were no adequate words to describe the very things he wrote about. And on 29 August 1867, became the first “homosexual” (a word first coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869) to speak out when he pleaded for the anti-homosexual laws under which he lived, to be repealed. He travelled throughout Germany during the 1860s, always writing, and often getting in trouble with the law for his books. In 1864, the police in Saxony confiscated and banned them, as they did in Berlin and throughout Prussia. Yet he seemed undeterred. To put it in his own words:
“Until my dying day I will look back with pride that I found the courage to come face to face in battle against the spectre which for time immemorial has been injecting poison into me and into men of my nature. Many have been driven to suicide because all their happiness in life was tainted. Indeed, I am proud that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt.”
His works have remained influential and important to future generations.
And despite rejection during his lifetime, Munich, Bremen and Hanover now all have streets named after him. And each year, his birthday is celebrated at Karl-Heinrich-Ulrichs-Platz in Munich, with a street party and poetry recital. Furthermore the city of L’Aquila (where he is laid to rest,) hosts an annual pilgrimage to his grave.