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Eric Thorsell
(28 December 1898 - 7 September 1980) Sweden

Eric Thorsell

Iron & steel worker


Born in Munktorp, was the illegitimate son of a 46-year-old widow, who kept both of them working as a maid. He grew up in the parish of Malma and moved to Surahammar at the age of 19. Thorsell's thirst for learning brought him to Brunnsvik's Folkhögskola (people's high-school), where so many Swedish workers have gained a knowledge normally reserved for the upper classes.

Aware of being a homosexual in his teens, Thorsell soon became intrested in the issue of sexuality and the situation of homosexuals. His first mentors were the Swedish homosexual philosopher Pontus Wikner and Plato.

Thorsell visited Germany and the Hirschfeld Insitute. Later he got into contact with the Riksförbundet för Sexuellt Likaberättigande (RFSL), the Swedish national organisation for homosexuals, which was founded in 1950. But as early as 1933 he gave a lecture "Are the homosexuals outlaw or criminals?", perhaps the first lecture on this subject in Sweden.

poster 1933
Are Homosexuals
Criminals with
No Rights?

A poster from 1933

Stockholm, Riksarkivet

(In Denmark homosexuality was
de-criminalized 1933)

Thorsell never appeared openly as homosexual, but he was uncompromising in his struggle for the rights of homosexuals. He wrote no book, his media being the article and the lecture. After his death a fund was created in his memory.

The book En homosexuell arbetares memoarer (Memories of a homosexual worker) published posthumously, was based on memories of Thorsell engraved by Fredrik Silverstolpe years before the death of the first one. They show that Thorsell was well aware of his homosexuality and that his sexual contacts after adolescence were treated on visits to large cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg or Berlin.

"It was easy to feel enthusiastic about RFSU's goals. It was an organization shouting on light and air, on justice and freedom. [... We tried] to fight all the prevalent hypocrisy in the sexual matters. In our work we built on experiences from the people's education movement. There were simple men and women who organized study circles and invited professionals to help them.. It spread literature and organized lecture courses. From the outset, we were determined that a lot of what we wanted could not be carried out until we had a socialist society."


Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

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