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Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
(August 28, 1825 - July 14, 1895) Germany

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

Lawyer & gay right activist


Born in Aurich, Hanover, he died in L'Aquila, Italy.

Ulrichs studied law at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin (1844-47) and became a junior attorney in the civil service of the Kingdom of Hanover. In 1854 he left state service to become a free-lance journalist and private secretary of a representative to the German Confederation in Frankfurt am Main.

In Frankfurt he used embryology to develop a theory of homosexuality that he presented in a series of five booklets (1864-65) titled Forschungen über das Rätsel der mannmännlichen Liebe (Researches Into the Riddle of Love Between Men). This he later extended to twelve booklets with the last appearing in 1879.

He assumed that love directed towards a man must be feminine and used the Latin phrase anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa (a female soul trapped in a male body), and he coined the term 'Urning' (Uranian) for such a person. This was a reference to Plato's Symposium in which Pausanias postulates two gods of love, the Uranian (Heavenly) Eros who governs principled male love, whereas the Pandernian (Vulgar) Eros governs heterosexual or purely licentious relations. Kertbeny later invented alternative words such as Homosexualität.

Ulrichs regarded homosexuals as neither criminal nor sick and tried to organize them for their own welfare. In 1864 he was planning to publish a homosexual periodical and in 1870 he started it but it only lasted for one issue through lack of support.

On 28th. August 1867 he became the first self-proclaimed homosexual to speak out publicly for homosexual rights when he pleaded at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution urging the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws. He was shouted down.

Kertbeny wrote a private letter to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs on 6th. May, 1868 including the first use of the words homosexual and heterosexual which later he used in his pamphlets. Ulrichs had previously used the German words for Uranian in his writings, but Kertbeny replaced them as follows.

UrnindenHomosexualistinnen (lesbians)


Ulrichs gives, in his pamphlet Memnon, an account of the "story of his heart" in early years. In an apparently quite natural way, and independently of outer influences, his thoughts had from the very first been of friends of his own sex. At the age of 14, the picture of a Greek hero or god, a statue, seen in a book, woke in him the tenderest longings. He wrote:

"This picture, put away from me, as it was, a hundred times, came again a hundred times before the eyes of my soul. But of course for the origin of my special temperament it is in no way responsible. It only woke up what was already slumbering there-a thing which might have been done equally well by something else."

From that time forward the boy worshipped with a kind of romantic devotion elder friends, young men in the prime of early manhood; and later still his writings threw a flood of light on the "urning" temperament-as he called it - of which he was himself so marked an example.

Some of Ulrich's verses are scattered among his prose writings:

To his friend Eberhard

"And so farewell! perchance on Earth
God's finger-as 'twixt thee and me
Will never make that wonder clear
Why thus It drew me unto thee."

And this:

"It was the day of our first meeting -
That happy day, in Davern's grove -
I felt the Spring wind's tender greeting,
And April touched my heart to love.
Thy hand in mine lay kindly mated;
Thy gaze held mine quite- fascinated -
So gracious wast, and fair!
Thy glance my life-thread almost severed;
My heart for joy and gladness quivered,
Nigh more than it could bear.

There in the grove at evening's hour
The breeze thro' budding twigs hath ranged,
And lips have learned to meet each other,
And kisses mute exchanged."

Memnon, p. 23


See also our book devoted to Ulrichs

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