Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was a German lawyer, journalist, and writer who was considered the pioneer of the gay rights movement. Ever since he was a child, Ulrichs felt different from the other young boys. He was drawn to bright colors of women’s clothing and military uniform and felt an attraction to the same sex. He wrote essays under a pseudonym in which he coined the phrase “Urning” to describe homosexual love, which he believed went beyond the physical and was natural and biological. After a while, he started writing under his real name and publicly came out. On August 29. 1867 he pleaded with the Congress of German Jurists to repeal anti-homosexual laws, making him the first person to speak out publicly in defense of homosexuality. He asked for the repeal of sodomy laws which made it illegal for two men to engage in sexual intercourse. His plea was eventually shouted down.
His books were banned throughout Saxony, Berlin, and Prussia. He continued to write and publish works despite his ailing health until he passed away on July 14, 1985. Although at first Ulrichs was forgotten, he eventually became a cult figure in Europe in the 1980’s. There are streets named for him throughout Germany and a street party and poetry reading take place in Munich every year during his birthday. Ulrichs actions throughout his life helped to eventually propel the first gay rights movement 30 years later in Berlin. He is considered to be the first gay person to publicly come out.
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