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August 28, 2013


Michael Bedwell

With respect, unless you have documentation contradicting Hubert Kennedy's "Ulrichs: The Life and Works of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs," I don't understand the assertion that the great Ulrichs "came out" during his attempt to speak to the Congress of German Jurists or that he "demand[ed] they repeal their anti-gay laws" when Kennedy writes that he was shouted down BEFORE he could make clear to the 500 lawyers and judges—and a Bavarian prince—present what he was actually talking about. He’d sent a written proposal to the Congress for the repeal of laws against same sex acts two years before, but it had been declared "not suitable to be considered by the Congress." Now, he’d been given permission to speak at one of their 1867 Munich meetings but the moment those aware of that proposal realized he was attempting to address the same issue, they shut him down. After explaining that “a proposal” had been repressed, he was only able to refer to the "persecution of an innocent class of persons" who "in Germany is numbered in the thousands, a class of persons to which many of the greatest and noblest intellects of our and other nations have belonged ... exposed to an undeserved legal persecution for no other reason than that mysteriously disposing creating nature has planted in them a sexual nature that is the opposite of that which is in general usual...." He also said that it was “a question…of damming a continuing flood of suicides, and that of the most shocking kind.” After his reference to “sexual nature,” he was actually asked by the Congress chairman to continue only in Latin so as not to offend less educated delicate ears. When asked to read the actual proposal he could only reply that it had been confiscated by the police months before. One member from Dresden who had been involved in suppressing it wouldn’t explain any more when he rose to defend their rejection than, “[I]t is in contradiction to the current laws [and] offends modesty. Just by being read it would have aroused the indignation of this assembly! A blush would have come to our faces! And since we are to speak in Latin, I will tell you that it is of a sexual nature.” While Ulrich failed to make his cause clear to the Congress, to change the law—I agree his heroism then and in so many other ways should never be forgotten.

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