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Homosexuality and the Women’s Movement

October 8, 1904 — Scientific Humanitarian Committee, Prinz Albrecht Hotel, Berlin, Germany


LADIES AND Gentlemen, The Women’s Movement is an historico-cultural necessity.

Homosexuality is an historico-cultural necessity, and is an obvious and natural bridge between man and woman. Today this is an undisputed scientific fact about which ignorance and impatience cannot dispute. Many have asked how I came to this conclusion and have uttered the truth about historico-cultural and natural-historical concepts in the same breath, two things which on the surface seem to be opposite.

The interest to research the reason for this extended viewpoint is that one in general, when the matter concerns homosexuals, thinks only of male Urnings and overlooks how many female homosexuals there are. They are of course less discussed because they — I was just about to say “unfortunately” — have had no unjust cause to fight against such as penal code paragraphs which arise out of having false moral views.

No cruel justice menaces women nor does the penitentiary if they follow their natural instincts. But the mental pressure under which Urninds are is just as great, indeed even greater than the yoke which their male fellow-sufferers must bear. To the world which judges by outward appearances they are even more obvious than the female Urning. Only too often they are overwhelmed by people’s moralized misunderstandings.

In our total social life, however, Uranian women are at least just as important as their male counterparts because they influence our lives in many ways, even if they are not discussed. If one would just observe, one would soon come to the conclusion that homosexuality and the Women’s Movement do not stand opposed to each other, but rather they aid each other reciprocally to gain rights and recognition, and to eliminate the injustice which condemns them on this earth.

The Homosexual Movement fights for the rights of all homosexuals, for men as for women. The Scientific Humanitarian Committee has distinguished itself by taking interest in this fight to the advantage of all other movements which should have, and has also participated in the interest of Urninds with such lively dedication.

The Women’s Movement strives to have its long-despised rights recognized. It fights, namely, for as much independence as possible and for a just and equal standing of women with men, married or unmarried. These latter strivings are especially important because firstly, of the condition of our present economical state, and secondly, because a great number of women will remain unmarried due to a statistical nominal surplus of women in the population of our fatherland. These women are forced, when a sufficient means of earning money is not at their disposal away from the home — which is only the case of approximately 10% — to take up the fight for life and win their bread by any means available.

The homosexual women’s position and participation in the Women’s Movement in its all-important problem is of the greatest and the most decisive importance and deserves the most basic and extensive analysis.

One must differentiate between the homosexual woman’s personality as well as her sexual instinct. Most important, of course, is her personality in general. In the second place is the tendency of her sexual drive, which, without the exact knowledge of her tendency, no unbiased evaluation could be rendered, because of the incapability to make full and just considerations of the same, because the physical sex drive is almost always just an overflow, naturally following psychical characteristics; i.e., in persons with dominant masculine characteristics it is directed toward women and vice versa, always without taking into account the outer bodily structure.

Homosexual women have many characteristics, inclinations and abilities which we usually consider as valid for men. They take a much less interest in the emotional life than the average woman. While for the expressly heterosexual woman, feeling is almost always — even here exceptions prove the rule — dominant and decisive, while mostly a sharp clarity and reason predominate in the Urnind. She is, as in the average, normal man, more objective, more energetic and goal oriented than the feminine woman; she thinks and feels like a man; she does not imitate men; she is conditioned as he; this is the all-decisive point which haters and calumniators of so-called “men-women” always ignore, because they do not even take the time to do basic research on the homosexual. It is easy to judge what one does not understand, and it is just as easy, as it would only seem to be difficult to correct a pre-established and false opinion, to correct them by reasoning. I would like to note that there is an absolute and a separate psychic homosexuality, that, therefore, masculine characteristics do not necessarily and unconditionally result in the sexual drive being forced towards one’s own sex; because each Urnind naturally possesses numerous feminine characteristics to a certain degree, which may be expressed in one of the numerous intermediate stages in the transitional stages between the sexes, even by being sexually attracted to a man.

Of course, the drive in these cases is in most cases directed to a very effeminate man, as a natural completion of the woman who has a strong masculine soul.

I recall, for example, George Sand and Daniel Stern, who both loved men, those of the side of the feminine, Friedrich Chopin and Franz Liszt. Clara Schumann, the great artist, also, was married to a man who had strong feminine characteristics — Robert Schumann. It seems, moreover, as if in the women I have characterized as psychic homosexuals, the sex drive was never especially strongly developed; even George Sand and Daniel loved their artists much more with their souls than with their senses; therefore, I am inclined to speak of psychic homogenic women somewhat as “sexless” natures.

Since a woman who has a masculine nature and masculine traits would never satisfactorily fulfill a full–fledged man, without further ado, it is clear that the Urnind is not suitable for marriage. Even Uranian women know this is true or feel this way. Unconsciously and naturally they voluntarily refuse to walk up the aisle to the justice of the peace.

But how often had they to deal with parents, cousins, aunts, and other dear friends and relatives who, day in and day out, tried to talk them into the necessity of marriage and make life a misery with their wise advice. Often, as young girls, they had to blindly fall into marriage, and thanks to our stunted education, without having a clear view and understanding of sexuality and sexual life.

As long as it remains the opinion of so-called society that late spinsterhood, namely, unmarried women, experience unpleasantness, indeed, that it is something demeaning, then it will occur only too often that the Urnind will allow herself to be driven to marry by exterior conditions, where she will find no happiness and be incapable of creating happiness. Such a marriage is far more immoral than the love which ties two persons when a powerful nature attracts them forcefully together.

The Women’s Movement wants to reform marriage. It wishes to change many rights so that the inconsolable conditions of the present cease, so that discontent and injustice, arbitrary and slavish subjugation disappear out of the home of the family, so that a healthier and powerful race blossoms.

While striving for these reforms, the Women’s Movement should not forget the amount of guilt it bears in the false, unfriendly evaluation of homosexual women. I say expressly, “how much guilt.” Obviously far from it that I would want to burden the Women’s Movement with full responsibility for this false evaluation. But for the sake of this portion of the guilt it is a simple and inescapable duty of the Women’s Movement to explain to as many persons as possible by speaking and by writing how very destructive it is for homosexuals to enter into marriage.

First of all, naturally, for both partners’ sake, the man is simply duped, because aside from its ideal meaning, entering into marriage is a two-sided contract in which both partners undertake duties and assume rights. A homosexual woman, however, can only fulfill her duties to the man with disinclination, in the best case, with indifference. A forced sexual communion is, without a doubt, a misery, and no conventional man could see anything to strive for or find happiness with a Uranian woman whom he wanted to marry.

It happens very often, that such a man will avoid sexual intercourse with her out of friendly sympathy and searches for sexual satisfaction of his drives in the arms of a mistress or with a prostitute. True morality and the health of our people concern the Women’s Movement, which must do everything in its power to prevent homosexual marriages. And the Women’s Movement can do much in the work of explaining to all circles that the marriage of Urninds creates a three-fold injustice: to the state, society and an unborn race. Because experience teaches that the successors of Uranian persons are only seldom healthy.

The unfortunate, unloved creatures are received unwanted and make up a great percentage of the number of weak-minded, idiotic, epileptic, chest-diseased degenerates of all sorts. Even unhealthy sexual drives such as sadism and masochism are often inherited by Uranian persons who have children against their nature. State and society should show an urgent interest to prevent Uranians from marrying, because later they must bear not such small portion of the care for such unhealthy and weak beings, from whom they may hardly expect a profit. A substantially more practical point for heterosexual women, it seems to me, is that if Urninds could remain unmarried without ruining [their] social reputation, they would find it much easier, as is their nature, to find the great satisfaction they do in the circle of the wife, house-keeper, and mother.

Still lacking, unfortunately, is an exact statistical survey of the number of homosexual women, but, taking into consideration my immense experience and thorough studies in this field, the result yielded by the statistical survey by Dr. Hirschfeld on the extensiveness of male homosexuality may also be applied to women.

According to this survey, there are as many Urninds as there are unmarried women. This should not be misunderstood. For example, I mean that there may be as many as two million unmarried women. Among the two million unmarried women there is a greater percentage of Urninds, let’s say 50%, thus one million; among the homosexuals, however, there are again as many, approximately 50% who, because of external circumstances, are married, therefore, you may calculate that 50% of normal unmarried women have lost the opportunity to marry. The consequences are easy to deduce according to these figures. When Urninds are free of having to marry, the possibility of marriages for the heterosexual women would increase enormously.

But I do not mean to say that I present here a universal means to prevent late spinsterhood, because increasing animosity from men toward marriage has its roots more in social relationships. But this is not the place to speak about that. If, however, the Women’s Movement forcefully takes the side of the homosexual in the marriage question, then it takes a step forward toward reaching beautiful and lofty goals, the original idea of marriage, and the love ties between men and women would then be allowed to attain their rightful place. It is an ethical requirement in order to daily smash the face of public contempt, which causes numerous marriages of circumstance, so that persons may enter into marriage because they love one another.

I noticed that many homosexual women marry because they become aware of their nature too late and thus become unhappy in their innocence and make themselves unhappy. Here, too, the Women’s Movement may take a stand by speaking about the question of their education as youths — which they often do — also by demonstrating how important it is for those parents who notice the homosexual bent in older children and youths, to make a long, loving and exact observation — and honest and understanding observers can recognize it in many ways — to explain in an understandable way the essence of homosexuality and their own natural inclinations.

Doing this prevents early misery enormously, instead, as often happens, of trying by all kinds of means to force homosexual children to take the heterosexual path. One need not fear that effeminate heterosexual children may be considered homosexual and thus be made into homosexuals, because, in the first place, such a diagnosis would naturally have to come from an experienced medical doctor, and secondly, as experience has taught, neither education nor any such a thing can change the heterosexual drive into a homosexual one and vice versa.

Of course, a heterosexual person can be seduced into homosexual behavior, but this occurs out of curiosity, search for pleasure or as a surrogate for the absence of normal intercourse — the latter occurs in the case of the Navy — but the innate drive is not changed because of this, because under normal circumstances this does not occur.

At this time I would like to repeat what Dr. Hirschfeld has often explained, that homosexuality is not class specific, that it occurs among the upper class no less than among the lower or vice versa. No father and no mother, neither of them, ladies and gentlemen, can know without a doubt if there is an Uranian child among their offspring.

In middle-class circles they believe, oddly enough, that among them homosexuality has no place, and from these circles the most annoying enemies recruit each other against the movement to free Uranian people. I would like to give as an example, that my father, when by chance he came to speak about homosexuality, explained with conviction, “nothing of the sort can happen in my family.” The facts prove the opposite. I need add nothing to that statement.

To return to the question of marriage, I would like to make note that a homosexual woman never becomes what one refers to with the expression “old spinster.” The situation is worth investigating because it easily makes the Urninds especially recognizable at a later age.

Just take a look at an unmarried woman between the ages of 30 and 50 years. You will notice none of the joked-about characteristics of the average unmarried, heterosexual woman. This observation is instructive. It proves that a reasonable and moderate gratification of the sexual drive keeps a woman happy, fresh, and active, while absolute abstinence easily develops those characteristics which we feel unpleasant in old spinsters, for example, unfriendliness, hysteria, etc.

In order to create the possibility for homosexuals and all women in general to be able to live according to their own nature, it is necessary to actively join the strivings of the movement, which wishes to open immense possibilities of education and new occupations.

Now I am touching a sore spot in the evaluation of the sexes. I believe that all people, in all good will, would agree, if we research again here what intention nature, which is never wrong, had when it created man, woman and the transitional stages between the two. And one would have to agree that it is wrong to place one sex higher than the other, as it were, to speak of a first class — the man — a second class — the woman — and a third class sex — the Uranians.

The sexes are not to be evaluated differently, because they are distinct. The facts which show clearly and naturally that men, women and Urnings are not qualified for all occupations cannot be altered by the Women’s Movement — and it does not wish to. A feminine woman is already organically by nature determined above all to become a wife and mother. And she has the right to be proud of her natural destination, because an occupation more highly esteemed than motherhood does not exist.

The woman, wife and mother or who is one of both, should not forget the rest of the world — she should take part all the more in all events of public life — that she may be capable is the goal of the Women’s Movement, and that is, indeed, one of its finest goals.

To the normal, I mean, to the totally masculine man, other functions are given by nature and are shown other ways, than to a woman. He is — it cannot be denied — predestined for the most part to undertake a rougher battle than the woman, and so, occupations are open to him which obviously remain closed to women, for example, the military, all occupations which demand heavy labor, etc. Obviously there is also a bridge upon which some occupations rest, ones which both men and women are able to equally fill according to each person’s abilities.

The logic of enemies to the Women’s Movement falls apart because it equates all women under the label “woman” without considering that nature never created two persons alike, that the opinion whether an occupation be for a man or a woman is solely a matter of inner, masculine or feminine character.

From this we may differentiate between a feminine individuality in which feminine characteristics dominate, a masculine one dominated by masculine characteristics, and finally a masculine-feminine or feminine-masculine individuality in which there is an equal mixture of both.

Because nature created different kinds of sexes does not mean to say that there is only one sphere of activity for women — the home — and for the man another — the world — rather, nature’s intention was and is without a doubt that each person has the opportunity to reach the goal which one is able to fulfill by one’s own means and merits.

The interrelationships of masculine and feminine characteristics in people is so endless that common sense tells us that each child — whether it is male or female is all the same — must reach independence. The adult will have to decide for itself whether its natural drives lead to home, world, marriage or unmarried life. There must be a freedom of the play of the energies, then one can make the best and surest decision between becoming one of the women who can and wants to take up an artistic or academic occupation outside the home, or one of those women who does not feel enough energy to do this. And again it is the responsibility of the parents, who should feel this as their holiest duty, to be just toward each child’s individuality and to avoid a make-believe system of education to fit all circumstances.

Schools are another story which, naturally, cannot do without certain methods, but it must be agreed upon, when it concerns girls and boys, to get rid of the old madness that the brains of girls have a weaker aptitude than boys’ brains. One need not fear that competition in all the occupations will get out of hand because of the possibilities of co-education — especially, as the enemies’ side believes, in academic occupations. It is for these scientific occupations which homosexual women are best suited, because they have the ability of a greater objectivity, energy, and endurance which is often lacking in very feminine women.

These facts do not exclude the very capable heterosexual women doctors, jurists, etc., but in spite of this, I feel that, with her own interest in mind, the heterosexual woman will always find happiness in the most favorable way or find it more meaningful to marry and make herself a partner to a man who feels the same way about her, who not only loves her sexually but also esteems her as his equal mentally and who recognizes that his rights are, of course, just as valid as hers.

Men, women and homosexuals, thus would have equal opportunity in a goal-oriented education, and a broader range of opportunities in education would open to male and female youths. Men would become the bread-winners of a thinking and understanding partner, women would slowly reach a worthy and just and respected position, and the Urninds would be able to devote themselves freely to the occupation of their choice.

Just as a man oftentimes prefers to take up an occupation which is typical of a woman’s occupation—for example, women’s designing, nursing, the occupation of the cook, the servant — there are also occupations which Uranian woman are especially attracted to. As a matter of fact, a great number of homosexual women show up in the fields of medicine, law, and business and even in the creative arts. There are men who, like Weininger, believe that all great historical literary, scientific or otherwise known, important or famous women have been homosexuals.

According to my past statements, I do not have to especially accentuate that this highly one-sided view is unproved, because not only history, but also our own eyes daily show us the weakness in this theory. On the other hand, I would not deny that many important women have been homosexual, just to mention Sappho, Christine of Sweden, Sonja Kowlewska, Rosa Bonheur. However, it would seem strange if one wanted to classify Elizabeth of England and Catherine the Great of Russia as Uranian persons; the latter was perhaps bisexual — her many male and female “friendships” seem to imply this — a pure homosexual, however, she was not.

In opposition to the anti-feminists who  claim that the female sex is inferior and who acknowledge only those women who exhibit strong masculine characteristics, I accept both as equals, but I am convinced that a homosexual woman is especially best suited to play a leading role in the enormous movement for the rights of women which is worldwide. And, in fact, from the very beginning of the Women’s Movement to the present day it has been more often than not homogenic women who took over the leadership in numerous battles, who only by means of their energy does the average woman, indifferent to her nature and easily subjugating herself, be brought to the awareness of her worth as a person and of her inalienable rights.

I cannot and will not name anyone, because as long as homosexuality remains something criminal and is considered to be against nature, as in many circles, as something unhealthy, some women may be offended whom I would like to indicate as being homosexual. We must always be proper and dutiful and not be indiscreet, and the noble feelings of the Uranian love of a female Women’s-Rights-Fighter, as heterosexual sentimentality, do not belong before a public forum. One who has only just superficially followed the development of the Women’s Movement, one who is acquainted with a few or many leading women, one who has a spark of understanding for homosexuals would soon pick out those female Women’s-Rights-Fighters and would recognize that not the worst is among them.

If we weigh all the contributions which homosexual women make to the Women’s Movement, one would be astounded that its large and influential organizations have not lifted a finger to obtain justice in the state and in society for the not so small number of its Uranian members, and that they have done absolutely nothing to this very day to protect so many of its most well-known and most worthy female predecessors in this battle from ridicule and scorn when they explain to the greater public about the true essence of Uranism.

One should never have found it so difficult to point out how the characteristics of the homosexual tendency express themselves more involuntarily and without the slightest  personal, intentional assistance of appearance, speech, behavior, gesture, clothing, etc. And the Urninds concerned are most unjustly given up to the ridicule of unknowing persons. Also, notice that many homosexual women naturally do not always appear masculine, which would be in harmony with her nature. There are also numerous Urninds who appear completely feminine, who go through all the motions to hide their homosexuality, a comedy which makes them uncomfortable and under which they suffer.

I am well acquainted with the reason why this doubly exceptional hesitation exists, because the Women’s Movement has handled even general sexual matters with an odd frankness and matter-of-factness. It is the fear that the movement would suffer because of the broach of the homosexual question by becoming active by flashing the human rights of homosexuals in the blind eyes of the ignorant masses. I cannot deny that having this fear so early in the movement is justified, and it should be avoided in order not to lose friends again, and there should be a fully unconditional apology made for the total ignorance of the homosexual problem in earlier times.

Today, however, when the movement is moving incessantly forward, when no bureaucratic wisdom, no bourgeois ignorance can be victorious over it any longer, today I must point out that a total rejection of the doubtless very important question is unjust, is an injustice which is brought upon the Women’s Movement by itself in many cases.

The so-called “moderate” tendency will not help homosexuals one bit for the simple reason that deeds of this kind have no tendency at all. Victory will come as a sign of radicalism, and we expect that the radicals will change the direction and for once make it honestly and openly recognized; indeed, there is a great number of Urninds among us, and we owe them a word of thanks for their efforts and their work and for many a fine success.

I do not mean to say that all questions of the Women’s Movement will be handled from the homosexual viewpoint, just as I do not ascribe all this success to the Urninds or even a greater portion of it — that would be just as insane as it is wrong to take no notice at all of the homosexual problem. The Women’s Movement doubtless has greater and more important concerns than the freedom of homosexuals — but only by taking care of the lesser matters can these greater efforts be accomplished.

Therefore, the Women’s Movement should not ascribe to the homosexual problem such a great importance; it does not need to go out into the streets to preach against the injustice of Uranians — it should not do this, because it would surely hurt our cause — I do not underestimate this at all; it needs only to act by giving due consideration to the homosexual question when it discusses sexual, ethical, economic, and general human relationships between the sexes. This it surely can do; and by doing this it will slowly carry out its educational goal without much ado.

Now I am coming to a point which in recent years has especially come into the sphere of our work in the Women’s Movement — I am going to speak of prostitution. One may wish to speak of this from an ethical standpoint. No matter, one will have to deal with it now as in the past and as in the future. Personally, I consider prostitution to be a pitiful but necessary evil, which we will be able to put a halt to in more favorable times — a goal which is worth the effort in the long run.

The importance of the battle of the Women’s Movement against the increase of prostitution and against genocidal venereal disease, it seems to me, is that approximately 20% of prostitutes are evidently homosexual. At first you may find it unusual that homosexuality and enduring sexual intercourse with men appear as the most paradoxical thing that could ever exist. To my question how it is possible that an Urnind becomes a prostitute, a “woman of the street” once answered that she views her sad task as a business — her sexual drive does not come under consideration at all. She satisfies this with her lover.

These women have conducted some foul business in the streets. When the Women’s Movement has succeeded in opening all suitable occupations for women, carrying through an equal respect of the abilities and inclinations of each person, then there will no longer be any homosexual young men among prostitutes, and a great number of the heterosexual women will be able to nourish themselves better and with more humanity than by the bad social conditions of prostitution than today. They would be able to immediately take up an occupation, because women would be taught understanding and independence in their youth.

A young woman who is hardened early for the struggle to make a living will end up on the streets less often than a young woman who lives without a knowledge of the most basic and natural facts of life. In a certain sense the battle of the homogenic woman for her social recognition is also a battle against prostitution, and again I stress, that in this struggle it is only a matter of restraining it and never of suppressing it fully.

One must not forget that when a more correct judgment of Uranism is reached in general, a great number of homosexual men who now, out of fear of being discovered go to a prostitute, which is very much against their nature, may abstain from them. This would naturally decrease the amount of venereal disease, although it would not cause a great decrease. But I believe it would be a worthwhile cause, because each individual case of syphilis or some other venereal disease which would be prevented means a contribution to the health of the people and thus one to the next generation, which is in the long run a gain for the fatherland.

The Women’s Movement is fighting for the rights of free individuals and of self-determination. Therefore, it must recognize the despised spell which society casts on Uranians even today, which oppresses their rights and their duty to take a stand and fight the battle on the side of the Uranians as they do unwed mothers, women workers and many others who need it, and to fight for their rights and for their freedom in their battle against old-fashioned false opinions of morality which is the worst immorality when women have inalienable rights torn from them and when they now must struggle in bloody battle to recover them; when Uranians have inalienable human rights to their kind of love torn from them, a love which is just as pure and noble as heterosexual love when they are good people who so love. There are as many good people among homosexuals as among so-called “normal” people.

Most of all, I would like to avoid the appearance of estimating homosexuals too highly. I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, I will not do that — I am well aware of the problems of homosexuality, but I also recognize its good side. Therefore, I would like to say that Uranians are no better or not worse than heterosexuals — they should not be treated differently, but only in a different way.

To conclude my statements I would like to emphasize again that homosexual women have done their part in the greater Women’s Movement, that they are mostly responsible for activating the movement. They have suffered because of their masculine inclinations and natural characteristics, and because of the many, many injustices and hardships caused by laws, society, and the old morality which concerns women. Without the power and cooperation of the Urninds, the Women’s Movement would not be so successful today, which it certainly is — which could easily be proven. 

The Women’s Movement and the movement for homosexual rights have thus far traveled on a dark road which has posted many obstacles in their way. Now it will become brighter and brighter around us and in the hearts of the people. This is not to say that the work of securing the rights of women and of Uranians has come to an end; we are still in the middle of two opposing sides, and many a bloody battle will have to be fought. There will be many victims of the injustice of laws which will deal the death-blow before both movements have reached their goal — to gain the freedom of each person.

Our ultimate goal will be reached when both movements recognize that they have many common interests for which to fight when it becomes necessary. And when, at times, as they will, hard times come to either side — that will not be the time for hesitation to stand up in defense against injustice and to march on to the victory which will surely be ours.

Revelation and truth are like the rising sun in the East — no power can force it out of its orbit. Slowly but surely it rises to its glittering zenith! Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in the not too distant future the Women’s movement and Uranians will raise their banners in victory!

Per aspera ad astra! [Reach for the stars!]


Translation by Michael Lombardi-Nash. 




Source: Rüling, Anna. What Interest does the Women’s Movement have in Solving the Homosexual Problem? 1905; trans. M. Lombardi-Nash. F 1978; 2nd ed. Jacksonville, Florida: Urania Manuscripts, 2000.


Also: Rüling, Anna. “Welches Interesse hat die Frauenbewegung an der Lösung des homosexuellen Problems? Eine Rede.” Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Homosexualität (Annual for Sexual Intermediaries with Special Emphasis on Homosexuality) ed. Magnus Hirschfeld, vol. 7 (1905), pp. 131-51.


Copyright 2019, Michael Lombardi-Nash. Used by permission. All rights reserved.