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Sodomite, Uranian, Homosexual, Gay at last

by Mattias Duyves in Events & Agenda , 01 januari 1970

Gay Pride Amsterdam, ...."Yeah, of course I`m proud, but my God it`s tiring!", says my upstairs neighbour with a sigh. Each year she goes out of her way to be part of it. Eggs and egg-cups are painted pink, she seeks high and low for sweaters with wild pink stripes and returns with pink plastic plant-pots, dirt bins, toe slippers and GSM covers and slaves with her crochet-hook over a rainbow coloured bedspread.

This year she got a friend of hers to send an e-mail in her name to the Dutch prime minister Wim Kok and his wife Rita as well as to Bill and Hillary Clinton, to congratulate them from Amsterdam with Gay Pride. Wim and Rita didn`t respond, but the Clintons did, and how: Warm greetings to everyone celebrating Gay and Lesbian Pride Month! As Americans, we can be proud of our diversity. People of different sexual orientation have contributed to our rich diversity. But we must face the reality that sometimes our differences divide us. We cannot fullfill our destiny as a free nation if we deny the potential of a single American. Gay and Lesbian Pride Month helps us to recognize that we can move forward as One America. Best wishes to all for a wonderful celebration! Bill Clinton, The white House, March 2, 2000".

For friendship such a boundless desire

There have always been proud men and proud women next-door - and at times they can be most tiring! But proud queers, they haven`t been around that long. Many people seem to think Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) was the first proud queer who didn`t beat around the bush or, in Holland, Jacob Israel de Haan (1881-1924). His famous line for friendship such a boundless desire ..." was cast in bronze in the granite of the gay monument. But Oscar, queer as can be, never referred to himself as queer and was breathtaking in his genius for circumlocution when it came to "the love that dare not speak its name".
And Jacob Israël de Haan may have been as queer as they come, he may have written the first novel about two proud queers in the Pijp (the Amsterdam answer to the Quartier Latin) in 1904, called Pijpelijntjes, next to the first gay SM novel (De Ondergangen van (The Downfall of) Johan van Vere de With, 1908) plus many of the most moving Dutch gay poetry of the XXth century (Kwatrijnen), he nonetheless refused to call himself queer, being too much in a mess with himself and many others.
To many people the first proud queers in Europe and in Holland are still unknown. Proud gays of today don`t know them at all anymore. Yet it isn`t more than one hundred fifty years ago the very first proud gay in the heart of Europe was known by name and nickname. The credit for this goes to the German Karel Ulrichs (1825-1895). The word homosexuality hadn`t been coined yet. Men doing it with men were simply pederasts, sodomites or queers. Ulrichs was just such a sodomite. He loved men and liked getting it up the ass. And precisely that was punishable in Prussia. That`s why he fabricated his own coming out at 37. Instead of remaining a secret sodomite, from 1862 on he began to call himself openly a Uranian, a person of the third gender". He came up with these new names to describe men with a male body but of feminine character.
In August 1865 Ulrichs considered it was time for an emancipation society for equal rights, the Society of Uranians. It didn`t get past an attempt. So in 1867 on his own he attended the yearly meeting of the German lawyers union in Munich with an open protest against Uranians discrimination. The attempt failed and he landed in jail for a couple of months. Nevertheless Karel Ulrichs is the first who told the world loud and clear he was a Uranian, that he was of sound masculine ànd feminine character and abone all considered this completely normal. Karel Ulrichs was such a loud proud Uranian, that a contemporary of his, Karel Benkert (1824-1882) didn`t dare call himself one. The eternal bachelor Benkert prefered to stay anonymous (he even changed his last name to Kertbeny), didn`t want to have anything to do with effeminate men (on the day he died his lips were still sealed when it came to his own sex life) and thought a separate third gender" was nonsense (he thought himself completely normal). Kertneby would rather be caught dead than call himself a Uranian and in his turn came up with his own terminology.
So on Wednesday May 6, 1868, as the first man ever, Karel Kertbeny wrote down the words homosexual" and heterosexual" in an anonymous letter to Karel Ulrichs. Today the word homosexual is 132 years old and has been invented by a secret queen who came up with it so as not to have to belong to those Uranians, a bit like calling yourself gay these days. The word homosexual only appeared in Holland on August 7, 1892 in a newspaper item for physicians about a male patient, who is a homosexual. He was treated with hypnotic suggestion with good results. His perverse sex urge got entirely suppressed and he can be considered temporarily cured".


Holland`s first modestly proud queer will probably remain an illustrious unknown whose name we don`t even know. Right after the first article appeared in a Dutch newspaper about Karel Ulrichs, a reader responded with an anonymous reaction in defense of his inborn constitution". I`m a Uranian, no pederast! Uranian I am, a human being with the body of a man and the soul of a woman, and so it is with 50.000 Dutch citizens! As far as my inclination is concerned, I`ve been, since my earliest chilhood, more girl than boy, more maiden than lad. In my dreams I see continuously the most gorgeous male figures at my side or in my arms. A maiden leaves me completely cold, a lad in the bloom of his youth and beauty evokes in me the most passionate desires. Yet my body is completely masculine. Greetings! In this letter there is nothing that isn`t the pure truth". Only 13 years later, in 1883, was this letter printed.
A bit more proud is the first autobiography another twenty-five year old Dutch Uranian wrote in 1889 to a psychiatrist. We only know the shrink called him ABC, that since fourteen he went to nautical school first and afterwards sailed as a naval cadet aboard the first steamers to Indonesia, before he got fired at twenty- five, according to ABC because this society makes it virtually impossible to live, because we`re not like other people". ABC, in 1889 still calling himself a Uranian, in his retrospective view didn`t make it a secret that the intercourse with my own sex was indispensable for my health. I revived completely and felt strong and capable of anything, when I spent four months of uninterrupted and calm pleasure with three like-minded comrades aged 19 and 20. This excellent life I wouldn`t have wanted to trade with anyone in the world".
As one of the first proud queers in Holland ABC made it clear in great detail that he was only happy when he had a lot of sex with many men and only thus could find peace. Finally, it was June 1884 and I was nearly 20 years old, one night I found, coming aboard, my native cabin-boy, asleep in my bed. For the first time I had intercourse with a man. I suddenly revived completely and once the ice was broken took all I could get. I dreaded the moment I had to leave Indonesia and would have to miss my natives". ABC described in all its shades and peculiarities how he seduced dozens of natives and Europeans aboard. I couldn`t come across a handsome lad, certainly no soldiers, without getting vehement erections, ejaculations and a red feverish head". We`ll probably never know who he was in reality, only that he was in the marine. No matter how frank he was about his homosexuality, ABC remains as anonymous as the proud butts of the many participants in the Canal Parade now more than a hundred years later.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 323, July 2018

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