The Weimar Republic, existing from 1919 to 1933, has conventionally been seen by scholars as a time of sexual discovery. In general, the late 19th and early 20th century saw an increase in the formalized study of sexuality, called sexology. This was nowhere more prominent than in Germany where notable sexologists like Magnus Hirschfeld and Richard von Krafft-Ebing carved out their professions. In addition to providing terms and medical explanations for forms of attractions outside of the understood norm, the works of sexologists that emerged and gained distinction during this time featured progressive – albeit limited – ideas that worked to legitimize the existence of same-sex desires. Sexology and the work of sexologists gave an authority to the discussion on sexual identity, and this authority allowed for, to use the language of Michel Foucault, an explosion in discourse.1 Because of this, scholars have come to consider Germany as the origin of what Foucault refers to as the modern sexual identity. However, more recent scholars have questioned the sole impact of sexology in the formation of this identity, pointing to both social and cultural influences. Both sexology as well as social and cultural influences contributed to the rise of a modern sexual identity, and it is important to examine the interplay between the learned, scientific understanding of same-sex desire and that of lived, personal experiences. This paper will examine the work of sexologists and the personal accounts from individuals with same-sex desire to illuminate how the themes of sexuality worked to shape a specific discourse unique to the time leading up to, during, and soon after the Weimar Republic’s demise. The discourse on homosexuality, as it came to be, was not limited to the formalized understandings of sexual identity by sexologists and instead also had real life implications based off of individuals’ experiences.
Caldwell, Megan, "Shaping Sexual Identity in Weimar Republic Germany" (2019). Undergraduate Research Awards, Hollins University. 48.
Undergraduate Research Awards - 2019 Winner, First-year/Sophomore category.