Berlin's Third Sex Book
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Rough trade, drag kings, tea dances, sporty dykes, coded classified ads, campy nicknames, passing, outing, hustlers, beats and cruising at the YMCA--all accompanied by a wave of gay and lesbian activism. Eighties New York? No, Germany's imperial capital at the dawn of the 20th century.
Berlin's Third Sex reveals an astonishingly diverse gay subculture years ahead of the Weimar era, with cross-dressing cabaret, all-night parties and erotic license at every level of society. Magnus Hirschfeld's 1904 report is a foundational text of modern gay identity, queer history captured by an insider, as it happened. Police, blackmailers and moral crusaders are never far, suicide is all too common, but Hirschfeld also invites us into the homes of same-sex couples to witness tranquil scenes of domesticity and devotion.
Berlin's Third Sex formed part of the vast Metropolis Documents project, a visionary panorama of early 20th century urban life. This, the first part of the series to appear in English, is offered alongside an earlier Hirschfeld study of the third sex (the author's provisional term for gays and lesbians) as well as comprehensive notes and an informative afterword.
Berlin's Third Sex depicts a flourishing gay subculture populated by cross-dressers, drag queens, sporty dykes, blackmailers and prostitutes, who establish contact with one another via intricately coded classified ads, adopt droll nicknames such as 'Squeaky Lotte, ' 'Rollmop Queen' and 'Hiddigeigei, ' and generally live it up in bars and cabarets, in the Tiergarten, or at the Opera. The Rixdorf edition includes an informative afterword and helpful notes by the translator James. J. Conway.--Anna Katharina Schaffner
Hirschfeld's rhetorical strategy, which includes these appeals to sentiment, walks the line between emphasizing the similarities in behaviour between homosexuals and heterosexuals (in other words, suggesting homosexuals are just like the [presumably heterosexual] reader), and relating anecdotes or characteristics that portray the former as uniquely, yet endearingly, different. That this approach has strong parallels with contemporary gay rights rhetoric suggests that there is a timeless appeal in finding reasons for empathy in order to demonstrate that 'the other' is just as human.--Tyler Langendorfer