Today marks the start of LGBT+ History month in the UK.  This is a special time of the year when people of the LGBT+ community can shine and celebrate and pay respect to the developments in equality for people who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and so much more!

Over the next 28 days we will be posting a different article on 28 different LGBT+ individuals who have made great contributions in the fight for equality.

Today we shine a light on Karl Heinrich Ulrichs: The first openly gay person to publicly speak out for homosexual rights.

Ulrichs was a German lawyer and writer who would become known as one of the first people to seek LGBT+ rights.  Ulrichs believed that same sex attraction was natural and sought to decriminalise homosexuality in Germany.

Born in 1825, Ulrichs coined many terms for LGBT+ people long before ‘homosexuality’ was a word, including ‘urning’ for gay males and ‘urningin’ for lesbians.  At the time, the only word for gay men was the derogatory ‘sodomite’.  It was a few years later that the term ‘homosexual’ came into existence when fellow human rights campaigner Karl-Maria Kertbeny corresponded with him.

As the years progressed, he would publicly speak out against anti-homosexual law in print, producing a body of work on theories around sexuality, and in person.  In 1867 he would stand before a grand, heckling audience of lawyers in Germany to decriminalise homosexuality.  Sadly, he was jeered off stage by his former peers and would spend the rest of his life fighting for gay liberation until his death in 1895.

To this day, Ulrichs’ legacy lives on.  In 2013, after much lobbying, part of Einem street in Berlin, Germany was named in his honour.  Einem street itself was named after Karl von Einem, a war minister who demanded homosexual persecution and later supported the Nazis.  Poetic justice don’t you think?

125 years later and the world continues with his legacy.  Millions of LGBT+ individuals, groups and ally’s campaign for the rights of the community to ensure they are protected and valued in society.

While the UK is fortunate to have a more progressive attitude towards the community, there are still 72 countries where LGBT+ activity can result in various criminal convictions, 6 of which include the death penalty.


What can you do to support and champion the rights LGBTQ+ people?

  • If you see any campaigns or petitions on LGBT+ issues, sign and promote them. Social influence doesn’t just belong on social media!
  • If you hear any discriminatory language used about LGBT+ people, inform your line manager or HR. Whether the comments were aimed at someone in particular or just a passing comment, it should not be dismissed.
  • Engage with your LGBT+ colleagues and check in on them. There’s a lot of discrimination that LGBTQ+ people more attuned to and some time to talk to someone about these can really help.

Come back tomorrow and check out our next instalment of the 28 days of #Queeroes.

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Posted in: 28 Days of Queeros - Queer Heros, LGBT+ history


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