•••••••••• The early 1900s ••••••••••
1903 New York police conducted the first United States recorded raid on a gay bathhouse, the Ariston Hotel Baths. 26 men were arrested and 12 brought to trial on sodomy charges; 7 men received sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison.
1907-1909 Harden-Eulenburg Affair
The Harden-Eulenburg Affair was the controversy surrounding a series of courts-martial and five regular trials regarding accusations of homosexual conduct, and accompanying libel trials, among prominent members of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s cabinet and entourage. The affair centred on accusations by the journalist Maximilian Harden of homosexual conduct between Philipp, Prince of Eulenburg-Hertefeld and General Kuno Graf von Moltke. Accusations and counter-accusations quickly multiplied, and the phrase “Liebenberg Round Table” became to be used for the gay male circle around the Kaiser. The affair received wide publicity and is often considered the biggest domestic scandal of the German Second Empire. It led to one of the first major public discussions of homosexuality in Germany.
1920 The word Gay is used for the first time in reference to homosexual in the Underground.
1921 In England an attempt to make lesbianism illegal for the first time in Britain’s history fails.
1923 The word fag is first used in print in reference to gays in Nels Anderson’s The Hobo: “Fairies or Fags are men or boys who exploit sex for profit.”
1924 The Society for Human Rights
The Society for Human Rights was established in Chicago, Illinois in 1924 by Henry Gerber and a group of friends. It was the first recognized gay rights organization in America and produced the first American publication for homosexuals, Friendship and Freedom. A few months after being chartered, the police shut it down and arrested all its members.
1928 The Well of Lonliness
The Well of Loneliness is published. It is a lesbian novel by the English author Radclyffe Hall. It follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman from an upperclass family whose “sexual inversion” is apparent from an early age. She finds love with Mary Llewellyn, whom she meets while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, but their happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection, which Hall depicts as having a debilitating effect on inverts. The novel portrays inversion as a natural, God-given state and makes an explicit plea: “Give us also the right to our existence.” Although its only sex scene consists of the words “and that night, they were not divided,” a British court judged it obscene because it defended “unnatural practices between women.” In the United States the book survived legal challenges in New York state and in Customs Court. Publicity over The Well’s legal battles increased the visibility of lesbians in British and American culture. For decades it was the best-known lesbian novel in English, and often the first source of information about lesbianism that young lesbians could find.
1933 The National Socialist German Workers Party bans homosexual groups. Homosexuals are sent to concentration camps. Nazis burn the library of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research, and destroy the Institute.
1936 Federico García Lorca
Federico García Lorca, Spanish poet, is shot at the beginning of the civil war. García Lorca’s biographer, Stainton, states that his killers had made remarks about his sexuality, suggesting that it played a role. A Spanish judge has opened an investigation of Garcia Lorca’s death, among the many others executed and disappeared, as a crime against humanity during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco years.
1937 The first use of the pink triangle for gay men in Nazi concentration camps.
1941 Transsexuality was first used in reference to homosexuality and bisexuality.
1945 Upon the liberation of Nazi concentration camps by Allied forces, those interned for homosexuality are not freed, but required to serve out the full term of their sentences under Paragraph 175.
1947 Vice Versa, the first North American LGBT publication, is written and self-published by Edith Eyde in Los Angeles.
1950 The Lavender Scare
The Lavender Scare refers to the fear and persecution of homosexuals in the fifties that paralleled the anti-communist Red Scare. Because the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness, gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus constituting a “security risk.” In 1950, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed 205 communists were hiding in the State Department, John Puerifory, the Undersecretary of state claimed that there was a “homosexual underground” in the State Department, so the government fired 91 homosexual employees for security reasons. Because most homosexuals in the 1950s were not “out" and some were married, McCarthey assumed that communists would blackmail homosexuals in the federal government and force them into giving secret information on the US government.
1952 American author and gay rights activist, Dale Jennings was charged with sexual solicitation, but decided to contest the charge in court. Ultimately, the charges were dropped, marking a turning point in gay rights activism in California.
1954 Alan Turing
Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, dies from cyanide poisoning. He had been convicted of the same crime (gross indecency) Oscar Wilde had been convicted of more than fifty years before. Turing was given a choice between imprisonment and probation, conditional on his undergoing hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. To avoid jail, he accepted the estrogen hormone injections, which lasted for the year leading up to his death.
1957 Psychologist Evelyn Hooker publishes a study showing that homosexual men are as well adjusted as non-homosexual men, which becomes a major factor in the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its handbook of disorders in 1973.