Laurie MarhoeferJul 15, 2022
Racism and the Making of Gay Rights
A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love
University of Toronto Press 2022
In 1931, a sexologist arrived in colonial Shanghai to give a public lecture about homosexuality. In the audience was a medical student. The sexologist, Magnus Hirschfeld, fell in love with the medical student, Li Shiu Tong. Li became Hirschfeld’s assistant on a lecture tour around the world.
Racism and the Making of Gay Rights: A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love (U Toronto Press, 2022) shows how Hirschfeld laid the groundwork for modern gay rights, and how he did so by borrowing from a disturbing set of racist, imperial, and eugenic ideas.
Following Hirschfeld and Li in their travels through the American, Dutch, and British empires, from Manila to Tel Aviv to having tea with Langston Hughes in New York City, and then into exile in Hitler’s Europe, Laurie Marhoefer provides a vivid portrait of queer lives in the 1930s and of the turbulent, often-forgotten first chapter of gay rights.
Laurie Marhoefer is the Jon Bridgman Endowed Associate Professor in History at the University of Washington.
Armanc Yildiz is a doctoral candidate in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Studies in Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. He is also the founder of Academics Write, where he supports scholars in their writing projects as a writing coach and developmental editor.