Ethical Tasks of Homosexuals by Dr.Kurt Hiller translated by David Thorstad

From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search

[The following article appeared in the James White Review, vol. 9, no. 1 (fall 1991).]



This article, published here for the first time in English, is one of the most compelling to come out of the pre-Stonewall gay movement. It first appeared in the July 1913 issue of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types—hereafter, JfsZ), the publication of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee), led throughout its history by Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935). The WhK, founded in 1897, was Germany’s most prominent gay group. Its central campaign was reform of Paragraph 175 of the penal code, which criminalized “unnatural lewdness between persons of the male sex.”

Kurt Hiller (1885–1972) had a doctorate in law from the University of Heidelberg, but he was also a writer and political activist. In fact, during World War I he coined the term Aktivist in German to denote those who, like himself, were struggling against war and militarism. (In Sweden, interestingly, the word designated a minority that wanted Sweden to abandon its neutrality and join the war on Germany’s side.)

Activism also characterized Hiller’s commitment to homosexual liberation. He was determined to rise above mere academic concerns and consistently tried to point homosexuals toward political involvement and activism—an attitude that impregnates this piece, which appeared just a year before the war broke out.

Hiller published more than twenty books, including a volume of homoerotic poetry. From 1916 to 1924, he edited the political journal Das Ziel (The goal). In 1908, he joined the WhK, joining its board of directors in 1918 and becoming the board’s cochair in the late 1920s. In 1918, he made the novel suggestion that homosexuals form a political party to gain representation in the Reichstag (“Sexual Freedom and Proportion,” JfsZ, July 1918).

The gay struggle picked up in the new Weimar Republic after World War I, and new groups were formed. In 1920, an Action Committee was set up by the WhK and two other groups—the Community of Self-Owners (Gemeinschaft der Eigenen)[1] and the German Friendship Association (Deutscher Freundschafts-Verband). Hiller was one of the committee’s leading figures.

This United Front issued an appeal “to the homosexuals of Germany” in 1921 urging them to become involved in the struggle for their freedom. The appeal, which bears Hiller’s stylistic and political imprint, appears to have largely fallen on deaf ears, but is memorable for its statement, “The liberation of homosexuals can only be the work of homosexuals themselves” (echoing the leftist slogan “The liberation of the working class can only be the work of the working class itself”).

At the time Hiller wrote “Ethical Tasks of Homosexuals,” there was continuing tension between the WhK and the Community of Self-Owners. The latter was founded in 1903 by, among others, Adolf Brand (1874–1945) and Benedict Friedlaender (1866–1908). Its publication was Der Eigene, a homophile-anarchist magazine that Brand began publishing in Berlin in 1896 as an anarchist monthly; in 1899, it became a homosexual journal subtitled “a journal for male culture.” In addition to personality clashes, the tensions between the two groups stemmed from a fundamental disagreement over the nature of homosexual behavior and how to liberate it.

The WhK emphasized science as opposed to political struggle (its slogan was Per scientiam ad justitiam—Through science to justice): “The basis of our work is and remains not politics, but science,” Hirschfeld reiterated (JfsZ, October 1909, 26). The WhK regarded homosexuals as a “third sex,” persons in whom homosexuality was inborn and who combined elements of “real men” and “real women”—a view rejected even then by others (especially pederasts) as unscientific and preposterous. This group sought to achieve its goals by circulating a petition signed by leading figures in Wilhelminian Germany in support of reform of Paragraph 175.

The Community of Self-Owners, on the other hand, ridiculed the third-sex theory; regarded pederasty as the apex of male–male sexual interaction; and held bisexuality to be the norm for human beings. It belittled the petition as a beggarly pleading for pity on behalf of freaks of nature, and argued that the great homosexual men of history, from Alexander the Great and Socrates on down, would be unrecognizable dressed up in their third-sex “petticoats.”

Friedlaender, who was the Community of Self-Owners’ major theoretician, elaborated his views in his 1904 book Renaissance des Eros Uranios (Renaissance of Eros Uranios). He looked to Ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy as civilizations where close friendships between youths, and especially between older and younger males, were uncorrupted by Christian asceticism. A married man, he regarded exclusive heterosexuals as Kümmerlinge—stunted beings. As bisexuals and pederasts, it was self-evident to Friedlaender and his comrades that homoerotic behavior occurred on a much wider scale than simply among congenital inverts.

Hirschfeld denounced Friedlaender’s bisexuality theory as “water in the mill of the enemy” that would open the movement to charges that it supported seduction of the young.

In view of the sharp differences between the two groups, it is remarkable that they were able to work together on anything at all. But some people, Friedlaender among them, held membership in both groups.

Nevertheless, their disputes reached the breaking point at the end of 1906, when Friedlaender led a split from the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, during which he accused Hirschfeld of financial and administrative mismanagement, but in which ideological differences played a major role: “We will not bother to arouse the pity of the government and the people’s representatives by scientifically proving an alleged anomaly,” he wrote, “and in this unmanly way achieve the removal of a penal code that threatens us” (quoted by Hirschfeld in the 1908 JfsZ, 629).

Friedlaender long suffered from dysentery, which he had contracted in India. By the winter of 1907–8, he was very sick and underwent several serious operations, from which he suffered greatly. Virtually bedridden and in pain, he committed suicide on June 20, 1908.

In some ways, Hiller’s role resembled that of a mediator—although he never submerged his own sharply stated views. His desire to mobilize homosexuals in a unified struggle and to bridge the gap between the two contending camps—without glossing over differences—leaps out of this piece.

He praised the contributions of both Friedlaender and Hirschfeld. He did not accept the third-sex theory, but favored political action over both scientific theorizing and intellectual one-upmanship. Far from groveling or pleading for tolerance, he insisted that homosexuals should be proud of who they are. He was no assimilationist, but believed that homosexuals should fight for genuine equality. He accepted love between men and youths and between men and young women as valid varieties of sexuality. In contrast, Hirschfeld’s group took a more ingratiating stance, seeking to decriminalize sex between adults in exchange for setting an age of consent at 16—in effect selling out pederasts and gay youths for reasons of expediency.

Gathering names on a petition can never lead to liberation, Hiller argued in an implicit criticism of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee’s approach. The WhK had implicitly recognized this when, in 1905, it debated the merits of organizing a mass “self-denunciation,” in which one thousand homosexuals would turn themselves in to the police and insist that charges be pressed under Paragraph 175. The idea was discarded as impractical, but Hiller put his own twist on it when he proposed a “snowball” tactic in which ever-increasing numbers of homosexuals might be encouraged to sign their names to a list on which they acknowledged their sexual orientation. Eventually, society’s institutionalized hostility would be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of self-affirming homosexuals.

Two years earlier, the WhK had decided against embarking on a “path over corpses” strategy—publicly revealing the sexual orientation of prominent figures against their will (although a few people, among them Adolf Brand, for a while struck out on such a course on their own). Such a tactic would be resurrected nearly nine decades later by some American gay journalists in a new incarnation: “outing.” But outing, rather than exposing the homosexuality of closeted politicians, cardinals, popes, or other public figures who had demonstrated enmity toward the homosexual cause, trivialized it by choosing movie stars and celebrities whose only “sin” was not to have come out of the closet.

Hiller’s idea was to persuade—not coerce—masses of homosexuals to come out voluntarily. Outing, in contrast, is centered on gossip about individuals, and lacks any sense of strategy for reaching the masses. It is based on the debatable assumption that by yanking celebrities out of their closets against their will, they will somehow be transformed into role models for gay youth. But the idea that a gay boy in Harlem ought to regard, say, self-styled “capitalist pig” Malcolm Forbes as a role model is absurd, if not racist. Outing stems from white, middle-class frustration at the rather meager accomplishments of twenty-plus years of renewed gay struggle since Stonewall more than from any thought-out strategy. Yet even outing has its precedents in the early German movement—although its American practitioners appear to be unaware of it.

Hiller’s vision is internationalist—in contrast to the provincialism of the American gay movement, which, for example, has largely abstained from participating in the International Lesbian and Gay Association. (The only U.S. group to have consistently attended the ILGA conferences during the past decade is the North American Man/Boy Love Association.)[2]

Hiller’s writing style occasionally approached the aphoristic. He strived for clarity, acuity, and lucidity; yet his rationalism was always in the service of a humanistic goal.

It is interesting that as early as 1913 he expected reform of the penal code to occur during the next decade. In fact, it would not until 1968, when Paragraph 175 was repealed in East Germany (it remained on the books in West Germany). After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the new all-German parliament decided to remove the law throughout the country, but to set an unequal age of consent—18 for same-sex acts between males, but only 16 for lesbian and heterosexual sex. Male homosexuality, it seems, is still viewed as a special threat to the young—a theme that runs through much of Western penal legislation.

Some of Hiller’s terminology needs to be seen in historical context. His preferred term seems to be “homosexual,” although he also used “Uranian” (without thereby denoting “third sex”). Clearly, for him, “homosexual” has the virtue of being up front—post-Stonewall objections by some activists that it emphasized sexual activity over a more amorphous “preference” or “orientation” (which could be stretched to encompass celibate priests or even virgins, for example) had no meaning in his day. The words normal, normal-sexual, and contrary inclination also occur, without bearing any of the psychological baggage that they acquired in the writings of neo-Freudians in the United States after World War II. Hiller’s use of these terms is morally neutral. (He would be the last person to regard homosexuals as being in any sense abnormal.)

Readers who wish to further explore these questions and Hiller’s contributions should consult The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864–1935) by John Lauritsen and David Thorstad (New York: Times Change Press, 1974) and The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany by James D. Steakley (New York: Arno Press, 1975).

Hiller’s German is sprinkled with uncommon Latin phrases, which are presented in English here. The notes have been added by the translator.

I wish to thank Hubert Kennedy for his suggestions in preparing this translation.


ETHICS IS THE ATTEMPT TO DETERMINE, IN A FUNDAMENTAL AND systematic way, how people ought to behave—in contrast to psychology, which determines (and seeks to explain) how they actually do behave. Ethics deals with values, psychology with understanding. Ethics sets goals and investigates means, psychology sees effects and investigates causes.

Whether ethics has succeeded yet in its attempt to set necessary and generally valid norms for human behavior—to this question we may confidently reply in the negative. Whether it ever can succeed remains to be seen.

But this sad state of ethics ought not cause us to suspend in practice any attempt at evaluation. It would be ridiculous, and worse than ridiculous, namely, fatal, to hesitate to make ethical demands and judgments of human activity until such time as philosophical ethics has most graciously settled down into a scientifically grounded discipline à la mathematics, into a doctrine that is secure, free of doubt, “objective.”

Since we want to live, and live in the best way, and have the feeling of possessing free willpower, ethical thinking remains as necessary today as it has been from time immemorial. But the critically minded person will never forget that within ethical thinking the measure of what is correct remains purely subjective; so that, in the final analysis, we can never speak here of conviction, only of persuasion.

But the reader is interested in the rich variety of reality, so I won’t bore him any longer with abstract considerations. Instead, I shall jump right onto the platform of my problem. What are the ethical tasks of homosexuals? How should homosexuals as such conduct themselves in life?

It seems to me that, compared to how important it is, this question has by no means been discussed adequately. I too plan to resolve it neither completely nor definitively; rather, I shall offer merely a few basic ideas, indications, hints.

It is worthless to speak of the external behavior of a social group so long as one has ignored the mind-set that governs the group. How should the homosexual inwardly judge himself? What should his opinion be of his own self-worth? Here I must throw out an opinion that will mildly disappoint some people. Namely, that the self-pitying notion that the homosexual is someone deprived of the joys of love, a child of calamity, a wretched creature, is one I consider to be as absurd as it is dangerous. Absurd inasmuch as the oppression of homosexuals is contingent upon time and place—it is something that can be completely eliminated by educating the masses, changing the laws, and adding new shades to the cultural portrait (one need only think of Antiquity and the Orient). In no way do these people’s possibilities for attaining happiness lag behind those of normal people; nor do their erotic capabilities, since here it is not the intensity of feeling, but merely its object that is different!

But this view seems dangerous to me in that an underlying attitude of self-pity can only inhibit the vigorous affirmation and development of the personality. Crestfallen individuals will never have full chests or firm muscles—this is true both psychically and physically. Anyone who constantly feels “Oh, how pitiful I am” will never have the energy to take charge of his destiny. Yet precisely today in Germany homosexuals all have reason to muster their forces to throw off the wretched, senseless burden that weighs them down. Precisely today in Germany it is a requirement of collective self-education to nip in the bud any sentimental mood of resignation on the part of the individual. A sick man who constantly pities himself is not going to get well as a result; how much less so a person whose “sickness” is caused not by something inside himself, but rather by the conditions in which he lives. Today as well as tomorrow, the greatest task of homosexuals in our country is: To struggle!

Struggle, however, requires courage, not despair. If it is to lead to victory, struggle requires the kind of courage that springs from the creativity of the great dead Benedict Friedlaender, courage like that of your leader Magnus Hirschfeld. Such courage will by no means be wasted on an unworthy cause, for the idea that homosexuals are psychopaths and stunted beings, treated shabbily not only by contemporary law but also by eternal nature—this and similar ideas are foolish chatter, unproven platitudes whose content is not made more correct by incessant repetition. History, psychology, and experience show that the strongest vitality, the greatest happiness, the most magnificent accomplishments can be linked to homoerotic feelings. Anyone who still seriously maintains that Socrates was an imbecile, Michelangelo a “half-breed,” Oscar Wilde a poor cripple—such a person truly deserves to be castrated! Stupidity and malice confuse adolescent friend with eunuch; homosexuals are not a laughing stock of nature, but rather a playful sport of nature. They are not sick people, but a variation. Everything that appears to give reason to believe that they are sick people has to be traced back to the enervating effect of their contemporary legal status: the nervous excitability of many Uranians, traits of hysteria, disingenuousness. One must very much guard against explaining appearances that are consequences of an external situation as if they were symptoms of an internal predisposition. Otherwise, one falls into drawing false conclusions about the “motives” of our preconception, which do not blush to point to the alleged nervousness of homosexuals, their “furtive practices,” and the fact that their actions are sure to “do the most serious harm to their bourgeois existence” as arguments for punishing “unnatural lewdness.” Here, in an immeasurably narrow-minded, if not insidious, way the (sad) effect of a condition is put forward as the justification for the condition—every homosexual can see that; but the fact that he himself commits a similar intellectual error when he takes the influences of the milieu for inherent qualities of his kind, and adopts a teary-eyed attitude toward himself, is something that he will only rarely admit.

Add to this the fact that it is tactically wrong to appeal to sympathy. One must not beg, one must demand. Sad, humble denunciation of oneself as an unfortunately pathological creature (the traditional “humanitarian” point of view) at best results in a few tolerant privy councillors proposing that insane asylums replace prisons: as far as freedom is concerned, this truly means no progress, but rather a step backward. For, first of all, the homoerotic person is officially declared crazy; then, if he does not suddenly become a gynecophile during internment, he will not be freed at all—whereas punitive detention is, after all, only a temporary measure. It is all the same whether one is deprived of one’s freedom as a criminal on legal grounds, or as a crazy person on medical grounds; I would rather be given a few months out of cruelty than be locked up my entire life out of humanity.

So, what I want from homosexuals is self-affirmation. The feeling that his special race is fully equal; the elimination of all stifling assumptions that he is basically something inferior. He should have respect for himself and feel himself first among equals among two-legged creatures that walk the earth; he should be proud. Pride—that is a virtue that the typical homosexual in this time and place is unfortunately totally lacking.

Pride and arrogance are two very different things. A genius like Friedlaender had, in addition to the right to be wrong, the right to consider the Uranian Eros the better Eros, the homosexual segment of humanity the more noble. But every human being of understanding and taste must be repelled by the unjustified, stuck-up demeanor of the pretentiously aristocratic world of the queen. The fact that an elegant citizen behaves like a male coquette rather than a female one, and even personally traipses around in Valenciennes lace, is no way enough to demonstrate his more refined nature. Proud affirmation of one’s own kind does not involve sneering at those who are different. If the principle of equal rights is pertinent anywhere, then it is here. The problem of the homosexual bears a striking similarity to the problem of the Jews. Here as there, minorities who, scattered throughout all peoples, have been subjugated for centuries; in spite of all differences united in a mystical brotherhood; strong in the virtues of the oppressed; hated by the innkeeper class, uncanny and interesting; mostly without pride, but (in understandable reaction to the brutality of persecution) quite inclined toward extravagant overestimation of their own kind . . .

These “aristocratic Uranians,” who see themselves as the crowning achievement of creation and look down with deep-seated contempt on dull “normalinskys,” behave no less blindly than those Zionists and neo-Cabbalists who continue to regard Israel as God’s chosen people, and brusquely deny the great contributions made by other nations to culture and civilization. In conclusion, Napoleon was no Jew, Goethe no woman hater; and one Spinoza does not make for a history of worldly philosophy, one Sodoma no cinquecento.

Surely, therefore, the homosexual should respect himself, but he should also take care not to consider his style as the only one leading to happiness. Just as it is wrongheaded for normal-sexual zealots to reproach him as someone suffering from a disease, so it would be wrongheaded to accuse the normal person of cosmological inferiority. Proudly affirming one’s own kind is completely consistent with respectful recognition of the rights of other groups. The lover of young women, and the lover of youths: these are varieties, sports of nature, not cripples. “Stunted” neither one nor the other. To be sure, one occurs less frequently on this earth than the other; but numerical preponderance is neither a criterion for determining value nor even for that matter a criterion of worthlessness, as the professional lovers of paradox like to trumpet. Stupid as it is to brand something as being against nature merely because it occurs infrequently, so it is absurd to accord it superiority on the same grounds. Value and power are truly not proportionate quantities; but powerlessness is for that matter no proof of value either.

What I said about the inner attitude of the homosexual also contains in a nutshell my view of his behavior toward the outside world. A person who did not take the commands of his conscience as a guide to his visible actions would be depraved.

Therefore, let the Uranian keep his dignity, his self-esteem, and his modest pride whenever he has to appear as such before people who are different from him; let him neither degrade himself by tearfully begging for pity, nor make a fool of himself by ostentatiously flaunting his differentness. But above all: Let him not be untrue to himself! In any court of reason, he stands on morally neutral ground; only in the eyes of a Themis[3] driven insane by centuries of moral poisoning is his nature considered shameful. The homosexual has no cause at all to feel ashamed; at best it is those who expect shame from him who have reason to be ashamed. . . . The homosexual should not play the martyr by whispering confessions at every inopportune occasion into the ear of people who aren’t interested in hearing them; but whenever it is called for, he should be able to forthrightly acknowledge who he is. As things stand today, caution will certainly never be a mistake; however, if a person allows fear to go so far that in every case, and I mean every case, whatever the cost, he denies his contrary inclination and tries the “alibi proof,” then the sad situation that prevails today will never end. It is a lovely dream (in spite of Alfred Kerr, the greatest German of this decade)[4] that the struggle for the freedom for homoerotic activity could be led by persons who are not themselves directly affected, by freethinking fanatics whose abstract idealism would no longer allow them to stand for assaults on the innocent—but it is a dream with no prospects of coming true, even if hundreds of disinterested yet distinguished personalities were again to sign their names to a gigantic petition. For signing one’s name in order to bring about a new state of mind is a lot; signing one’s name in order to set aside a law is not much. Such an achievement requires the lifework of many people.

The homosexual should be clear about one thing: It is he himself who must fight his own struggle; therefore, he must finally make a break with the traditional policy of silence. Here is one of my favorite ideas: Organizing a bloodless revolt. Proceeding from a central office outwards, through a kind of snowball system (in which word of honor will assure every participant the utmost discretion), it will gradually be determined which persons in Germany are homosexual. As soon as a rather imposing list has been compiled, the central office will send each person on the list a (motivated) request to allow his name to be published, providing that “the others” agree to do so as well. It can be taken for granted that a substantial number of people will be understanding and courageous enough to grant this conditional permission. Once that happens, the central office issues a second circular in which all those ascertained to be homosexual would be asked to allow their names to be published, since, under this condition, a significant number of important personalities would already have indicated their readiness to allow themselves to be named. I believe that in this manner, ultimately a proclamation of the most important kind would be made possible; the fear of compromising oneself would be smothered in the mass of people who were also being compromised; a wave of bravery would surge forth; and dozens, perhaps hundreds of contemporaries known from public life, would let their astonished generation know that they are “that way.” Should not then the squawking of the privy councillors, and with it the voice of the people, undergo a change? I believe that the courage demonstrated by the entire affair would surely impress the authorities! And no one would be harmed through this method; the profusion of cases would paralyze any adverse effect on individuals.

. . . I know that thousands of objections could be made to this plan; above all, the absence of any desire for struggle, any spirit of sacrifice, any imagination, and solidarity; the total lack of any sense of duty, and the enormous growth in the nastiest greed for money. But I know that there are also thousands of arguments in favor of it; and if the effort to reform the penal code—which will probably come about during the next decade—demonstrates (as I fear it will!) that the desired goal cannot be attained by the methods used thus far, then tell me what other method has half as much chance as the one I proposed.

Yet suppose the proposal is rejected on all sides; then two principles of homosexual tactics remain valid. First this: Everyone should carry out as much work for enlightenment in his private circles as possible; whenever the topic in question is being debated in conversation, he should make his opinion quite clear to people, and not go along with their anger or ridicule in order to remain above suspicion. Second, the principle of unity remains important, as does the prerequisite of organizing for the sake of victory. If individuals or groups that have a common enemy wage war against each other, the common foe—what a truism this is!—cannot be overcome. In Italy, with the outbreak of the war with Turkey, social revolutionaries and royalists, clericalists and freethinkers reached out to each other; they temporarily put aside the most significant points of contention; they ignored all instincts that pitted them against each other—all on behalf of one goal: to conquer Libya and defeat the common enemy, Turkey. but these same instincts defeated, and defeated even worse, the moderately united peoples of the Balkans . . . , simply because they were disorganized by wrangling between the parties.

However varied may be the social strata out of which the homosexual segment of the population is comprised, no one can fail to see that they have a common enemy. Not heterosexuals, as might be supposed, but rather those heterosexuals who are opposed to getting rid of the existing legal setup. Faced within this common enemy, the difficult, but distinguished task of every homosexual will be to disregard whatever might separate him from any of his comrades in nature (at least as far as homosexual action is concerned). The aristocrat must unite with the worker, the merchant with the artist. Christian and Jew, biologist and philosopher, believer and skeptic—when it comes to defeating the common enemy, they all have to forget their quarrels (appealing though they might be in other circumstances). It is especially ridiculous, criminal even, when certain cranks (even if they may be a thousandfold correct in their theoretical divergences) carry on as if homosexual action can afford the luxury of two competing “movements.” I understand that high-minded persons might acquire a greater taste for an aesthetic-metaphysical treatment of the matter than a scientific one, which is always a bit dull; it may also be true that a “business” is “soulless”; and it would be as little a failing here as elsewhere if the bourgeois nature of the present orientation were to be made touchy by the opposition of a more intellectual one. But the dispute must remain localized; one must not provide sneering spectators with a row, and not allow them to encroach upon the terrain of joint homosexual action. The highest duty is unity in the face of the enemy.

Unity means something very positive. It means not only that no group works against the others, that actions are carried out jointly. It also means that every individual joins in the closing of the ranks. Even indifference—a mere attitude of “I can’t be bothered with the movement”—is bad and harmful. Objective solidarity has nothing to do with sentimental fraternization; and the fear of working together with someone whom one privately objects to must not prevent anyone who has a trace of feeling of responsibility from personally taking part in the movement to the best of his abilities. In the most brilliantly organized party in Germany, the Center Party, sit men from completely opposing walks of life and social classes; but their conflicting interests are dissolved in a higher commonality: the idée dominante, Catholicism, welds them firmly together.

An organization of Uranians must also be . . . international. It would have to include at least those countries in which a similarly unfavorable legal situation prevails as in our country: Austro-Hungary, Russia, England, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, several Balkan countries (to the best of my knowledge), and a large part of the American continent. The organization would have to begin in each individual country; and, along the lines of the International Socialist Bureau,[5] the heads of the various member organizations would have to join in an international committee. In this way, and only in this way, would it be possible to bring about large-scale actions. In this way, too, that self-esteem that I wished for the individual homosexual at the beginning of my discussion would indeed be strengthened; he would feel himself a member of a powerful group, a mighty league (similar to the Masons) that would be able to protect him in case any calamity should befall him. The large-scale organization will in turn be made possible when the self-esteem of the individual is strengthened: a typical example of “reciprocal action.”

This, then, is what I would have communicated to those concerned about the ethical tasks of homosexuals. I can hardly be accused of moralizing, of having served up pathos, sugar coating, and sentimentality; but I do hear one objection buzzing on all sides: that I have been spouting out utopias. To that I reply: In my train of thought, I have never overstepped the bounds of what is possible; and the consideration that what is possible may not be probable ought in no way lead to abstaining from struggling for what is possible. If one abstains from what is possible, one will surely never achieve the probable. There is an excellent saying in the posthumous writings of the philosopher Max Steiner:[6] “What common people yesterday were still smiling at as utopian, today they call an idea, and tomorrow they will be venerating as a law.”


  1. Most writers in English, myself included, have translated this name as “Community of the Special,” but I am now convinced that this does not do justice to the German or to the intent of the group’s founders. They were followers of Max Stirner, the individualist anarchist author of The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual against Authority, and used Der Eigene to mean “The Self-Owner.” Hence, “Community of Self-Owners” would seem more accurately to capture the intended meaning of the word in this context, although it also conveys the connotation of “special” and “exceptional.”
  2. NAMBLA was expelled from the ILGA in 1994 in response to threats to withhold U.S. funds from the United Nations by right-wing Senator Jesse Helms, whose demands were supported by groups like the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as Congressman Barney Frank.
  3. The goddess of law and justice from Greek mythology, portrayed as holding the scales of justice. She was the daughter of Uranus and Gaea.
  4. Kerr (1867–1948) was one of Berlin’s most influential theater critics. Since reading Kerr’s book Das Neue Drama (The new drama) in 1905 at the age of 20, Hiller felt “wild enthusiasm” for this “unforgettable great writer,” as he recalled in his Leben gegen die Zeit, vol. 1, Logos (Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1969), 350. He considered Kerr to be the greatest writer of German prose after Goethe, Heine, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche (Logos, 353). Hiller also contributed to Pan, which Kerr published until 1915.
  5. A reference to the Second (or Socialist) International, founded in 1889. It was a loose federation of national Social Democratic and labor parties, uniting both reformist and revolutionary elements. On August 4, 1914—little more than a year after Hiller’s article was published—the German section voted for the war budget of the imperialist government. The same day, the French and Belgian sections issued manifestos supporting their governments. These acts marked the end of any progressive role for the Socialist International.
  6. Largely forgotten today, Steiner (1884–1910) was born in Prague and studied chemistry in Berlin, where Hiller met him around 1906. Hiller described him as being “always ironic, biting, sarcastic,” and called him “one of the most enlightened and most enlightening of our authors” (Logos, 65). In 1905, Steiner published his book Die Rückständigkeit des modernen Freidenkertums (The backwardness of modern freethinking) and in 1908 Die Lehre Darwins in ihren letzten Folgen (The teaching of Darwin in its latest consequences). On June 22, 1910, just as he was about to take his doctoral examination, Steiner killed himself with prussic acid. Hiller surmised that he was killed by the pessimism of his philosophical outlook.
Personal tools