Hirschfeld by Himself

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Berlin’s Third Sex
by Magnus Hirschfeld
Translated by James J. Conway
Rixdorf Editions, 150 pages, $24.

 

I  TEACH a graduate course in sex and gender for students in a counseling program at a university in New York City. An essential component of the course is a module on the history of psychotherapy with LGBT people. Most of my students have no knowledge of how psychotherapy has been used in the past as an instrument of social control designed to “adjust” individuals to what was considered “normal” expressions of gender and sexual orientation. Students are often shocked by the long history of psychiatric theories and practices that were applied to “cure” LGBT people of their sexual orientation. Indeed many students have little comprehension of the epic struggles that led to hard-won gains in LGBT civil rights.

            When I received a copy of Berlin’s Third Sexby Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935), I immediately decided to use the book as a reference for my class. Written in 1904, Hirschfeld presents a picture of gay and lesbian life in Berlin at the turn of the 20th century.

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Irene Javors, LMHC, is a psychotherapist in private practice in NYC.

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