Archive for Sexology
343 East 16th Street
January 22, 1930
Sanitätsrat Dr. M. Hirschfeld Scientific Hum. Institute In den Zelten Berlin, N.W.
After a lengthy weighing of the pros and cons, I have now decided anyway to turn to you with a letter which might merk the beginning of a "movement" or an organization of part of the inverts in the United States. During my seven years' stay, I have studied the psychology of the Americans sufficiently, recognized their strengths and weaknesses, learned to appreciate and respect their ideals—to the extent that they have any besides making money—and have finally arrived at the position that, where the base majority of the population shows, well into old age, marked symptoms of psychic bisexuality, the understanding of psychic bisexuality (and therefore also of homosexuality) is also much greater and more general than in any part of Western Europe. Not that the just mentioned majority shows an understanding of something which is not given to everybody at birth, and not because certain authorities have scientifically determined that man is principally a bisexual being; no, but simply because people here experience a freer education and development, which allows both bisexual symptoms existing in the depth of the human essence more or less to develop together. Thus, one also finds at least a toleration of the extreme inverted phenomena and much less of a pronounced hateful, hostile attitude toward inverts than I had observed in Germany.
As things stand here, the invert who is not altogether blind has a greater opportunity here than perhaps anywhere in the world to satisfy the feelings rooted in him. The great majority of bisexuals knows this in the reverse. Indeed, one could say that the invert runs a greater risk of ruining himself from over association here, rather than from withering away for lack of empathy in a hostile environment. In smaller towns the situation is, without question, not quite as ideal as, for example, in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, etc. I have maintained that the number of admitted bisexuals—contrary to your survey of 1900—is definitely ten times greater than you tried to establish through your inquiries in Amsterdam and Berlin at the time. It is no exaggeration to say that 60 percent of the men would legitimize themselves as bisexual, if one tried to achieve such a result here. In view of the fact that the divorce rate is growing (in Kansas already 51 percent as of 1925), there is indirect proof that many unrecognized bisexuals in the general populace do not feel a strong basic attraction to the opposite sex, or else there would be attempts to resolve amicably the marriage destroying contentions, most of which are economic in nature. On the other hand, since X and Y can exchange the same, or at least similar, feelings of love with a friend without enslaving obligations, why take the more expensive route, when the simpler alternative is so near and easy to obtain?
In 1926, I asked a sergeant of a regiment stationed near New York to find out quietly and objectively—taking all the time he needed—how many men in his company engaged in sexual intimacies with other men (by other men I mean mainly civilians). After three and a half months he told me what he found, emphasizing that he had examined each and every one thoroughly. He found that the whole company, except for four men, had been, or still were, intimate with other men. In 1929, I put the same question to an intimate friend of mine in military service, and he informed me that everyone in his company, except for one single man, maintained such intimacies. Should one therefore not contemplate the situation more seriously and ask: Where the general populace displays such a pronounced bisexual character, should one not found an organization or a club in which ideals like sports, intellectual competition, art, music, etc. could be cultivated? Since the specific invert possesses such a socially binding talent, could not only other homosexuals, but also—and this is more essential—a great number of bisexuals find and keep social connections, individuals who can never hope to find with a woman what their thirst for freedom requires. And among these very types the invert could find the permanent friend whom he had always wanted. On the other hand, giving the invert an opportunity to measure his abilities freely against those of the specific bisexual, might prove to be the most ideal way of emancipating the former by letting his ideals closely compete with those of bisexuals.
It would lead me too far afield to describe to you the innumerable possibilities for the activation of the invert. However, I consider it an easily accomplished beginning to own, even in the New World, some central place in the form of a large club building (similar to the YMCA or the YMHA here), with possibly an athletic club close to the large cities near the water or in the mountains. This could serve to give the invert that place in the world which he, with more or less justification, deserves according to his virtue.
The only opportunity to reach the inverts here, at the present time, is at the so called costume balls, which are enormously successful, and are almost exclusively an enterprise of typical inverts and their supporters. This would be where to take the first step by distributing cards, which could be placed on the tables, announcing the idea of an organization. Thus, from among the guests of a dance, an organization could be formed that could be mentioned in the same breath along with all other venerable clubs and associations.
While it is true that, at first, such an organization would be a thorn in the side of certain government agencies which have become accustomed to regarding the inverts only as scum from the gutter, it requires no gift of prophecy to predict that certain authorities simply will have to change their positions on inverts and bisexuals a little. I do not doubt the success of such an organization, if it is undertaken from a central location like New York, for example. By renting a number of rooms in private clubs, some initial members could be attracted who would finance the initial organizational costs through membership fees. By arranging dances, like those at the Rockland Palace, for example, one could expect an enormous profit, which, in turn, could be the foundation for the next step forward. The collected addresses of those who are known as inverted or bisexual to our members could be the basis for a further expansion of the enterprise.
The possibility of forming a great international association or organization will under no circumstances materialize without the help of the United States. Therefore, for the time being, it is necessary to collect the now existing seizure [sic] points of our circle and to concentrate them on the new goal—namely, to connect the inverts of the New World with a central point in New York or Chicago. And the interested, pronounced bisexuals will respond to us here in this country in a more lively fashion than we ever dared to dream, and thus the hostile tendency of specifically heterosexual circles will not have to be feared all that much. With the slogan "Mind your own business," he will go where he belongs.
Now, Mr. Hirschfeld, it will be in your interest as well as mine to give me the address(es) of influential Americans you know, if possible, in scientific (and if not also financial) circles, where one could make a start with the project I have just tried to sketch for you. As you may remember, I (as Ernst Klopfleisch before my Americanization) tried to turn the Kurhotel in Altenau in the Harz Mountains into a summer gathering place for inverts in Germany, but the authorities in Clausthal lodged a protest and asked the main proprietor of the hotel to fire me immediately as the director, or else the hotel would be closed by the communal authorities. This proves that a similar project has been occupying my mind for years. Undoubtedly, I have learned from this experience, and would now begin a similar attempt with a little more finesse, and without giving serious cause for offense—which, by the way, I did not give then, either.
I would be happy to hear from you in this matter. Also, I would be very grateful if you would find the time to explain the idea introduced here to someone in New York. Also, if you have any further suggestions with regard to personalities who might sympathize with my idea, I hope you will inform me. The question revolved only around a single point: If the inverts with their ideals are an ethical group, they will be successful and prevail. If they are not an ethical group, they will not survive the hostilities and do not deserve to exist as an organization. But, should not whatever developed in Germany—if only with difficulty—also become possible in the U.S.A.? Indeed, I believe that one will encounter far fewer difficulties here than in the Old World. The only question is whether one turns one's passion into a virtue or a vice.
Looking forward to an extensive reply about this, I remain with best regards
Ernest F. Elmhurst