1825 - 1895

While working as a legal adviser, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs found his calling when he was dismissed for his sexual orientation. In 1862, he told his family and friends that he was, in his own words, an “Urning” – a term he had coined to describe what was yet to be known as a gay man. Ulrichs posited that there was a complex interplay of male and female psyches in the bodies of opposing genders – “Intersexuals” – with great variation in both the nature of their desires and the expression of their identities. He began publishing his theories when he wrote a statement of legal and moral support for a man arrested for homosexual offenses. On August 29, 1867, Ulrichs became the first homosexual to speak out publicly in defense of homosexuality when he addressed the Congress of German Jurists in Munich. Undaunted by numerous arrests, he continued to argue for the repeal of anti-homosexual laws. Published in 1870, Ulrichs’s of the Urning fromAraxes: a Call to Free the Nature Penal Law is remarkably similar to the tenor of the modern lesbian and gay rights movement: “Sexual orientation is... established by nature. Legislators have no right to persecute... living creatures, who are subject to those drives nature gave them... for the sheer love of persecution... Legislators should give up hope... of uprooting the Uranian sexual drive... [for] even the most powerful government... is too weak against nature.” Though he fought German politics unsuccessfully for years, Ulrichs reflected "until my dying day I will look back with pride that I found the courage to come face to face in battle against the specter which for time immemorial has been injecting poison into me and into men of my nature. Many have been driven to suicide because all their happiness in life was tainted. Indeed, I am proud that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt." Ulrichs’s influence on Europe’s nascent homosexual rights movement is immeasurable. The International Lesbian and Gay Law Association bestow the Karl Heinrich Ulrichs Award each year in his honor.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Germany Italy

Era/Epoch Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution




Social Justice

Commemorations & Honors

International LGBTI Law Association Created the Annual Karl Heinrich Ulrichs Award for Distinguished Contributions to Sexual Equality Advancement

Streets Named After Him in Munich, Bremen, Hanover and Berlin


Related Videos

Overview of Karl Ulrichs Role in Advancing Understanding of the LGBTQ Community


Original Biography Author
Rich Wilson
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell