In a historic move for gender rights, the first gender-affirming health and fitness institute opened its doors in 1919 in Germany’s capital city of Berlin — a sign of immense social progress that still resonates over a century later.
The institute, run by physiologist and sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and his “Institute for Sexual Science,” has been long celebrated as a spectacular milestone in LGBTQ+ studies. Hirschfeld and his team of talented health and fitness specialists developed groundbreaking methods of medical treatment and gender education, pushing the envelope of traditional gender roles and expectations and laying the groundwork for a future in which individuals could explore, express and embrace their gender identity freely.
At the institute, Hirschfeld and his team combined the physical therapies of massage, breathing exercises, and physiotherapy to provide gender affirming treatments and to promote greater comfort and confidence within the body. In addition to offering concrete physical treatments, the institute’s staff also offered a critical counseling service, providing advice and guidance to those struggling with gender identity issues in a judgement-free environment.
Though the institute closed just a few years after it opened — a victim of increasing political and social pressure from Nazi Germany — the scholarly research produced and the visions expressed under Hirschfeld’s leadership left an invaluable legacy that has only become clearer with time. The pioneering work of the Institute for Sexual Science, and their attempt to celebrate diversity and encourage equitable approaches to gender, should be remembered and honored by all.
The opening of the Institute for Sexual Science in 1919 was an important moment in the fight for gender equity. Its doors may have now closed, but its impact and its spirit lives on, inspiring a future of understanding and acceptance. [ad_1]
The Institute for Sexual Study, started in 1919, pioneered present day gender-affirming well being care. NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with healthcare historian Brandy Schillace on this piece of queer record.
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