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Nazi book burning at Institute of Sexology
Nazi book burning at Institute of Sexology
Queer Gaze

I just learned this famous Nazi book burning happened at world’s first trans clinic

Marty Davies
Marty Davies

Ninety years ago this month, on the sixth of May 1933, the world's first Trans+ clinic was broken into and occupied by the Nazis.

Days later, the clinic’s library was raided, and over 20,000 books and much precious research were desecrated in what would become one of the first large public book burnings by the Nazi regime.

Book burnings are a historic image many of us recognise. But the connection to the transgender community is little known. I can’t help but wonder what growing up knowing more of this hidden queer history would have meant for me.

Of course, I knew that Hitler’s Nazi government targeted queer communities, deporting many queer, Trans+ and gender non-conforming people to the death camps.

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention explains that “a fundamentalist gender binary was a key feature of Nazi racial politics and genocide”, adding that this is also a feature of the modern ‘gender critical’ movement’s ideology.

We are seeing increasing hostility toward our community in our media, politics and institutions. There are even campaigns to ban LGBTQIA+ books. It’s all a terrifying echo of how past horrors began.

It scares me. I’m not alone in thinking that escaping the UK might be an option I have to consider.

We continue to see our basic needs disregarded and protections eroded.

There was a 56% increase in anti-Trans+ hate crimes recorded last year. In the last six years, there’s been a 348% rise in LGBTQIA+ hate crimes.

We all know how hard it is to navigate Trans+ healthcare. Finding a GP willing to work with you is potluck. And now we’ve learned there’s a very real threat to our legal protections as the government considers implementing advice from the EHRC which recommended banning transgender people from some spaces.

And this is having a detrimental and genuine impact on young trans people. New research from Just Like Us found that 88% of trans youth have had suicidal thoughts and feelings. 9 in 10 is a staggeringly high number of young people considering suicide.

But despite this, I remain hopeful. What gives me hope is that ‘Gen Z’ are more likely to identify as Trans+ than my ‘Millennial’ generation, and much more so than the generation before mine.

I remind myself that the majority of Brits respect our community. And I think about the many parents and teachers doing important work to love and embrace our kids as they are.

Despite looming anti-Trans+ schools guidance, teachers’ unions have said they want compassionate guidance instead.

If Section 28 wasn’t in place when I was at school, would I have learned the full story of Nazi book burnings?

Perhaps if my class and I had learned that the Nazis had targeted what is understood to be the world's first Trans+ clinic. That it was host to the one of the first of these infamous incidents, maybe it would have sent us a signal?

That attacking the Trans+ community leaves you on the wrong side of history.

Perhaps I would have been able to embrace my gender identity as a child. Perhaps I would have felt able to share that with my friends or found community and solidarity with other Trans+ kids

That reality is possible in schools today. That is something to marvel at – but we are going to need to fight to keep it so.

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