Magnus Hirschfeld (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935) was a German physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany. As outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. Historian Dustin Goltz characterized this group as having carried out “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights”. “Hirschfeld’s radical ideas changed the way Germans thought about sexuality.”
Hirschfeld took an interest in gay rights when he noticed that many of his gay patients were committing suicide. In 1897, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee with the publisher Max Spohr, the lawyer Eduard Oberg, and the writer Franz Joseph von Bülow. The group aimed to undertake research to defend the rights of homosexuals and to repeal Paragraph 175, the section of the German penal code that, since 1871, had criminalized homosexuality. They argued that the law encouraged blackmail. The motto of the Committee, “Justice through science”, reflected Hirschfeld’s belief that a better scientific understanding of homosexuality would eliminate social hostility toward homosexuals.
Hirschfeld was there to supervise one of the first ever sexual reassignment surgeries. Lili Elbe a patient of his, started with the removal of her original sex organs. Lili went on to have four more subsequent operations that included an orchiectomy, an ovary transplant, a penectomy, and ultimately an unsuccessful uterine transplant, the rejection of which resulted in death.