Socrates, Sappho, and Graphing the Gay


These two images are from pages of Magnus Hirschfeld’s 1902 essay “Sappho and Socrates,” which attempted to explain how people could be gay or lesbian. The charts are actually quite simple, and mostly are graphic illustrations of the amount an individual is attracted to each gender and how this corresponds with their sexuality. (I love how one can essentially report “lukewarm” feelings for a particular sex.) The idea presented, in short, is that if you’re male and like women only a little and men a lot, then you’re gay (and so forth). Yet at the time, this definition was relatively new–homosexuality was a degenerate criminal activity, while these charts made it look like a natural human deviation.

Hirschfeld’s ideas were probably the most progressive ideas of any of the major sexologists in Germany, but they were still problematic. He thought that homosexuality was innate and therefore also identifiable by physical markers. He suspected it made the individuals more likely to be subject to neurosis, and in general is works were easily misused by others. This modern idea that people are innately homosexual, and thus that their identity itself is different, is quite easily misused, including for this remarkable series of political trials. (I’ve just written an essay on this scandal, which was truly wild. It involved allegations of champagne orgies, disqualifying witnesses for being hysterics, witnesses claiming to have seen the gay sex in question through a keyhole…)

In an amusing discovery by my friend Cielo, you can take this online OK Cupid test to figure out where you stand in his classification (I offer no comment on the validity of the test compared to his thought, though!)

More about Hirschfeld here and the trials here.

On the Metro

The other day I was on the metro going downtown to see a friend (Dylan, one of the genius humans behind Wonkblog and now Vox) and a beggar came down the aisle. I expected people to ignore her and avoid her as usual, and I was considering what I ought to do myself, when the woman behind me started kissing coins from her wallet and then giving them to the beggar. Before I knew what had happened, the beggar and the seated woman, who seemed very much as bourgeois as my own mother, were talking away, deeply concerned with each other. In between Christian blessings the bourgeois lady peppered the beggar with questions: “Yes, how is it? Where do you sleep? Do you like it?” 
The homeless one assured her, “I love it!” 
“Yes, my son chooses to sleep on the street as well. Would you like to sit down?” said bourgeois mom. 
And they spent the rest of the trip this way, deep in conversation. 

Ah, yes, blogging

Haven’t been at it much, lately. Is life truly able to be broken down into bits? My existentialist soul protests. Still, here’s the shortest catch up ever, all buzzfeed-style.
I love Britain and Cambridge, both of which are rather whacky.Graduate school is sometimes rather difficult, but mostly really wonderful and I am increasingly in love with intellectual history.

I have better friends than I could ever have imagined for myself.

(I generally protect friend’s privacy and do not generally blog photos of them, but rest assured they are highly attractive and whacky individuals. We even eat scones together!)

I love being welfare officer at the college. I run meditation and massage events and throw study breaks with Monty Python and blanket forts.

I am going to have a chapter published in a book! More about that later.
What next? A trip to the states, a dissertation on some remarkably mobile topic (I’ll pick one eventually), then probably a job, I should think.
Meanwhile, here are some crocuses.

(Near Trinity College during a run last week–am training for a 10k!)

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At King’s backs, this morning.

I am really grateful to be on this earth.

Charlotte took this photo in Granchester.


Reading Hegel

Once nearly three years ago I offered to be the person who read and presented Hegel for my sophomore tutorial. Once I started I realized this was clearly a mistake, because Hegel writes things like:

“But in developing itself independently to totality, the principle of particularity passes over into universality, and only there does it attain its truth and the right to which its positive actuality is entitled. This unity is not the identity which the ethical order requires, because at this level, that of division (see § 184), both principles are self-subsistent. It follows that this unity is present here not as freedom but as necessity, since it is by compulsion that the particular rises to the form of universality and seeks and gains its stability in that form.”

This is how I quickly felt:

Hegel 1Hegel 2Hegel 5

Eventually an older sager friend told my roommate and I about how, during a particularly bad study time in college, she had started jumping off desks with her roommates yelling “we are birds! we are birds!”.

So my roommate and I did that (only we made pterodactyl noises). And Hegel (and my roommate’s Arabic) still didn’t make any more sense, but life was good.

Now I’m reading Hegel AGAIN. For the Master’s program back at beloved King’s College, which starts in less than a week. I’m so incredibly excited that my enthusiasm has spread to Hegel’s work itself, but I cannot promise I will understand it any better…

(Reading this time around: I stumbled across the Strand bookstore, fell in love with it, and discovered that naturally they had the book I needed as well as a tempting little sloth book).

6 days to Britain!