The Third Sex

From 1930 to 1932, in the final years of the German “Weimar” Republic, a magazine was published called, “The Third Sex,” subtitled as “The Transvestites” (in German, Das 3. Geschlecht1 — Die Transvestiten). This was the first known magazine to be directly marketed towards what we would now call transgender people (the word transvestite at that time more closely matched what we call transgender). This magazine features stories by trans people who were newly experiencing life as their true gender identity in interwar Germany’s increasingly progressive culture. Some were openly trans but many still lived in the closet. This magazine provided a platform to share experiences and dream of a life of being fully authentic.

This magazine was one of several published by Friedrich Radzuweit, a prominent and wealthy advocate for LGBT rights. Alongside this magazine was The Girlfriend (in German, Die Freundin), which catered to lesbian readers. The Third Sex also featured articles on kink and BDSM, which brings up an interesting question: why? Was it because Radzuweit simply saw cross-dressing as a fetish? Or did Radzuweit just need to find an available space for BDSM-related content? One way to circumvent censorship at the time was to make periodicals appear to be “scientific.” Perhaps treating transness as a fetish and including scientific articles about fetishes was a way to do just that.

A word of warning, there are some articles I’ve translated, such as “Is There a Third Sex?” that have outdated understandings of sex, gender, childhood development, and transgender identities. I included them to show how people were investigating the nature of gender identity and proposing theories that did not pathologize gender non-conforming people, but instead treated them with acceptance and curiosity. At that time they were attempting to explain people who did not fall within the traditional birth-assigned gender roles or behavior.

  1. The term Geschlecht translates to both “sex” and “gender” as they were traditionally viewed as the same concept.