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Henry Gerber (June 29, 1892 – December 31, 1972) was an early homosexual rights activist in the United States. Inspired by the work of Germany's Magnus Hirschfeld and his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924, the nation's first known homosexual organization, and Friendship and Freedom, the first known American homosexual publication.
Gerber was born Henry Joseph Dittmar (some sources say "Josef") on June 29, 1892 in Bavaria. He changed his name to "Henry Gerber" upon emigrating to the United States in 1913. He and others in his family settled in Chicago because of its large German immigrant population. In 1917, Gerber was briefly committed to a mental institution because of his homosexuality. When the United States declared war on Germany, Gerber was given a choice: be interned as an enemy alien or enlist in the Army. Gerber chose the Army and he was assigned to work as a printer and proofreader with the Allied Army of Occupation in Coblenz. He served for around three years.
During his time in Germany, Gerber learned about Magnus Hirschfeld and the work he and his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee were doing to reform anti-homosexual German law, especially Paragraph 175, which criminalized sex between men. Gerber traveled to Berlin, which supported a thriving gay subculture, on several occasions and subscribed to at least one homophile magazine. He absorbed Hirschfeld's ideas, including the notion that homosexual men were naturally effeminate. Following his military service, Gerber returned to the United States and went to work for the post office in Chicago.
Society for Human Rights
- Main article: Society for Human Rights