Raffalovich Publishes

Poet and sexologist Marc-André Raffalovich, in his work Uranisme et Unisexualité, defended homosexuality as an innate trait that has served certain individuals well in the arts, the humanities, and the sciences.

Summary of Event

In the 1880’s, Marc-André Raffalovich—a wealthy Russian Jew who had grown up in France but who had settled in Russia—established a reputation as a minor poet among the Decadents. By the 1890’s, he had formed a lasting friendship with John Gray, another minor Decadent poet. Also, he had converted to Catholicism and had taken up the serious study of homosexuality. [kw]Raffalovich Publishes Uranisme et Unisexualité (1896)
[kw]Publishes Uranisme et Unisexualité, Raffalovich (1896)
[kw]Uranisme et Unisexualité, Raffalovich Publishes (1896)
Uranisme et Unisexualité (Raffalovich)
Homosexuality;early works on
[c]Literature;1896: Raffalovich Publishes Uranisme et Unisexualité[0120]
[c]Publications;1896: Raffalovich Publishes Uranisme et Unisexualité[0120]
Raffalovich, Marc-André

In Uranisme et Unisexualité: Étude sur différentes manifestations de l’instinct sexuel (1896), Raffalovich argued against the prevailing medical opinion that homosexuality was an innate degenerative condition that resulted in mental illnesses. He believed that the experts had based their theories on far-too-limited case studies focusing on just one “type” of homosexual. He proposed a complex taxonomy of types, from the ultra-masculine homosexual to the extremely effeminate homosexual. He also elaborated a similar gradation of types for heterosexuals—a term that he himself used.

To prove his theory, Raffalovich turned to history, pointing out that homosexuality had existed in all places and at all times. The Greeks had known it, and many of them had practiced it. However, following Plato, some had developed a means of dealing with it through a process of sublimation that had led many individuals to make significant contributions to their civilization.

Christianity had replaced philosophy with religion, but it, too, upheld the same process of sublimation during the Middle Ages as the means by which some individuals, including homosexuals, could achieve spiritual enlightenment. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment saw many famous homosexuals as well, and these individuals had achieved remarkable success in the arts, Arts;contributions of gays and lesbians the humanities, and the sciences. Even in the nineteenth century, homosexuals had played important roles in their societies by concentrating on their intellectual pursuits.

By historicizing homosexuality, Raffalovich was trying to normalize it. He agreed with the medical field that homosexuality was an innate trait, but he disagreed with medical professionals who labeled homosexuality a degenerative trait. Instead, Raffalovich believed fervently that many homosexuals had an innate predisposition for the spiritual or intellectual life, but he believed equally that, to attain this life, they had to practice a form of chastity. Homosexuals who could obtain this level of chastity could channel their energy into constructive projects. Ultimately, Raffalovich separated the person, whom he believed deserved respect, from the act, which he believed deserved condemnation.


Uranisme et Unisexualité was an eccentrically produced book that did not gain wide circulation, not has it been translated into English. However, by publishing it as a medical treatise, Raffalovich confronted the medical discourse directly, and he established himself as one of the leading experts on this subject. He broadened the study of homosexuality by pointing out that homosexuals did not conform to the medical stereotype, although he did agree that such effeminate individuals did exist.

In contrast, however, he analyzed famous men and women from the past who had made significant social contributions. His emphasis on the cultural contribution of these individuals influenced other thinkers throughout the twentieth century, who began to look at the intersection between one’s sexuality and one’s cultural products. In addition, his advocacy of chastity, which grew out of his own conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, had an important impact on other religious thinkers, who adopted the principle of tolerating the individual but condemning the act. In the final analysis, his defense of homosexuality was an idealization of romantic friendship but not of sexuality per se. Uranisme et Unisexualité (Raffalovich)
Homosexuality;early works on

Further Reading

  • Mendès-Leite, Rommel, and Pierre-Olivier de Busscher, eds. Gay Studies from the French Cultures: Voices from France, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, and the Netherlands. New York: Haworth Press, 1993.
  • Roden, Frederick S. Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
  • Sewell, Brocard. Footnote to the Nineties: A Memoir of John Gray and André Raffalovich. London: Cecil & Amelia Woolf, 1968.
  • _______, ed. Two Friends, John Gray and André Raffalovich: Essay Biographical and Critical. Aylesford, England: St. Albert’s Press, 1963.
  • Smith, Timothy d’Arch. Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and the Writings of the English “Uranian” Poets from 1889 to 1930. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970.

August 29, 1867: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs Speaks Publicly for Gay and Lesbian Rights

May 6, 1868: Kertbeny Coins the Terms “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual”

1869: Westphal Advocates Medical Treatment for Sexual Inversion

1896: Der Eigene Is Published as First Journal on Homosexuality

1897: Ellis Publishes Sexual Inversion

May 14, 1897: Hirschfeld Founds the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

1906: Friedlaender Breaks with the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

1908: Carpenter Publishes The Intermediate Sex

December 10, 1924: Gerber Founds the Society for Human Rights

1933-1945: Nazis Persecute Homosexuals

1950: Mattachine Society Is Founded