“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Magnus Hirschfeld & Li Tao – Sexology pioneers in Europe and China, at Beida, 1931

Posted: April 15th, 2018 | No Comments »

Dr Magnus Hirschfeld was an eminent German sexologist and one of the first outspoken advocates for gay and transgender rights. In 1931 he visited China on a world tour. In Shanghai he met a young Chinese man in his early twenties called Li Tao (or Li Shiu-tong, or Li Zhaotong), also studying sexology and sexual minorities. Despite a significant age gap and cultural differences they fell in love. Li acompanied Hirschfeld to Peking and Beida university (below – Li is the man on the right, on the steps in a dark jacket). Then Li agreed to accompany Hirschfeld back to Germany and live with him. Perhaps surprisingly for 1931 China, Li’s parents were accepting of his sexuality and wished him and Hirschfeld bon voyage when they departed. Li’s father, who was I think an academic too, expressed the hope that his son would become the “Hirschfeld of China”.

Unsurprisingly Hirschfeld fell foul of the Nazis and had to leave Germany for France and resettled in Nice. Li Tao was one of the two named heirs of Hirschfeld. I think Li Tao died in Europe in 1993. To my knowledge nobody has ever written a biography of him.

 

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