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The Intermediate Sex


The Intermediate Sex


“Anyone who realizes what Love is, the dedication of the heart, so profound, so absorbing, so mysterious, so imperative, and always just in the noblest natures so strong, cannot fail to see how difficult, how tragic even, must often be the fate of those whose deepest feelings are destined from the earliest days to be a riddle and a stumbling-block, unexplained to themselves, passed over in silence by others…”

One of the earliest advocates of freedom for the people he termed “Homogenic”, Edward Carpenter set the stage over one hundred years ago for what would become today’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Freedom Movement.

At a time when same-sex men were imprisoned for their desire, he lived openly for nearly 40 years with his dear “boy”, George Merrill.

Originally published in 1908, The Intermediate Sex presents early observations about gender fluidity in both men and women: that there are those who hold an intermediate position between male and female and may have an inner sex in their mind that is quite different from their biological sex.

Carpenter’s notion of an “intermediate sex,” has to be seen as one of the most influential ways of understanding sexuality in the early twentieth century. His observations, which translated anthropology, sexology, and many spiritual speculations into more acceptable forms, were far more influential than any one of those viewpoints alone in defining what was meant by homosexuality, and how it might belong in the world.

EDWARD CARPENTER (1844-1929) was widely known as a poet, socialist, anarchist, women’s freedom supporter, pagan; in short, a harbinger of the many new worlds of the mind and body that were overthrowing the certainties of the Victorian era and giving birth to the Modern period. Carpenter's writings include Love's Coming of Age (1895), a commentary on feminism and free love; and Towards Democracy (1905), a poetic and spiritual summons to human improvement. He examined his own experience in My Days and Dreams (1890). In The Intermediate Sex (1908), he explored homosexuality as an instinctive behavior which pre-modern societies incorporated openly into their religious and cultural lives. Carpenter’s writings and life inspired several generations including the novelist EM Foster, who wrote his novel Maurice after visiting him. Carpenter’s influence on Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay directly contributed to the birth of the modern LGBT movement. The poet Allen Ginsberg traces his gay poetic lineage back to Walt Whitman through Carpenter.

"There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved…"

-George Sand

“The classic treatise on gender fluidity…”

-Alfred Ryder

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