An Angel in Sodom: Henry Gerber and the Birth of the Gay Rights Movement (Hardcover)

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Henry Gerber was the father of American gay liberation.

Born in 1892 in Germany, Henry Gerber was expelled from school as a boy and lost several jobs as a young man because of his homosexual activities. He emigrated to the United States and enlisted in the army for employment. After his release, he explored Chicago’s gay subculture: cruising Bughouse Square, getting arrested for “disorderly conduct,” and falling in love. He was institutionalized for being gay, branded an “enemy alien” at the end of World War I, and given a choice: to rejoin the army or be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary.

Gerber re-enlisted and was sent to Germany in 1920. In Berlin, he discovered a vibrant gay rights movement, which made him vow to advocate for the rights of gay men at home. He founded the Society for Human Rights, the first legally recognized US gay-rights organization, on December 10, 1924.

When police caught wind of it, he and two members were arrested. He lost his job, went to court three times, and went bankrupt. Released, he moved to New York, disheartened.

Later in life, he joined the DC chapter of the Mattachine Society, a gay-rights advocacy group founded by Harry Hay who had heard of Gerber’s group, leading him to found Mattachine. 

An Angel in Sodom is the first and long overdue biography of the founder of the first US gay rights organization.

About the Author

Jim Elledge, award-winning author of The Boys of Fairy Town, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy, and over twenty other titles, has won two Lambda Literary Awards. The Boys of Fairy Town was also a finalist for a Lammy, received a starred review in Booklist, and was included in ALA’s Over the Rainbow Book List. He lives in Middlesboro, Kentucky. 

Praise For…

“Finally, a fascinating, carefully researched biography of the founder of the first US homosexual rights organization, Henry Gerber! Thanks, Jim Elledge, for documenting the life of this pioneering resister.” —Jonathan Ned Katz, author of The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams

“A thrilling work of historical recovery. The author successfully captures the life and times of a man whose story tells us so much about the forms of oppression and resistance in the half century before Stonewall and gay liberation. A vital contribution to LGBTQ history!” —John D'Emilio, author of Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties

“This important biography of German-born Henry Gerber—arguably the first American gay rights activist—fills a critical lacuna in the queer historical record. It does so by documenting Gerber’s early activism, influenced by the thriving queer culture of Weimar Germany, as well as the inspiration Gerber provided later to members of the American homophile movement.” —Robert Beachy, author of Gay Berlin 
Product Details
ISBN: 9781641606059
ISBN-10: 1641606053
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Pages: 304
Language: English