Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs was a man before his time: a gay visionary. Born in 1825 in the German kingdom of Hanover, he was arguably the first person to ever come out of the closet, first to his family (to their dismay) when he was 40 and then quite publicly. It lost him his job, but it didn’t stop him from writing pamphlets and books in support of Urnings, his word for gay men. He traveled around Germany and his writings were confiscated and banned in Saxony and Prussia . His thinking was prescient, his writing framing the debate for rights in terms that fairly closely mirror the modern gay rights movement. He was also the first person to argue for gay rights in public, when he addressed the Congress of German Jurists in Munich in 1867.
Ulrichs eventually moved to Italy, where he given an honorary degree from the University of Naples, and where interestingly, he wrote the first piece of fiction about gay vampires, a short story called “Manor” in his book Sailor Stories. He died in L’Aquila in 1895.