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Marc-André Raffalovich circa 1880

Marc-André Raffalovich (11 September 1864 – 1934) was a French poet and writer on homosexuality best known today for his patronage of the arts and for his lifelong relationship with the poet John Gray.


Early life

Raffalovichs was born into a wealthy Jewish family, which moved from Odessa to Paris in 1863. He went up to study in Oxford in 1882 before settling down in London and opening a salon in the 1890s. Oscar Wilde attended, calling the event a saloon rather than a salon. This is where Raffalovich met the love and companion of his life, John Gray. In 1890 his sister Sophie married the Irish nationalist politician William O'Brien (1852-1928).


In 1894, Raffalovich started to contribute on the subject of homosexuality (unisexualité, as he called it) to the Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle, a prestigious revue founded in Lyon by Alexandre Lacassagne, a pioneer criminologist and professor of Forensic Medicine. He soon became recognised as an expert in the field, engaging in correspondence with other researchers throughout Europe.

His magnum opus, Uranisme et unisexualité: étude sur différentes manifestations de l'instinct sexuel was published in 1896. In 1897, he started working on Annales de l'unisexualité, and les Chroniques de l'unisexualité with the aim of cataloging everything published on the subject of homosexuality. These have proved useful to historians up to this day.


In 1896, under the influence of John Gray, Raffalovich converted to Catholicism and joined the tertiary order of the Dominicans as brother Sebastian. At the same time Gray became a priest and was sent to Edinburgh. Raffalovich followed and settled down nearby, paying for the cost of Gray's new church.


There is a close link between Raffalovich's views on homosexuality and his Catholic beliefs. He had moved on from the contemporary vision of homosexuality as a "third sex" to consider it simply as an expression of human sexuality. He made the distinction between the born and the chosen inverts. The former only is worth considering while the latter is mired in vice and perversion.

He drew however a difference with heterosexuality based on the idea of vice and virtue. While a heterosexual's destiny is to marry and start a family, a homosexual's duty is to overcome and transcend his desires with artistic pursuits and spiritual and even mystical friendships.

These views led him to clash with Magnus Hirschfeld and the members of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, accusing them of being propagandists for moral dissolution and of wanting to destroy whole generations. He even supported Paragraph 175 as a way to prevent total moral chaos.

His attempt to reconcile his homosexuality and his Catholic beliefs pushed him further into his criticism of the early gay liberation movement and in 1910, he finally stopped commenting altogether on the subject which had had such a place in his life. He focused on his Edinburgh salon and his support of young artists.

He died in 1934, the same year as his lifelong companion John Gray.


Note: Most of Raffalovich's non fiction writings are available online from the "Archives d'anthropologie criminelle" (AAC) as *.jpg files.

External links


  • Raffalovich, Marc-André (1864-1934), GLBTQ
  • Marc-André Raffalovich
  • Cardon, Patrick, A homosexual militant at the beginning of the century: Marc Andre Raffalovich, "Journal of Homosexuality", XXV 1993 (1-2), pp. 183-191.
  • Cardon, Patrick, Discours littéraire et scientifiques fin de siècle : Les Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle du Dr Lacassagne de Lyon, 1886-1914, Université de Provence, 1984.
  • Cardon, Patrick, Un pionnier de l'homoliberté. Avec Marc-André Raffalovitch, l'homosexualité cessait d'être une inversion monstrueuse de l'hétérosexualité. Numéro 389 du 12 octobre 1989 du journal Gai Pied Hebdo (France)
  • McCormak, Jerusha Hull, The Man who was Dorian Gray, St. Martin's Press, New York, 2000.
  • Rosario, Vernon, L'Irrésistible ascension du pervers, EPEL "les grands classiques de l'érotologie moderne", 2000 (chapitre 3).
  • Sewell, père Brocard (dir.), Two friends: John Gray and André Raffalovich: essays. Biographical and critical, Saint Albert's Press, Aylesford (Kent) 1963.
  • Sewell, père Brocard, Footnote to the Nineties: a memoir of John Gray and André Raffalovich, Cecil and Emilia Woolf, London 1968. ISBN 0900821019.
  • Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001


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