Fritz Klein 1932 – 2006

Fritz Klein 1932 – 2006

This is (I think) only the second obituary BCN has printed in more than a decade of publishing. However Fritz’s influence on the bi movement, both through his involvement directly in the USA and as a speaker at UK BiCons, and in proposing the Klein grid as a response to the simplicities of the Kinsey scale of human sexuality, mean we cannot leave his passing unmarked.

On Thursday May 25th news spread rapidly across the bi-ways of the internet of the death of Dr. Fritz Klein, founder and Board Chairman of the American Institute of Bisexuality. He had died on the Wednesday morning, May 24, following a cardiac arrest at home in San Diego, California. He was 73.

BCN 79 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 79, June 2006

Dr. Klein is best known for his pioneering sex research and the development of the multi-dimensional Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which measures the complexity and fluidity of sexual orientation.

The Klein Grid, first published in 1978, expanded on the “zero to six” Kinsey scale that had gone before it. The Klein Grid measures actual sexual experiences, but also sexual attractions, fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, lifestyle and self-identification as they relate to a person’s past, present and ideal future. Klein’s research showed that these factors can change over time for an individual, and vary not just between but also within groups of straight, gay and bisexual people. He concluded that people generalize from their own experiences and feelings to assume, often wrongly, that other people must experience their own sexual orientations the same way.

As a result, Klein concluded sexual orientations are too complex to be broken into simple, well-defined categories. Nonetheless, he was a tireless activist especially concerning bisexual issues and community. He was known all over the world for his groundbreaking research and writing, ranging from the academic publication of the Klein Grid in the Journal of Homosexuality in 1985 to popular books and articles concerning bisexuality, as well as a novel, Life, Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness published in 2005 by Harrington Park Press.

Klein was born in Vienna, Austria in 1932. While still a small boy, he fled with his family to New York City to escape anti-Semitism and the impending war. He later studied medicine in Switzerland at Bern University and received an MBA from Columbia University. Dr. Klein was a board-certified psychiatrist for 30 years in New York and San Diego until his retirement. Early in his career, he realized that there was a void in knowledge about sexual orientation, specifically in the area of bisexuality. He placed an ad in the Village Voice for a meeting that resulted in the creation in New York of the “Bisexual Forum,” which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. During this period he wrote The Bisexual Option, 1978, and co-authored: Man, His Body, His Sex (Doubleday & Co.) in 1978.

After moving to San Diego, Dr. Klein founded the “Bisexual Forum” for that city in 1982, wrote several books, and founded and became Editor of The Journal of Bisexuality.

Fritz founded the American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB), a public benefit charity, in 1998 to encourage, support and assist research and education about bisexuality, and served as Chairman of the Board up until his death. He was known for being outspoken, controversial and compassionate, and for his love and support of theater and the arts.

Though he had recently been diagnosed with cancer, his death from cardiac arrest was sudden and unexpected. He is survived by his life partner, Tom Reise of San Diego and two brothers, George and Seymour of New York City. He chose to donate his body to science. A celebration of his life is being planned.

Just two months ago, Fritz and I were at the True Colors youth conference in Connecticut, enjoying one of our long chats. He was happy and — as far as we both knew — healthy. He talked about how content he was with Tom and with his life.During our conversation, Fritz was trying to wrap his mnd around the very different (from his, and from my) experiences of today’s teens. We were talking about how we can be resources to youth, about how we need to understand that their experiences are very different from ours, about what we can learn by stepping outside of our own experiences and listening to young people, and about the implications of all this for possibly redirecting the focus of our activism. In short, it was a complex and thoughtful discussion: the usual.

Fritz was both a friend and colleague. I miss him already.

Robyn Ochs

I was really sad to hear that Fritz had died, though I’m glad that he didn’t suffer. For what it’s worth, he was one of the good guys in the world, (and there aren’t too many…)

I met Fritz at the 2000 United Kingdom BiCon. I found him energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent and pretty amazing. I loved the stuff he talked about and found that it answered a lot of the questions about my sexuality and identity that I’d been trying to find answers to for a long time. On top of this he was a thoroughly nice person. I’ve read some of his books since and I’ve found them both educational and helpful.

It’s a great shame that he’s no longer with us, but good that his legacy of research and writing will live on after him. Wherever you are Fritz, I hope you’re having a nice time.

Michael Preston

After reading what is being said about Fritz Klein I’m feeling a need to say a few things. I say this with all due respect to Fritz and the incredible contributions he made to our community here in the USA and internationally. He certainly deserves and must be honoured for all his many contributions to those who knew him personally and to the larger bisexual community.

With this said it is important to be true to Fritz’s contributions and to our BIstory and those who came before Fritz and also to those who organized with Fritz. What I mean by this is Fritz founded the Bi Forum with his friend Chuck. Over the last few years Fritz and I had several conversations about bi history and getting it right as humanly possible so names weren’t lost and people were credited for being there etc. I asked him for Chuck’s last name and Fritz contacted Chuck on my behest and found out Chuck does want to be remembered but not have his last name in print.

They both founded Bi Forum in New York in 1974. This group lasted for several years. Like most other bisexual groups of the time it was a social / support group. I spoke with someone who attended their events and he said what he remembered was they threw great parties. Also this was not the first bisexual group in NY. In 1972 Don Fass founded the National Bisexual Liberation group, a social and consciousness-raising group, that produced a “magazine/newsletter” the Bi-Sexual Expression. Fritz told me that that group lasted several years too and there was some overlap between the two groups. Bisexuals were also coming out and organizing groups and meeting as out bisexuals in the 1960s. The social and support groups of the 1960s/1970s were certainly the foundation and the fertile ground upon which a cohesive bisexual movement found its voice in the 1980s. It is not accurate to say Fritz started the bisexual movement. This erases people like Chuck, and the many contributions of those out bisexuals organizing before 1974.

There is so much to be said about Fritz’s enormous contributions to research and the health and well being and understanding and visibility of bisexual people; his generous support and mentorship of bisexual research/ers, community organizers, organizations and conferences, individual activists, authors, performers, newsletters, magazines, journals and the list goes on and on and on.

Like all of us I’ve been thinking of Fritz a lot lately. I made myself laugh out loud when I wrote in my journal that “Fritz had staying power…” I flashed on his twinkling blue eyes and us having a good belly laugh together about this statement! He would have loved it for all the obvious reasons, and responded with a flirty comeback and of course me being me, I’d say something sassy right back and we’d be laughing again. Fritz was fun and funny and not a stuffed shirt.

What I mean by staying power though is that as a patriarch of our inter/national bisexual community Fritz became our most renowned ambassador, someone who dedicated his life to bisexual people and to the celebration of our incredible community in all its dazzling complexities.

So let’s celebrate his life, his love of life, his innumerable contributions to our thriving bisexual community and to the world’s understanding of bisexuality. Bless him for his vision, determination and yes, for his staying power.

mahalo and aloha

Lani

I just finished an ‘In Memoriam Fritz Klein, M.D.’ in Dutch. It was an emotional eye-opener to me.

Fritz loved to travel, especially to the Netherlands. He gave a lecture at the very First International Bisexual Conference in Amsterdam in October 1991. He gave a very successful workshop about the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid at the very First European Bisexual Conference in Rotterdam in June 2001. The room was packed with greedy eyes and ears from all over Europe.

What was the emotional eye-opener to me? The way Fritz opened the 1st International Bisexual Conference in Amsterdam. He stood there, mentioned the names of countries of which he thought attendees might be from. He kindly asked the people in the audience to raise their hands if their country was named. And they did. I was 24 years old, didn’t even labelled myself bisexual then, but this opening caused chicken-skin to me. We are everywhere.

Ten years later I did it just the same at the First European Bisexual Conference in Rotterdam. I stood there, mentioned the names of countries of which I thought attendees might be from. I kindly asked the people in the audience to raise their hands if their country was named. And they did.

Chicken-skin. Now I realise it was his way of doing. Fritz has influenced me. Need I say more?

Hilde Vossen
Former chair of the Dutch Bisexual Network

I think when I first met him, he was still using the name ‘Fred Klein’ for publishing his work.

Fritz was one of those people who was visited by both the good fairies and the bad fairies at birth. The good fairies gave him the strength and determination to get the first edition of The Bisexual Option published, plus the mind capable of the insights within.

It gave him the generosity to spend significant sums of his personal money on bisexual community building. I don’t know if anyone ever added it all up, but it certainly went over a hundred thousand dollars some years ago.

He could compromise – using Fred (looked WASP, rather than Jewish = helped get published and reviewed) or having a 1..7 scale (the publisher thought readers couldn’t cope with a Kinsey-style 0..6) – but not too often. Because the bad fairies meant that he saw One True Way of doing things… his way. Fritz wanted to be a leader, if not the leader.

And that didn’t always go down well with other people, especially in the UK where there’s always been a ‘we agreed – no leaders!’ approach to cat herding bi organising.

As a side effect, he could also be patronising. I always felt he thought few other people had his insights or abilities.

Personally, I’d put the habit of shagging other people’s boyfriends in the good category, but not everyone would, particularly at the time…

Ian