Bisexual pioneer Dr. Fritz Klein dies
by Liz Highleyman
Dr. Fritz Klein, a psychiatrist, sex researcher, and leading pioneer of the bisexual movement, died Wednesday, May 24, at his home in San Diego. He was 73.
Dr. Klein died from an apparent cardiac arrest; in the preceding weeks, he had been recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer. He had hoped to attend the ninth International Conference on Bisexuality in mid-June, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award.
"Dr. Klein did what the bi community needed most – brought scientific research to the table showing that bisexuals exist," said Sheeri Kritzer of the Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center. "He touched individual lives as a psychiatrist, helped communities with his research, and broke ground with his activism."
"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," added San Francisco author and bi activist Lani Ka'ahumanu.
Dr. Klein was best known for creating the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 1985), a multi-dimensional scale that extends the Kinsey sexuality scale by including factors such as fantasies, social and emotional preferences, and self-identification in addition to sexual experience. He believed sexuality could change over a lifetime, and that people often wrongly generalized from their own background to assume that others experience sexuality in the same way.
"At the time I developed [the grid], people discussed bisexuality in terms of men and women," recalled Klein – who personally identified as "Bi-Gay" – in an interview for Bi magazine shortly before his death. "Adding attraction to transgender people is more recent. I don't know how to do it, so I leave it to the next generation to figure it out."
Dr. Klein was born in December 1932 in Vienna, Austria. When he was a young boy, his Orthodox Jewish family left for New York City to escape growing anti-Semitism and the outbreak of World War II. He received an MBA from Columbia University, and later studied medicine at Bern University in Switzerland. In his private psychiatric practice, he specialized in sexual orientation, relationship problems, substance abuse, and counseling people with HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Klein wrote several books including The Bisexual Option (1978/1993), Bisexual and Gay Husbands: Their Words, Their Stories (with Thomas Schwartz, 2002), and the novel Life, Sex, and the Pursuit of Happiness (2005). He founded and edited the Journal of Bisexuality, published by Haworth Press. He was also founder and publisher of the Web-based Bi magazine.
Beyond his academic accomplishments, Dr. Klein was also an activist and organizer. In 1974, he co-founded one of the earliest bisexual groups in the United States, the Bisexual Forum in New York City. Recognizing the dearth of resources for bisexuals, he and a friend placed an ad in the Village Voice, and a social-support group soon began meeting in his home.
"The social and support groups of the 1960s and 1970s were certainly the foundation and the fertile ground upon which a cohesive bisexual movement found its voice in the 1980s," Ka'ahumanu said.
In 1982, after moving to San Diego in search of a more laid back lifestyle, Dr. Klein started a Bisexual Forum group in that city. He established the American Institute of Bisexuality (also known as the Bisexual Foundation) in 1998 to encourage and support research and education about bisexuality; he served as chairman of the board until his death.
"Fritz was respected and loved by activists and scientists all over the world, and I was honored to know him as a friend," said Mike Szymanski, a journalist and bi activist in Hollywood. "His legacy will live on with the American Institute of Bisexuality and the projects he still hoped to finish."
Dr. Klein, who dabbled in acting as a young man, was an avid supporter of theater and the arts. After retiring from his psychiatric practice, he worked as a life coach and operated a sugar-free bakery and health food cafe with his life partner, Tom Reise.
"Fritz Klein's dedication to research and education about bisexuality was 110 percent," said Alexei Guren, who manages the Bisexual Foundation (www.bifoundation.org) and Bi magazine (www.bimagazine.org) Web sites. "He intended to do that until the day he died, and he kept that promise."
Dr. Klein is survived by Reise and two brothers, George and Seymour Klein. He donated his body to science. Plans are being made for a celebration of his life later this year; a memorial is scheduled for June 15 at the International Conference on Bisexuality. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the non-profit Diversionary Theater (www.diversionary.org).