Lili Elbe

From Academic Kids

Lili Elbe (1886-1931) was the first known recipient of sexual reassignment surgery.

Lili Elbe was born Einar Wegener in Denmark. At the Copenhagen art school, Elbe met Gerda, and they married in around 1906.

Elbe and Gerda worked as illustrators, Elbe specializing in landscape paintings while Gerda illustrated books and fashion magazines. Apparently, Elbe noticed a propensity towards female dress whilst modelling for Gerda.

In 1920's and 1930's Wegener dressed as a woman and attended various festivities, using the Lili Elbe identity. She even entertained guests in her house. She was apparently very convincing because she even received a request for marriage. Only the closest friends knew the truth. To others, Elba was introduced by Gerda introduced as Einar's sister.

Her type of intersexuality is unclear; she looked more female than male; and may have had Klinefelter's Syndrome, however; a Dresden doctor claimed to have noticed rudimentary ovaries. Pre-operative blood tests indicated large amounts of female hormones at the expense of the male ones.

In 1930 she went to Germany for surgery - which was only in the experimental state at the time. First surgery, removal of the male genitals, was made under supervision of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. The rest were made by Dr. Warnekros in Dresden's Women's Clinic. Second operation was intended to transplant ovaries - which were removed in the fourth operation due to serious complications.

Her case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. The King of Denmark invalidated her marriage in October 1930. She managed to get her sex legally changed, including receiving a passport for her new name. She also stopped painting. Gerda married a mutual friend and Lili accepted a proposition from another - as soon as she would be able to "become mother".

Lili Elbe died in 1931, probably due to complications after her fifth and last operation. However, some seem to believe that she may have just faked her death to live in peace with another name.

A book about her life, Man into Woman (edited by Ernst Ludwig Hathorn Jacobson using the pseudonym Niels Hoyer) was published 1933. The book also uses pseudonyms for her friends.

Fiction

  • David Ebershoff: The Danish Girl

External link

  • Biography (http://www.transhistory.org/history/TH_Lili_Elbe.html)
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