Lili Elbe - Nominee

1882 - 1931

Einar Wegener identified as male most of his life. In 1904, he married Gerda, whom he met at Copenhagen Art School, and the couple moved to France to work as illustrators - Einar specializing in landscapes and Gerda illustrating books and fashion magazines. When a model failed to show for a session, Gerda convinced Einar to wear stockings and heels so she could finish the drawing. “Lili” was born. Lili’s newfound identity allowed her to disappear into the streets of Paris where her face and body enabled her to pass as a woman. During this period Lili’s two identities tried to coexist but this proved untenable. In 1930, Lili had her first gender conformation surgery. The first surgery was made under the supervision of famed sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. The numerous surgeries which followed were undertaken at the Dresden Women’s Clinic where the discovery of rudimentary female sexual organs and the presence of elevated female hormones prompted Elbe’s eventual classification as “intersex.” After Lili’s gender confirmation surgery made her a headline sensation, the King of Denmark was convinced to invalidate Lili’s wedding to Gerda. This cleared the way for Lili to wed her new male fiancé. Sadly, during a 1931 surgical transplant of uterine tissue to create a vagina, she died from the consequences of tissue rejection before they were able to marry. Man Into Woman (1933), Elbe’s groundbreaking biography by Ernst Jacobson, revealed Lili’s case to be both the first known example of gender confirmation surgery and the first time gender identity was considered separated from one’s sexual orientation. The book was enormously influential for those contemplating their own gender identity, most notably Renee Richards who, inspired by Elbe’s life-story, shocked the tennis world when she underwent gender confirmation surgery in 1975.

Lili Elbe Headshot

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Unknown

Gender Identity Intersex Transgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Denmark France Germany

Field(s) of Contribution

Art

Commemorations & Honors

MIX Copenhagen LGBT Film Festival Awards Four Lili Prizes each year

Neuhausens Prize (1907)

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell