I Am My Own Woman

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I Am My Own Woman
I Am My Own Woman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRosa von Praunheim
Produced byRenée Gundelach
René Perraudin
Written byValentin Passoni
StarringCharlotte von Mahlsdorf
Ichgola Androgyn
Jens Taschner
Music byJoachim Litty
CinematographyLorenz Haarmann
Edited byMike Shephard
Rosa von Praunheim Filmproduktion
Release date
31 December 1992 (Germany)
29 April 1994 (U.S.A)
Running time
91 minutes

I Am My Own Woman (German: Ich bin meine eigene Frau ) is a 1992 German film directed by Rosa von Praunheim. The film, a documentary-drama, follows the life story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East German transgender woman who survived the Nazis; the repression of the Communists and helped start the German gay liberation movement.[1][2] The film is based on Mahlsdorf's autobiography: Ich bin meine eigene Frau, published in 1992, published in English as I Am My Own Woman (1995) and I Am My Own Wife (2004).[3]


The transgender Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who was born male, recounts incidents from her eventful life. Now elderly, she runs the Gründerzeit Museum, fulfilling her dream of living as a woman from the turn of the 20th century. Scenes of her life are dramatized. Two actors play the young and middle aged Charlotte and she plays herself in the later years.

Life was difficult for Charlotte growing up as Lothar Berfelde, in Nazi Germany during World War II. An effeminate boy, he enjoyed cleaning and dusting at the home of her benevolent great uncle. His early desire to live as a woman finally found an outlet when he was sent on vacation to Eastern Prussia in the household of her aunt Luise, herself a member of the third sex. A female to male transsexual, aunt Luise surprises her nephew trying out female outfits. She allows the youth to dress at home as a girl and gives him to read the book The Transvestite by Dr Magnus Hirshfeld. She also respects the boy’s privacy when she finds her nephew having sex in the barn with a farm boy.

Back in Berlin, after the death of his great uncle, the young Lothar, found himself at the complete mercy of his brutal father. Trying to save his mother and himself from his father's punishments and threats, Lothar bludgeons his father to death, a crime for which he is psychiatrically evaluated and imprisoned. The defeat of Germany during the war and the allied invasion sets the boy free. Wandering through the street of Berlin, he barely escapes to be killed as a deserter by German soldiers.

By 1946 Lothar has come to identify herself as a feminine being in a masculine body. She lives now full-time as a woman under the name Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, being Charlotte or "Lottchen" similar to Lothar and Mahlsdorf for the section of Berlin where she lives. She moves into the destroyed Friedrishfelde castle and spends years and a lot of hard work trying to restore it. But eventually she is expelled by the East German authorities. Working as a domestic in the household of Herbert von Zitzenau, an elderly equestrian officer, she is seduced by her employer and they start a sexual relationship. She explains that she preferred older lovers feeling protected by them the way women do. That affair lasted several years until Zitzenau’s health declined and death.

Even though life for gays is difficult under the communist regime of East Germany, they find their way around. Cruising a public restroom, Charlotte meets Joechen, a lover with whom she could be a real woman. Their relation with Sadomasochism role playing last for 27 years until Joechen’s death.

For more than 30 years Charlotte manages to live her life as a woman in East Germany. She preserves the entire contents of East Berlin's first (and only for many years) gay bar, after the DDR government closed the bar, and moved to demolish the building. Its contents were transferred to the Gründerzeit Museum in Mahlsdorf run by Charlotte and a lesbian couple. In 1989 the elderly Charlotte, very much active, takes a role in the first East German gay film: Heiner Carow's Coming Out. Its premiere coincides with the fall of the Berlin Wall. But even in a unified Germany Charlotte has to face many problems. The German government takes the Gründerzeit Museum and its contents from Charlotte's hands and she and her gay friends are attacked by neo-Nazis during the first joint East–West gay and lesbian gathering. In 1992 her labor is recognized when she receives the Cross of the Order of Merit from the government for furthering the cause of sexual freedom.


Two actors play the young and middle-aged Charlotte, and she plays herself in the later years.

  • Charlotte von Mahlsdorf - Herself
  • Jens Taschner – Lothar age 15-17
  • Ichgola Androgyn - Charlotte age 20-40
  • Robert Dietl - Herbert von Zitzenau


  1. ^ Anderson, Melissa. "The Films of Rosa von Praunheim at Anthology". The Village Voice.
  2. ^ Kuzniar, The Queer German Cinema, p. 111
  3. ^ Kuzniar, The Queer German Cinema, p. 104


  • Kuzniar, Alice A, The Queer German Cinema, Stanford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8047-3995-1

External links[edit]