Lili Elbe in 1926
|Born||Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener
28 December 1882
|Died||13 September 1931
|Other names||Lili Ilse Elvenes|
Lili Ilse Elvenes, better known as Lili Elbe (28 December 1882 – 13 September 1931), was a Danish transsexual woman and one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Elbe was born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener and was a successful artist under that name. She also presented as Lili (sometimes spelled Lily) and was publicly introduced as Einar's sister. After transitioning, however, she made a legal name change to Lili Ilse Elvenes and stopped painting.
Elbe's year of birth is sometimes stated as 1886. This appears to be from a book about her, which has some facts changed to protect the identities of the persons involved. Factual references to the life of Elbe's wife Gerda Gottlieb indicate that the 1882 date is correct since they clearly married while at college in 1904. It is highly likely that Elbe was an intersex person, though it is disputed by some.
Her autobiography Man into Woman, was published in 1933.
Marriage and modelling
Elbe met Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, and they married in 1904, when Gottlieb was 18 and Wegener was 22. The two of them worked as illustrators, with Elbe specializing in landscape paintings, while Gottlieb illustrated books and fashion magazines. They both traveled through Italy and France, eventually settling in Paris in 1912, where Elbe could live openly as a woman, and Gottlieb a lesbian. Elbe received the Neuhausens prize in 1907 and exhibited at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (the Artists Fall Exhibition), at the Vejle Art Museum, and in the Saloon and Salon d'Automme in Paris. She is represented at Vejle Art Museum in Denmark.
Elbe started dressing in women's clothes one day filling in for Gottlieb's absentee model; she was asked to wear stockings and heels so her legs could substitute for those of the model. Elbe felt surprisingly comfortable in the clothing. Over time, Gottlieb became famous for her paintings of beautiful women with haunting almond-shaped eyes dressed in chic fashions. In 1913, the unsuspecting public was shocked to discover that the model who had inspired Gottlieb's depictions of petites femmes fatales was in fact Gottlieb's spouse, "Elbe".
In the 1920s and 1930s, Elbe regularly presented as a woman, attending various festivities and entertaining guests in her house. One of the things she liked to do was disappear, wearing her modeling fashions into the streets of Paris in the throngs of revelers during the Carnival. Elbe was introduced by Gottlieb as Einar Wegener's sister when she was dressed in female attire. Only her closest friends knew once she had transitioned.
Surgeries and dissolution of marriage
In 1930, Elbe went to Germany for sex reassignment surgery, which was experimental at the time. A series of four operations were carried out over a period of two years. The first surgery, removal of the testicles, was made under the supervision of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. The rest of Elbe's surgeries were carried out by Kurt Warnekros, a doctor at the Dresden Municipal Women's Clinic. The second operation was to implant an ovary onto her abdominal musculature, the third to remove the penis and the scrotum, and the fourth to transplant a uterus and construct a vaginal canal.
At the time of Elbe's last surgery, her case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. A Danish court invalidated the Wegeners' marriage in October 1930, and Elbe managed to get her sex and name legally changed, including receiving a passport as Lili Ilse Elvenes. She stopped painting, believing it to be something that was part of the identity of Einar. After the dissolution of her marriage, she returned to Dresden for a final surgery.
Lili was almost certainly intersexed. But it is unclear exactly of what type. She certainly had a feminine body and facial features that allowed her to pass as a young woman better than she passed as a man. When presenting in public as a man, she was often taken for a young woman masquerading as a man in trousers. Hormonal assays taken just before her first surgery indicated more female than male hormones present. Some reports indicate that Elbe already had rudimentary ovaries in her abdomen. It is likely that she had XXY sex chromosome karyotype (Klinefelter syndrome) a condition not medically recognized until 1942.
Lili began a relationship with French art dealer Claude Lejeune, with whom she wanted to marry and have children, and was looking forward to her final surgery involving a uterus transplant, so that they could one day have children.
In June 1931, Elbe had her fourth operation, which consisted of implanting a uterus and the construction of a vagina, both of which were new and experimental procedures at that time. With no medication to prevent organ rejection, she did not recover and died on September 13, 1931, three months after the surgery due to heart paralysis caused by the rejection of the uterus by her immune system and the resulting infection.
After the death of Elbe, whom she described to a friend as "my poor little Lily [sic]", Gottlieb went on to marry an Italian military officer, aviator, and diplomat, Major Fernando "Nando" Porta, and moved to Morocco. Fernando burned through all of Gerda's savings, and after living for several years in Marrakech and Casablanca, the Portas divorced. Gottlieb then returned to Denmark, where she died "penniless" in 1940.
In popular culture
The Danish Girl : a novel / David Ebershoff. - New York, Viking, 2000 (New edition: New York, Penguin, 2015). Ebershoff's novel is a fictionalized account of the life of Lili Elbe. It was an international bestseller and was translated into a dozen languages. The film version produced by Gail Mutrux and Neil LaBute and starring Eddie Redmayne as Elbe, and was well received at the Venice Film Festival in September 2015, although it has been criticized for its casting of a cisgender man to play a trans woman. Topics including Gerda's sexuality, which is evidenced by the subjects in her erotic drawings, and the disintegration of Gerda and Lili's relationship after their annulment are omitted in both the novel and the film.
Both the 2015 film and the 2000 Ebershoff novel have also received some critical attention for their notable deviations from historical fact. Ebershoff has stated that he did not intend for the book to be an accurate representation of the facts, and that much of the content of his novel - particularly in his characterization of Lili and of Gerda - had instead been fabricated for creative reasons.
- Hirschfeld, Magnus. Chirurgische Eingriffe bei Anomalien des Sexuallebens: Therapie der Gegenwart, pp. 67, 451–455
- Lili Elbe. andrejkoymasky.com. 17 May 2003
- Meyer, Sabine (2015), »Wie Lili zu einem richtigen Mädchen wurde« – Lili Elbe: Zur Konstruktion von Geschlecht und Identität zwischen Medialisierung, Regulierung und Subjektivierung, p. 15, pp. 312-313.
- (Meyer 2015, pp. 311–314)
- She and She: The Marriage of Gerda and Einar Wegener. The Copenhagen Post. 3 July 2000
- "Ejner Mogens Wegener, 28-12-1882, Vejle Stillinger: Maler". Politietsregisterblade.dk. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- Hoyer, ed., Niels (2004). Man into woman : the first sex change, a portrait of Lili Elbe : the true and remarkable transformation of the painter Einar Wegener. London: Blue Boat Books. pp. vii, 26–27, 172. ISBN 9780954707200.
- "Lili Elbe’s autobiography, Man into Woman". OII Australia – Intersex Australia. OII Australia. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Vacco, Patrick (29 April 2014). "Les Miserables Actor Eddie Redmayne to Star as Queer Artist Lili Elbe". The Advocate. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- "Could this be Eddie Redmayne's most challenging role?". Daily Mail. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Kaufmann, Jodi (January 2007). "Transfiguration: a narrative analysis of male‐to‐female transsexual". International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 20 (1): 1–13. doi:10.1080/09518390600923768.
- "Lili Elbe - Painter - Biography.com". biography.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Conway's Vintage Treasures". Vintage-movie-poster.com. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- The Arts and Transgender. renaissanceblackpool.org
- Gerda Wegener. get2net.dk
- "Lili Elbe (1886–1931)". LGBT History Month. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Brown, Kay (1997) Lili Elbe. Transhistory.net.
- (Meyer 2015, pp. 271–281)
- "Lili Elbe Biography". Biography.com. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- Harrod, Horatia (8 December 2015). "The tragic true story behind The Danish Girl". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- (Meyer 2015, pp. 308–311)
- "The Danish Girl (2015)". HistoryVSHollywood.com. History vs Hollywood. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
- "Matt & Andrej Koymasky - Famous GLTB - Lili Elbe". HistoryVSHollywood.com. Matt & Andrej Koymasky. 17 May 2003. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- "Lili Elbe: the transgender artist behind The Danish Girl". This Week Magazine. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
- "Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener) 1882-1931". Danmarkshistorien.dk (in Danish). Danmarkshistorien.dk. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- "In Competition". MIX Copenhagen. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
- "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Radical Change and Enduring Love". The New York Times. February 14, 2000. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "‘The Danish Girl’ Wows With 10-Minute Standing Ovation In Venice Premiere". Deadline. 5 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
- Denham, Jess (September 1, 2015). "The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl". The Independent. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
- "The Incredibly True Adventures of Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe". coilhouse.net. August 3, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- "Reading Group Notes The Danish Girl". allenandunwin.com. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- Sexton, David (8 September 2015). "The Danish Girl: the true story behind Tom Hooper's transgender film starring Eddie Redmayne". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- Goldstein, Jessica (3 March 2015). "The True Story Behind ‘The Danish Girl,’ Eddie Redmayne’s Next Role". ThinkProgress.com. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- Rosman, Lisa. "The Heart of 'The Danish Girl': A Conversation with David Ebershoff". Word & Film. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- Man into woman: an authentic record of a change of sex / Lili Elbe ; edited by Niels Hoyer [i.e. E. Harthern] ; translated from the German by H.J. Stenning ; introd. by Norman Haire. - London, Jarrold Publisher's, 1933 (Original Danish ed. published in 1931 under title: Fra mand til kvinde. Later edition: Man into woman: the first sex change, a portrait of Lili Elbe - the true and remarkable transformation of the painter Einar Wegener. - London, Blue Boat Books, 2004.
- Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft by Dr. Rainer Herrn (2005), pp. 204–211. ISBN 3-89806-463-8. German study containing a detailed account of the operations of Lili Elbe, their preparations and the role of Magnus Hirschfeld.
- »Wie Lili zu einem richtigen Mädchen wurde« – Lili Elbe: Zur Konstruktion von Geschlecht und Identität zwischen Medialisierung, Regulierung und Subjektivierung by Sabine Meyer (2015), ISBN 978-3-8376-3180-7.
- "When a woman paints women" / Andrea Rygg Karberg and "The transwoman as model and co-creator: resistance and becoming in the back-turning Lili Elbe" / Tobias Raun in Gerda Wegener / edited by Andrea Rygg Karberg ... [et al.]. - Ishøj, Arken, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lili Elbe.|
- Lili Elbe on Biography.com
- Lili Elbe on LGBT History Month
- Sabine Meyer: Mit dem Puppenwagen in die normative Weiblichkeit. Lili Elbe und die journalistische Inszenierung von Transsexualität in Dänemark. In: NORDEUROPAforum 20 (2010:1–2), 33–61. Article in German scholarly journal
- Represented in ARKEN Museum of Modern Art's Gerda Wegener exhibition 7. november 2015 til 16. maj 2016