elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Gerda Wegener & Lili Elbe

Lili Elbe (28 December 1882 – 13 September 1931) was a transgender woman and one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Elbe was born in Denmark as Einar Mogens Wegener and was a successful artist under that name. She also presented as Lili, sometimes spelled Lily and publicly was introduced as Einar's sister. After transitioning, however, she made a legal name change and stopped painting. (P: Lili Elbe by Gerda Gottlieb)

Eddie Redmayne, who has become the darling of Hollywood with his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, is preparing to take on another challenging role - that of Lili Elbe. The Oscar-winner is reportedly already losing weight to play the Danish painter born Einar Wegener who, with the support of his wife, fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb, first started living as a woman and finally became one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the 1930s. Directed by Tom Hooper, the film will explore the extraordinary life of a figure who risked her reputation, marriage and finally her life to be the person she felt she should be.

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 Gerda Gottlieb's life indicate that the 1882 date is correct as they clearly married while at college in 1904.

Eddie Redmayne as Lili

Lili Elbe and Gerda Gottlieb
Lili Elbe was a male to female transgender and one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. She was a successful artist under the name Einar Mogens Wegener. Elbe met Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and they married in 1904. Gottlieb became famous for her paintings of beautiful women with haunting almond-shaped eyes dressed in chic fashions. In approximately 1913, the unsuspecting public was shocked to discover that the model who had inspired Gottlieb's depictions of petite femmes fatales was in fact Elbe.

Lili Elbe by Gerda Gottlieb

Elbe met Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and they married in 1904, when she was 22 and Gottlieb 19. 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 could be actively lesbian. Elbe received Neuhausens prize in 1907 and exhibited at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (the Artists Fall Exhibition), 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 her 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 approximately 1913, the unsuspecting public was shocked to discover that the model who had inspired Gottlieb's depictions of petite femmes fatales was in fact Elbe.

In the 1920s and 1930s Elbe regularly presented as a woman, attending various festivities and entertained guests in her house. One of the things she liked to do was to disappear, wearing her modeling fashions into the streets of Paris in the throngs of revelers during the Carnival. Only her closest friends knew that she had transitioned and to others, Elbe was introduced by Gottlieb as Elbe's sister when she was dressed in female attire.

In 1930 Elbe went to Germany for sex reassignment surgery, which was experimental at the time. A series of five 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 remove the penis, and transplant ovaries, which were taken from a 26-year-old woman. These were soon removed in a third then fourth operation, due to rejection and other serious complications.

At the time of Elbe's surgery her case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. The King of Denmark invalidated the Wegeners' marriage in October 1930, and Elbe managed to get her sex and name legally changed, including receiving a passport as Lili Elbe. She stopped painting believing it to be something that was only done when she was Einar. After the dissolution of her marriage, she accepted a proposal from an unknown man, which she intended to follow up as soon as she would be able to become a mother.

The fifth operation was to transplant a uterus and was intended to allow Elbe, then nearing the age of 50, to become a mother. She soon after died of transplant rejection.

Gottlieb went on to marry an Italian military officer, aviator, and diplomat, Major Fernando "Nando" Porta, and move to Morocco, where she would learn of the death of Elbe, whom she described to a friend as "my poor little Lily" After living for several years in Marrakech and Casablanca, the Portas divorced, and Gottlieb returned to Denmark, where she died in 1940.

Elbe died in 1931, due to complications three months after her fifth and last operation. This operation was designed to enable her to carry a child, and entailed the transplantation of a uterus. Her cause of death is believed to have been transplant rejection. She is buried in Dresden, Germany.

The Danish Girl, David Ebershoff's 2001 novel about Elbe was an international bestseller and was translated into a dozen languages. The novel is being developed for the screen The Danish Girl by producers Gail Mutrux and Neil LaBute. It was announced that Nicole Kidman will be playing the role of Elbe. Charlize Theron was originally slated to play the role of Gottlieb, but Gwyneth Paltrow took over for her only to later pull out for personal reasons. The new replacement is Rachel Weisz.

In music, The Stripper Project released "Filthy Wonderful" in 2008, inspired by the story of Elbe.

MIX Copenhagen – LesbianGayBiTrans Film Festival gives every year four awards (best feature, best documentary, best short, audience's favorite) named Lili after Lili Elbe.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lili_Elbe

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher

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Tags: art, days of love

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