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Lili Elbe – The First Transgender Painter

 

Real name of Lili was Einar Wegener, he was a Danish landscaper, who found himself more comfortable in a woman body. He was married to Gerda Wegener who was more successful as a painter. Now it is considered that Einar was already born with Klinefelter Syndrome, nevertheless, as back then it was highly unacceptable in the society, he was suppressing these feelings, that started to take over more and more when he was dressing up like a woman to pose for his wife.

How Lili came to life

Einar and Gerda were happily married and apart from sharing love they shared an amazing friendship. Gerda loved to reflect feminine beauty and she was the one who encouraged her husband to dress up for posing.

Gerda and Einar Wegener, 1924, Royal Library, Denmark

Gerda and Einar Wegener, 1924, Royal Library, Denmark

 

Gerda’s paintings became more and more popular while Einar became Lili more and more eventually giving up on his own painter carrier and focusing mainly on his body and inner personality harmonization.

Lili liked to show up on public, while many were wondering why Gerda still supports and encourages her husband, but, as the attention was focused on Einar, nobody really gave a thought that Gerda was also homosexual.

Einar could not live with the mind and body mismatch therefore after selling many of his paintings he finally went through series of operations to change his gender. Same year his marriage with Gerda was announced null and void.

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Einar was getting closer to Lili with every step, but in the same time he could not find recognition among the Danish society and lost many friends during his journey. Even though he suffered through all the operations to reach his dream, the final one was fatal for him and he deceased at the age of 48 due to postoperative complications.

In 2015 British director Tom Hooper brought this story to a big screen naming the movie The Danish Girl.

Views of Rome, Einar Wegener, 1910, private collection

Views of Rome, Einar Wegener, 1910, private collection

 

Queen of Hearts (Lili), Gerda Wegener, 1928, private collection

Queen of Hearts (Lili), Gerda Wegener, 1928, private collection

 

At the mirror, Gerda Wegener, 1931-1936, private collection

At the mirror, Gerda Wegener, 1931-1936, private collection