* 28th December 1882 in Vejle, today Denmark
† 12th September 1931 in Dresden, today Germany
Lili Elbe (initially called Einar Mogens Wegener) was a Danish painter. She was born with male physical characteristics, and was one of the first people to undergo physical and genital reassignment surgery.
Elbe specialised in landscapes and architectural painting, but was used more frequently as a model by her wife, fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb. In 1912, Elbe and Gottlieb moved to Paris and in 1913, it became publicly known that Lili Elbe had a male body. Nevertheless, Gottlieb and Elbe managed to maintain the ruse that Lili Elbe and Einar Wegener were two different people. Only a small circle of their closest friends knew the truth.
In February 1930, on the advice of women’s physician Kurt Warnekros, Elbe went to Berlin. At Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Science her first body-adjustment operation was performed. Then Elbe went to the Dresden Women’s Clinic, where on May 26, 1930, Kurt Warnekros performed a second operation.
As a result of the gender reassignment surgeries, the marriage of „Einar Wegener“ and Gerda Gottlieb was annulled by the Danish King and Lili Elbe received new papers.
In 1931, a few months after her fourth operation, Lili Elbe died as a result of complications from her last surgery.
The world-famous film The Danish Girl tells her story.