Mr. Wegener's Not So Secret Life

I discovered the story of Wegener quite by accident. I'd been at a bookshop, browsing different sections without intention of buying anything, when I found a book of erotic art.  Being me, I carried it to a private nook in the store and began to leaf through the pages.  The variety of images was impressive.  I'm not really sure what made me look at the index, but an odd impulse brought me to tail end of the book.

You know what a fondness I have for the tail ends of things.

And there it was.  The name Wegener.  What are the odds?  Well, I thought it was pretty remarkable.  Then again, I am sometimes easily impressed.

I took it as a sign that I needed to buy the book.  That and the fact that it was a really great book with some marvelous observations about sex and art.  I'll tell you about it some other time.  I brought it home and then checked out the story of the artist Gerda Wegener.  Her stuff is interesting; mostly lesbian erotica in a sort of depraved Mary Engelbreit style. 



But it wasn't Gerda whose story most interested me.  It was her husband, Einar.

Mr. Wegener was an artist too.  He was pressed into service as his wife's model one fateful day, and the stockings and heels clearly felt good, because the next thing you know, he was dressing in women's clothes and calling himself Lili.  And then he had a series of man-to-woman sex change operations.

Extraordinary. 

Except it's not, really.  It's more common than most folks realize.  The Encyclopedia of Surgery notes:
The number of gender reassignment procedures conducted in the United States each year is estimated at between 100 and 500. The number worldwide is estimated to be two to five times larger. 

I've a dear friend whose daughter underwent the opposite surgery.  Now he is her son.  That's a tough concept for some people to accept, but if you knew my friend's child, it would make perfect sense to you.  The phrase a man trapped in a woman's body describes it.  And now he's no longer trapped, and that's a good thing.

Wegener wasn't quite so lucky.  In 1930, when the surgeries were performed, things were a lot riskier, and the attempted uterine transplant failed.  She died.  I felt sad reading the story.  Yet another reason to feel a bit of sorrow when I read that name.



milkynips milkynips
46-50, F
2 Responses Dec 5, 2012

I don't get the Wegener connection (unless, of course, that's your name). As far as the gender reassignment surgeries, there probably are a lot more of them than people realize. Based on my very limited knowledge of the subject, aren't most male to female? From a medical standpoint, I can understand why since that's a much "easier" procedure (relatively speaking). As one surgeon said, "It's easier to make a hole than a pole." There are notable exceptions of course (e.g., Chaz Bono).

It's not my name, but rather that of someone I used to know.

Love the quotation from the surgeon. :)

Thanks for taking me where you know I would not have otherwise gone on my own. Of course, I've approached it as a History major. :)