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Man Into Woman: The First Sex Change
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Man Into Woman: The First Sex Change

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  630 ratings  ·  48 reviews
This riveting account of the transformation of the Danish painter Einar Wegener into Lili Elbe is a remarkable journey from man to woman. Einar Wegener was a leading artist in late 1920's Paris. One day his wife Grete asked him to dress as a woman to model for a portrait. It was a shattering event which began a struggle between his public male persona and emergent female s ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 31st 2004 by Blue Boat Books Ltd (first published 1931)
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Sandy I just purchased this book via eBay from a seller in the UK. $19.62 US$, several copies available. Seller's id is emma1917. Good luck!…moreI just purchased this book via eBay from a seller in the UK. $19.62 US$, several copies available. Seller's id is emma1917. Good luck!(less)
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Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are several factors that together make this book amazing. The writing isn't exceptionally good but combined with the fact that Lili Elbe is the actual author behind her novel-like biography AND the fact that this is also the first real transgender themed work ever, this book becomes immensely interesting to read.
What also makes this book interesting is that Elbe lived in a time where it generally wasn't even thought to be possible to change one's gender (even Elbe originally thought other
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I decided to pursue more information on the life of Lili Elbe after reading Ebershoff's "The Danish Girl." Hoyer's "Lili" provides a collection of letters and diary entries written by Elbe herself, from the time before her transition and afterwards. Though the names had been changed to preserve anonymity, Lili is still Lili. That much cannot be changed.

She writes mainly to her wife, Gerda, as well as to friends. Her writings initially depict her sorrow, her struggle to become Lili, and later her
Mariam Mikhail
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A good book. It changed the way I look at LGBT, I didn't really feel disgust or indignation toward them, it was more like disbelief caused by ignorance on my part. Now I only have compassion, understanding & sympathy for them. ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I really hate computers. I wrote a lengthy and thoughtful review and my computer ate it before it got posted. So let me try again.
I saw the movie “The Danish Girl” and loved it. But it made me very curious and interested to read the book on which the movie was based. The original book was called “Man Into Woman, The First Sex Change”, and was first published in 1933. As is the usual case in our capitalist universe, an “updated and expanded” version of the book was recently released as
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a transgender woman in 2016. So much of this is still relatable to my life. I have not had any surgery yet but I have been hormonally transitioning for 11 months. Just the hormones which Lili would not have had, without those surgeries, are so freeing.

I wish she could see us and smile, and all the progress we have made with her start. She started the race, she created the movement. Eventually one of us will finish the race and we will be fully accepted. She started the society level change, s
Claudia Zhao
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
After watching the film, the Danish Girl, I wanted to find out more about the amazing story of Einar Wegener, a famous Danish landscape painter living in the bohemian Europe of the 1930s who underwent multiple surgeries to become the woman Lili Elbe. As it turns out the movie is not entirely based on facts and I wanted to really understand what happened with Einar, his wife Gerda, and Lili. For something written in the 1930s it is an incredibly easy read, and explicit in the facts surrounding wh ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The copy I received via inter-library loan arrived from California State University, and was in fragile condition. I felt very honored that they would even send it to me! I was particularly interested to read this first documented account of the transformation of a person into the gender they most closely identify with, because of personal experience within my own family. I have been interested in the study of gender dysphoria since my daughter came out to me as transgendered at age sixteen. I w ...more
Iñaki Tofiño
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Technically speaking it was not a sex change since Lili apparently was born an intersexual person, but in any case the story of her adult life (the book tells nothing about her childhood and adolescence) is a tale of stubbornness and resilience. It is amazing how she managed, surrounded by a net of friends and parents, who supported her all the way.
What I have not liked at all is her image of femininity as weakness, dependence on men and shyness. I suppose it was the mental idea she had of being
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
This is the story of the first sex change featured in the movie, The Danish Girl, and the previous partly fictional novel on which the movie was based. . This book gives us a truer and more intimate picture of the thoughts and emotional state of Einar Wegener while he transitioned into Lili Elbe, and of the constant support of his wife,Gerda Gottlieb, and most relatives and friends before and after his four surgeries in 1930/1931.

The husband and wife team were artists, and lived a Boh
Steve Fritz
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After seeing the movie, it wasn't until the end of this book that I understood why it was so important for Lili to be able to give birth. She was truly a woman and no longer a man. I was also amazed at the support system she had.

It is hard to imagine how difficult this must have been for her. Some questions I'm left with are: Why did the doctor leave on vacation? What happened to the doctors and the clinic, especially with the rise of National Socialism aka NAZI Germany? I would like to find som
Kim Chernin
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Something lost forever

This brave, infinitely sad story of a gender pioneer, doing what most likely had never been done or imagined and certainly not tried. It is also a tragic story; how different everything could have been had all involved known when to stop. One of those rare, small books you will never forget ...
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-english
I haven't seen the movie The Danish girl nor have I read the novel The Danish girl, however I was very much interested in the topic of the novel/movie (and at the time I was specifically looking for a LGBT themed book written as biography or journal). So when I learned about the existence of the original material, the biography written with the assistance of the 'Danish girl' herself, I chose to go to the source first. It was a good choice.
I understand why is Lili considered such an important
Rebekah May
Like a lot of people I saw The Danish Girl and loved it, so I went looking for what really happened and found this book. Lili: A Portrait of the First Sex Change was partially written by Lili around the time of her last operation. The rest is taken from Lili's letters to her friends and loved ones, her diary entries, Gerda's diary entries, and small inserts from Niels Hoyer, who edited and put together this book. Sometimes this reads like a novel, and I can't believe how incredible this story is ...more
Gerri Gray
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of Einar Wegener, a famous Danish landscape painter who underwent multiple operations in the 1930s to become the world's first male-to-female transsexual. While the writing is far from remarkable, the story itself is quite fascinating and, at times, heart-wrenching. ...more
Emily Horton
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly a pretty good narrative of the life of Lille Elbe. It’s interesting to see from a modern perspective how people viewed her and even how she viewed herself. For example, Lili wrote some pretty awful/sexist things about herself, showing how much she internalized sexism of the time, as well as believed that she had to follow societal feminine ideals in order to be a “real woman”. It’s fascinating to me to see how those beliefs have changed in how most transgender women view themselves thes ...more
Rebekka Steg
Lili is the republishing of Man Into Woman, the memoir of one of the first openly trans women, Lili Elbe. Lili's life story was the inspiration behind The Danish Girl - which completely twisted and disregarded many of her life circumstances - and in my opinion the truth is much more interesting and compelling. While Lili lived in the beginning of the 20th century, what surprised me the most is in how many ways things haven't changed. It is of such vital importance that we listen to the own voice ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Man Into Woman is an autobiography about Lili Elbe. Lili Elbe was a Danish women born in the early 1900's. The thing is Lili was not born a woman but instead a man by the name of Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener. Her story goes through the challenges she had mentally and physically, and how difficult it was especially when she was the only transgender woman she knew of. Lili Elbe didn't think of herself as a transgender woman though, probably because nobody knew what that was, but also because she t ...more
Kayla Song
This was such a powerful testimony. As someone who grew up in a wildly transphobic household, this book helped to dispel any lingering illusions about that community. I originally heard about Lili Elbe from the movie The Danish Girl, and I desperately wanted to know more about her story.
This book was such a raw documentation of all the emotions and struggles Lili went through, and I feel like it gave me a peek into the reality of the transgender experience. It frequently gave me chills to reali
Oct 04, 2019 added it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Frequently the questions plagues me: have I had only a past, or have I had no past at all? Or have I only a future without a past?

Lili Elbe’s story is incredibly interesting. Personally, I consider it a part of history more people should know about. However, I really do not want to rate this because it’s just too personal.
The writing wasn’t good and it took me approximately 50% of the book to get into it. It was a slow book and you have to be really interested in her life to be able to contin
Sharon Riley
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eye opening and heart breaking

This story is a fascinating tale of a woman's journey. It's not always an easy read but it is impossible not to fall in love with and want to care for Lili. Her "confessions" are so raw and full of innocent hope and longing that it's feels like listening to a much younger friend. This is an incredible book that encourages understanding and compassion of a situation so rarely written about.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia
I really enjoyed reading the details about the life of Lili Elbe - there is a lot more to know than the movie and I really admire her perspective and how she is a pioneer for the transgender community. May she rest in peace <3
Brenda Tirado
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finished on Sept 13, 2020 - the same day in 1931 when Lili Elbe was buried in the cemetery near the Women’s Hospital, where she returned for her last surgery. 89 years ago.
A very stunning, deeply felt book.
Ingrid White
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After watching the Danish Girl I decided to read the diary of the main character. Although the science behind sex reassignment surgery has clearly come a long way, it was a terrific view into the past on this subject.
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It brings me joy to know the support Lili received from her friends and family in 1930. Yet it is devastating to know that many transgender individuals still, in 2020, cannot receive the love that was to Lili so freely given.
Luis Rodriguez
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As beautifully written as The Danish Girl, and wonderful to have read it directly after. I really recommend it.
Emma Fielford
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. I liked it a lot. Some may find it quite specific, however, this is where you may find a uniqueness of this work and its authenticity. Recommend! ...more
Ellie Frazier
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
more like 3.5 stars, it was really really good!! and i loved that a lot of it was excerpts written by andreas/lili! just a little bit slow for me:)
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: two-stars, 2017-reads
This is another book I read for school. It was so interesting. I recommend everyone read this if they've seen the movie so they can see how Lili's story was altered. ...more
Peter Dyer
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This really is a fascinating book, especially when you consider the times (1920's and 30's) . I agree with the preface that says this book is great for people going through a change like Lili went through or for people who know people going through this change. ...more
Diane ™
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I saw the movie The Danish Girl which inspired me to read Portrait of the First Sex Change. EXCELLENT STORY! So sad for Lili, but a heart warming story.
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Lili Ilse Elvenes, better known as Lili Elbe, was a Danish transgender 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 ...more

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