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02 January 2015

Toni Ebel (1881 – 1961) artist.

Hugo Otto Arno Ebel was raised in Berlin, the eldest of eleven children. Ebel left home because of what was taken to be homosexuality, and worked, as a woman, in a women's dress shop while studying painting in Munich. She then travelled abroad with an older man.

However in 1911 Ebel was back in Berlin and had reverted to being male. He married and they had a son – however he was not comfortable in this role and attempted suicide several times. He was able to cross-dress only in private. He was drafted into the Army in 1916. After the war he became involved with the workers' movement, painted and made a living as a commercial artist. His wife became sick.

In 1928 his wife died. Ebel became Toni again and obtained a transvestity permit. A friend introduced Toni to Magnus Hirschfeld. From 1929-33 Toni lived in the basement and supplemented the domestic staff at the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft as she was too poor to pay for treatment, but did also donate paintings. She made a formal application for a legal name change. The surgeries by Drs Erwin Gohrbandt, Felix Abraham and Ludwig L. Lenz took only two years (compared to the seven years for Dörchen Richter) and were complete in 1931.

In 1934, after the Nazi takeover, Toni fled to Czechoslovakia, claiming to be a Jewess. She settled in Prague using the name Antonia Ebelová. In 1937 she moved to Brno.
Portrait by Josef Brück, 1952.

After the Second World War, Toni was able to claim compensation from the German Democratic Republic as a victim of Nazism. She was a minor painter and was recognized at the Akademie der Künste in East Berlin.

She died at age 80.
  • Felix Abraham. "Genitalumwandlungen an zwei männlichen Transvestiten". Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, 18, 1931: 223-226. Translated as "Genital Reassignment on Two Male Transvestites". The International Journal of Transgenderism, 2,1, Jan-March 1998.
  • Sander L. Gilman. Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999: 276.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag 2005: 203-4.
  • Ralf Dose. "Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany: Thirty Years of Collecting Our History - Or: How to Find Treasure Troves". LGBTI ALMS 2012: The Future of LGBTI Histories, 2012.06/18.
  • Julie Nero. Hannah Höch, Til Brugman, Lesbianism, and Weimar Sexual Subculture. PhD Thesis, Department of Art History and Art, Case Western Reserve University, 2013: 269. PDF.
  • Ralf Dose. Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement. 2014: 55.
  • Přehled Historických Událostí Vztahujících Se K Tématu. (Overview historical events related to the topic) [Czechoslovakian Artists]:101. PDF.
Kunst in der DDR    Deutsche Digitale Bibiothek    Deutsche FotoThek

Karl Giese, Hirschfeld’s lover, also fled to Brno, where he committed suicide after the German occupation.   It is not known whether Toni and Karl were in contact.

The document on Czechoslovak artists is not sure whether Toni was Jewish or Protestant.   There are claims both ways.  It was very difficult to claim refugee status as a transsexual in 1934, so it may have been easier to pretend to be Jewish.   Or maybe she was Jewish.

We do not know how she survived from the German occupation of Czechoslovakia until the creation of the German Democratic Republic in 1949.

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