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04 August 2022

Josefine Meißauer (188? - ?) friar, trader

Original version February 2015. 

Meißauer was born to a devout Catholic family in Mühldorf, Bavaria, the youngest of six children. The father - addicted to drink - left 14 years later.  One brother died of consumption, and one sister of dropsy. Josef (as she then was) went through many illnesses from childhood, including a severe meningitis at the age of 28, which left him unconscious for several weeks. 

Meißauer was an anxious child, who preferred the company of girls, took great pleasure in dolls, learned to cook and embroider at his own request. Even as a boy he secretly dressed in girls' clothes as often as he could and, when his hair was long enough, he braided it, about which he was often ridiculed.  Puberty was late, and there was no beard growth until age 25. Meißauer tried repeatedly to fight his female gender identity, however prolonged abstinence from women's clothing always led to severe mental depression. 

Meißauer had been a sacristan at the local church for seven years, but lost the position after being seen in female clothing during Carnival. He responded by becoming a Trappist friar - possibly because the friars wear robes rather than ordinary male clothing. The Trappist order is severe and requires silence, sleeping in full clothes, vegetarian diet and hard field work. Meißauer was assigned to a friary in Natal, South Africa. However after almost four years, Meißauer fell ill and returned to Bavaria. 

Meißauer then  started wearing a long dark coat and was accused of impersonating a priest but was acquitted. To avoid a repetition Meißauer wore a coloured coat, and was again brought to court. The judge pointed out that there was no law concerning the type of clothing. The only thing was that one was not allowed to wear the costume that characterised a certain class, e.g. a uniform. Meißauer took this to mean that she could dress in normal female clothing.  Also she had heard of that in Schliersee, district office of Miesbach, Upper Bavaria, a ‘lady’ named Rosina Danner had gone dressed as a man without any permission for 30 years until dying in 1908. However Meißauer, dressed female, was accused again in 1910, sentenced in the first and second instance, but acquitted by the Royal High Court of Munich on 24 December 1910.


After Magnus Hirschfeld's book Die Transvestiten came out in 1910, Meißauer, who was then 48, contacted him in early September 1911. The Berlin lawyer, Fritz Selten, took the case and submitted the application with a recommendation written by Hirschfeld and Iwan Bloch to the Prussian Police Prasidium, which on 27 September 1911, on the basis of the expert opinion, "granted permission to wear women's clothes”.  The same written legitimation was also issued by the Munich police chief.


Josefine Meißauer was the first trans woman in Germany to get a Transvestitenshein.

  • Magnus Hirschfeld, & Max Tilke. Der erotische Verkleidungstrieb (Die Transvestiten). Illustrierter Teil. A. Pulvermacher, 1912: plate XVIII.
  •  Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts: Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Psychosozial-Verlag, 2005: 79-84.

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