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02 March 2018

Lotte Hahm (1890 - 1967) activist, bar owner, ball organizer

Charlotte Hahm was born in Dresden. As Lotte – sometimes as Lothar - Hahm was a transvestite and lesbian activist in 1920s Berlin.

From 1926 she ran the DamenKlub Violetta which had 400 members. She often performed her own
cabaret act at the club. She hosted a New Year’s ball at the end of 1926, and her balls became part of the lesbian scene.

She sought to organize lesbians together with transvestites of both sexes. Newly arrived male-to-female transvestites were advised see Hahm for advice on where to buy female clothing.

From 1928, Hahm was head of the women’s group in the Bund für Menschenrecht (BfM; Union for Human rights – founded by gay publisher Friedrich Radszuweit (1876-1932) in 1923).

E.K., like Hahm, an out transvestite, wrote against the 1920s fashion of a skirt topped by a man’s jacket and tie. He wrote in Die Freundin (The Girlfriend – a women’s publication that contained material for both male and female transvestites):
“What good are tuxedos to me when they are not accompanied by trousers? I will do without the tuxedo, but not the trousers.”
In 1929 Hahm founded the Monbijou Association, which later in the same year was merged with Violetta after the members so voted. She founded the Transvestitenvereinigung D`Eon (Transvestite Association) for both male and female transvestites, and led it for a year. This was so successful that a few weeks later they had to find a larger meeting place. Later the Association had its own dance events at Violetta. Its events were reported in Die Freundin.

Radszuweit and Hahm launched a new association, Bund für ideale Freundschaft (“Union for ideal friendship”), whose statutes were published in Die Freundin, 22, 28 May 1930. Balls and parties were fun, and fine, but they must also think about fighting for their rights.

That was the same year that Hahm started organizing annual steamboat trips on the Spree river.

Later the same year, the sexologist Franz Scheda linked lesbianism and prostitution, and claimed that “50% of Berlin’s prostitutes are lesbians”. Hahm organized a rebuttal lecture.

Hahm left the BfM in 1931, and in 1932 opened the Manuela Bar, where she performed as a comic with an accordion.

That same year, Hansi (not Hansi Sturn, the Miss Eldorado of 1926) took a very different position to that of E.K. and Lotte. She wrote in Die Freundin:
“I declare that we are not transvestites, with only a few exceptions, we masculine women do not wear suits or shirts and ties in order to wear men’s clothing. We want to remain women, which is why we also wear skirts. It is only the masculine touch that we emphasize. Female transvestites are as rare to find as homosexual male transvestites.”
However change was coming. In late 1932, police licences were to be denied to bars where only homosexuals danced, and in 1933, all same-sex dancing was banned. The last issue of Die Freundin was 8 March 1933. By then the Nazi Party had become the government.

In 1935 a stranger approached Hahm in Alexanderplatz, and asked her to watch his baggage. She was then inspected by the Gestapo, who found communist flyers in the man's baggage. It is said that she had been denounced by the father of a lover, who may have been under age. Hahm was sent to the concentration camp for women at Moringen. Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler visited the camp in May 1937, and a few months later decided to close the camp and relocate its prisoners.

Hahm was one of the few who was released, albeit half-paralyzed, probably in 1938. She returned to Berlin and again organized social evenings for lesbians, but it did not last long.

In 1945, under the occupation she again led a women’s club. In 1958 she was part of a group that attempted to re-establish the BfM.

She died aged 77.
  • E.K. “Meinungsaustausch der Transvestiten”. Die Freundin, 13, 11 July 1927: 6.
  • Lotte Hahm. “Mondscheinfahrt fur unsere Frauen!”. Die Freundin, 25 June 1930: 6 .
  • Lotte Hahm. “Mondschein-Dampferpartie von ‘Violetta’” Die Freundin, 2 July 1930:5.
  • Hansi “Die Welt der Transvestiten”. Die Freundin, 23, 8 June 1932: 6.
  • Florence Tamagne. A history of homosexuality in Europe : Berlin, London, Paris, 1919-1939, volume I & II. Algora Publishing, 2006: 79, 364.
  • Katie Sutton. The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany. Berghahn, 2011: 118-9.
  • Julie Nero. Hannah Höch, Til Brugman, Lesbianism, and Weimar Sexual Subculture. PhD Thesis Case Western Reserve University, 2013: 102n334, 155, 374.
  • Marti M. Lybeck. Desiring Emancipation: New Women and Homosexuality in Germany, 1890–1933. SUNY Press, 2014: 151-2, 163, 165-7, 181, 187, 195-6, 231 n2,3.
  • Laurie Marhoeffer. Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis. University of Toronto Press, 2015: 56-8, 62-5, 200.

Lesbengeschichte

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Pronouns.   There is no mention that Lotte asked to be addressed by male pronouns.   So in German Hahm was sie not er.   Being also active in feminist organizing, it would have been difficult to take the extra steps into masculinity.   While Virginia Prince combined transvestity with men's rights, Prince was never involved with the men's rights organizations of the period, and is not at all mentioned in the men's liberation books of the 1970s and 1980s.

Hansi's dress style combining a skirt and stockings with men's jackets and ties was common in the 1920s.  So it was more a fashion statement than identity expression.    Almost all of the photographs of Radclyffe Hall show her in a skirt.

There is no mention at all of Lotte Hahm in Halberstam's Female Masculinity.

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