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10 February 2019

Herman Karl Hedwig, a early German pioneer

A person, previously known as Sophia, successfully applied to a German court in 1883 for a revised birth certificate changing his forenames to Herman Karl. The doctor’s letter to the court specified that he had an hypospadic condition, thus he was what we would now call intersex.
  • Hans Haustein. “Transvestitismus und Staat am Ende des 18. und im I9. Jahrhundert”. Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft 15, S, 1928-9:116-126.
  • Vern L.,Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993: 255.
  • Jay Prosser. Second Skin: the body narratives of transsexuality. Columbia University Press, 1998: 250n14.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Gesch-lechts. Transvestitismus und Trans-sexualität in der frühen Sexual-wissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag 2005: 201.
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Bullough & Bullough, referring to Haustein, present this case in their “Transsexualism” chapter as “the earliest known case of modern surgical intervention’. However, as Herrn points out, Haustein gives it only as a case of a legal change, not surgical. Nor was it unusual in the 19th century for hypostadic and other intersex persons to be allowed to change their legal gender. Unfortunately many more recent writers, such as Prosser, have uncritically repeated what the Bulloughs said.


Also the Bulloughs spell the writer’s name ‘Houstein”, and write as if the Herman’s surname became Karl.

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