This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.

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27 March 2022

Karl M. Baer (1885 – 1956) journalist, accountant, manager, Hirschfeld patient

Baer was born in Arolson, Hesse, Germany, to a Jewish family, and was assigned female and raised with the name Martha. After a childhood of not fitting in with other girls and preferring to play with boys, her puberty was odd in that she grew facial hair, her voice changed and she never menstruated or grew breasts - she thought that perhaps she had tuberculosis. 

After school, Baer was trained in economics, sociology and pedagogy in Berlin and Hamburg, and became a social worker and feminist activist in B’nai B'rith working against the sexual trafficking of Jewish women. In 1904 she was sent to Lemberg (later Lwow, now Lviv which was then in Galacia) but was sent back early after censure about her male body language. 

By 1905 Baer was living as male. He smoked and drank beer, and was in love with Beile Heilpern Waldberg from Czernowitz, a married woman whom he had met in Lemberg, and who had been supportive in his gender change. They were even contemplating joint suicide, when Karl was hit by a tram and was admitted to the Berlin Charité Hospital. Inspection resulted in him being moved - under protest - to the women’s special ward. He came to the attention of Magnus Hirschfeld, whose opinion that he was mainly male was seconded by Dr Iwan Bloch. Surgery by Dr Georg Merzbach corrected his body to male as far as was possible in 1905, releasing a penis and one testicle. Baer was discharged with a medical certificate confirming his male identity, and an endorsement by Magnus Hirschfeld. In the jargon of the time, he was deemed to be a male pseudo-hermaphrodite.

To get the State to endorse the change of documented birth sex, a wax form was made of the corrected external genital area and taken with a report by Hirschfeld to be inspected by the Minister for the Interior, and since now this was clearly not a female, the Minister conceded to the request for a correction of documents. Hirschfeld gave a lecture on Baer and two others, with Baer present, for Wochenschrift für soziale Medizin, Hygiene und Medizinalstatistik, 1905, using the pseudonym “Anna Laabs” for Baer, and worked with him on his book, a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical account published under the name N. O. Body. The book was called Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren (Memoirs of a Man’s Maiden Years). The account in the book said that Body was French Catholic rather than Jewish, born in Bergheim in Saxony-Thuringia, and named Nora later Norbert.

In January 1907 Baer received his revised birth certificate. He gave his name as Karl M Baer. Initially the M was for Martha, but later he said that it was for Max.

He wrote accounts of the trafficking in women for the magazine Arena and for the journal  Sexualwissenschaft Nr. 9, and then a book on the topic, published by Seemann Nachf in Berlin, all in 1908.

Beile sued for divorce from her husband, Herr Waldberg, who raised the question whether Beile’s affair with Baer should equally be considered adultery as Baer was apparently actually a man. The divorce was granted and she and Karl married. However she died of pneumonia in March 1909. This led to a new court case in that the Heilpern family contested - albeit unsuccessfully - Baer’s inheritance on the grounds that he was not a man.

Karl then married Beile’s friend Elza.

The N. O. Body book sold well and was positively reviewed even in the conservative press. It was reprinted at least six times. It was made into a film twice, in 1913 and 1919 (the latter directed by Karl Grune)

Baer worked for the Victoria Versicherungs AG of Berlin selling life insurance until 1911 when he started working for the Berlin Jewish community. In 1920 he became the director of the Berlin B’nai B'rith. In 1937 B’nai B'rith was raided by the Gestapo and Baer was violently interrogated. On release he sold his apartment and he and Elza moved to Palestine. 

He again worked as an insurance agent, and then as an accountant. He had an affair with his secretary Gitla. Elsa died in 1947, and three years after that Karl married Gitla.

Karl died in 1956 age 71. His tombstone says that M is for Meir.

  • Magnus Hirschfeld: "Drei Fälle von irrtümlicher Geschlechtsbestimmung". Medizinische Reform. Wochenschrift für soziale Medizin, Hygiene und MedizinalstatistikXV, 1906, 51:
  • O. Body: Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. Vorwort von Rudolf Presber. Nachwort von Dr. med. Magnus Hirschfeld.Riecke, 1907.
  • Baer: “Mädchenhandel”. Arena.3. 5 August 1908: 549–555.
  • M. Baer-Berlin. “Über den Mädchenhandel”.Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft Nr. 9, 1908: 513–528.
  • M, Baer. Der internationale Mädchenhandel. Seemann Nachf, 1908.
  • Seigfried Dessauer (dir). Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. Based on the book by N.O.Body. Germany 21mins 1913.
  • Magnus Hirschfeld. Sexualpathologie : Ein Lehrbuch für Ärzte und Studierende. 2. Teil: Sexuelle Zwischenstufen: Das männliche Weib und der weibliche Mann. Marcus & Webers Verleag,1918: 44-8.
  • Paul Legband & Karl Grune (dir). Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. Scr: Karl Grune & Beate Chess, based on the book by N.O.Body, with Erika Glässner as NO Body . Germany75 mins
  • O. Body: Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. Reprint Hermann Simon mit einer Vorbemerkung und einem abschließenden Beitrag: „Wer war N.O. Body?“ Ed. Hentrich, 1993.
  • Sander L. Gilman. Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999: 281-2.
  • Myriam Spörri. “N. O. Body, Magnus Hirschfeld und die Diagnose des Geschlechts: Hermaphroditismus um 1900”. L’Homme Z F G, 14,2, 2003.
  • N O Body. Memoirs of a Man’s Maiden Years.English Translation by Deborah Simon of Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

  • Sander L Gilman. “Whose Body is it Anyway? Hermaphrodites, Gays and Jews in N. O. Body’s Germany” in Simon, 2006.
  • Hermann Simon. “Afterword: In Search of Karl Baer” in Simon, 2005.
  • Petra Henderson, Original English Wikipedia page on Karl M Baer. 3 November 2008. Online.
  • Jana Funka. “The Case of Karl M.[artha] Baer: Narrating ‘Uncertain’ Sex”. In Ben Davies & Jana Funke (eds) Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011: 132-153.
  • Geertje Mak. “Scripting the Self: N.O. Body’s Autobiography”. In Doubting Sex: Inscriptions, Bodies and Selves in Nineteenth-Century Hernaphrodite Case Histories. Manchester University Press, 2012.
  • David A. Brenner. “A German-Jewish hermaphrodite: or what sexology contributed to B’Nai B’rith”. In German-Jewish Popular Culture Before the Holocaust: Kafka's Kitsch. Routledge, 2014: 41-9. .
  • “Karl M. Baer”. In: Persönlichkeiten in Berlin 1825 - 2006. Erinnerungen an Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle, trans- und intergeschlechtliche Menschen. Senatsverwaltung für Arbeit, Integration und Frauen, Berlin 2015, S. 10–11.PDF.
  • Michaela Koch. “N.O. Body and the Making of a True Man”. In Discursive Intersexions: Daring Bodies between Myth, Medicine, and Memoir. Transcript-Verlag, 2017: 75-111.
  • Ofer Oderet. “Recalling the First Sex Change Operation in History: A German-Israeli Insurance Salesman: The long-forgotten story of a German Jew who was born as Martha and escaped the Nazis as Karl, rediscovered by a Tel Aviv University student”. Haaretz, May 10, 2018. Online.

DE.Wikipedia     EN.Wikipedia      PATA Queens


While it is always difficult to interpret old medical accounts in terms of modern diagnoses, it is plausible that Baer had 5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency, which would have been hard for a non-specialist doctor to spot in 1885 as it was not officially recognised until 1961.

No explanation is given of how he avoided conscription 1914-18.

Geertje Mak compares Baer to Herculine Barbin: “The protagonists of N. O. Body’s autobiography Aus einem Mannes Mädchenjahren (Memoirs of a Man’s Maiden Years), published in 1907, and of Barbin’s autobiographical writings have a lot in common. Both were raised as girls and only discovered that they were male in their twenties. Both had already had a passionate love affair with a woman for quite some time before the medical discovery of the error of sex. For both the breakthrough came after a confession of their life story, which in both cases led to a medical examination. Both had been more or less aware that there had been a mistake with regard to their sex, although Barbin seemed to have been more clear about the exact nature of the mistake than N. O. Body. Both were relatively well educated and obviously modelled their narratives on fictional or (auto)biographical examples they themselves had read.”

The major difference of course - which Mak does not mention - is that Barbin did not want to be a man, did not have a male gender identity, but was compelled into being a man. Thus Barbin used suicide to escape from masculinity, while Baer thrived as a man. Some writers compare Baer to David Reimer assuming that biology will out, that a biological male cannot be raised successfully as female. However Reimer was not intersex, he was a cis male. Mak’s comparison of Barbin and Baer is valid in that both had comparable intersex conditions, but what the comparison should show is that biology is only part of what we are. The self-fashioning resulting from biology and environment and choice produces different results.

Petra Henderson in her original version of the EN.Wikipedia page on Baer wrote: “Copies of the medical publications obtained by the University Medical College of Oregon enabled at least one of their female graduates (Dr. Alan L. Hart) to get his sex change surgery in the University hospital in 1917”. It is possible that Dr J Allen Gilbert did read German, and had come across Hirschfeld’s lecture to Wochenschrift für soziale Medizin, Hygiene und Medizinalstatistik  1906, but it was more likely to have read Hirschfeld’s Die Transvestiten, 1910. In either case the diagnosis and treatment were very different between Baer and Hart. Hart did menstruate, did not have a testicle and underwent a hysterectomy.

IMDB gives the plot of the 1919 film as: “A child born without a clear gender is raised by the father as a boy, later by the uncle as a girl and dissected after death” - which is a further deviation from Baer’s life.

Of the three biographies of Magnus Hirschfeld, that of Charlotte Wolff, Magnus Hirschfeld,1986, of Elena Mancini, Magnus Hirschfeld and the Quest for Sexual Freedom, 2010 and of Heike Bauer, The Hirschfeld Archives, 2017, none make any mention of Martha/Karl Baer, Anna Laabs or N. O. Body.

23 March 2022

Gerda von Zobeltitz (1891 – 1963) tailor

Original version November 2014.  Revised March 2022.

G. von Zobeltitz from Weißensee, Berlin, a scion of one of Germany's old noble families with ties to the Hohenzollern court, was making a living in Berlin as Gerda, a women's tailor, by 1910, and she was also sometimes a dancer.

In 1912 she was counselled by Magnus Hirschfeld and his colleague Ernst Burchard, and submitted a request for a Transvestitenschein, which would allow her to legally wear female clothing.  Later that year she was arrested in Berlin for public cross-dressing, as reported in the Berliner Tageblatt: "the alleged culprit was soon released once it was determined that it was a case not of disorderly conduct but instead of transvestism". 

Within a year Gerda had acquired the  Transvestitenschein in Potsdam, and when called for military recruitment in 1913, she appeared as Gerda and was deemed ineligible.

However in 1916 she lost her Transvestitenschein after a grand uncle's denunciatory intervention.

Despite this she did survive the Third Reich, possibly because she married a woman and therefore could not be accused of 'homosexuality'.  She had three wives throughout her life.

At the age of 72 Gerda was run over by a car on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. She is buried in the  Friedhof Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche.

  • Berliner Tageblatt, 106, 27 February 1912.
  • Jens Dobler. Von anderen Ufern. Geschichte der Berliner Lesben und Schwulen in Kreuzberg und Friedrichshain. Berlin: Bruno Gmünder Verlag 2003: 75.
  • Katja Koblitz, : „In ihm hat die Natur das berühmte dritte Geschlecht geschaffen“. Gerda von Zobeltitz, ein Transvestit aus Weißensee. In: Sonntags-Club (Hrsg.): Verzaubert in Nord-Ost. Die Geschichte der Berliner Lesben und Schwulen in Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow und Weißensee. Berlin: Bruno Gmünder 2009: 58-80; 
  • Letzte Änderung. "Verzaubert in Nord-Ost". Übersicht von Invertito 12, 31.07.2012.
  • Robert Beachy. Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. Knopf, 2014: 172.
  • “Gerda von Zobeltitz”. In: Persönlichkeiten in Berlin 1825 - 2006. Erinnerungen an Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle, trans- und intergeschlechtliche Menschen. Senatsverwaltung für Arbeit, Integration und Frauen, Berlin 2015: 82-3. PDF.

We know of Gerda 1912-16, and of her death in 1963.   But what in-between?   In particular, we know very little of how she survived two world wars and the Nazi regime?

13 March 2022

Mary Jane Furneaux (1840 - ?) fraudster

Arthur Pelham-Clinton (1840-1870) served in the Royal Navy during the Anglo-French attack on the Russian naval base of Kronstad in 1854 (part of the 1853-6 Crimean War), and then during the Indian Mutiny and was present at the Seige of Lucknow, 1857. He was the Liberal MP for Newark 1865-8 being returned unopposed. In November 1868 he was declared bankrupt with debts and liabilities of some £70,000 (over £6 million in today’s money). He stood down at the subsequent election a few weeks later.

In 1870 he was living with Stella Boulton, the trans actress, when she and Fanny Park were arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. That June, a day after receiving a summons to appear at the trial, Clinton died age 29; the official cause of death was scarlet fever but suicide was suspected, as was escape to the Continent or even New York.

Arthur was the youngest brother of Henry Pelham-Clinton, the 6th Duke of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and as such was entitled to the honorific of ‘Lord’.


Mary Jane Furneaux first came to the attention of the press and public in November 1871, only months after the sensational trial of Fanny and Stella, and a year and a few months after the announced death of Arthur Pelham-Clinton. Furneaux, a resident of Birmingham, and taken to be a dress-maker, employed a Mrs Morecroft to do some sewing. She became friendly with both Mr and Mrs Morecroft, and after being accepted into their favour, she confessed that she was not actually of ‘plebeian birth’ or even a member of the ‘fair sex’. She was actually Lord Arthur Clinton who had been chloroformed before being placed in his coffin and subsequently burst the lid off and escaped, and was now under an obligation to remain incognito for a period of time. Letters were shown, purportedly from the Countess of Lanesborough, according to which Clinton was to receive several important legacies. The Morecrofts transferred various sums of money to Furneaux on the understanding of future return. However the fact that the tale was a fraud was discovered shortly afterwards, and she was given into custody. Detective Cooper, handling the case, discovered that Furneaux had likewise deceived others not only in Birmingham but also in Dudley and Wolverhampton. At the Birmingham Borough Session in January 1872, Furneaux was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.

By 1874, having served her time, Furneaux returned to the same enterprise. She took lodging at the home of a Mrs Ward in Birmingham, and came to know Mrs Drew, her sister, a grocer, and their brother James Gething. Again Furneaux told how she was Lord Arthur Clinton and would be coming into estates and legacies. Gething introduced Furneaux to Edward Beynon, an engineer. Gething acted as a an agent, and monies were received from Beynon, usually £74 or £75 each time. Cumulative promissory notes were given each time, each succeeding note being larger to cover previous notes with interest, and the old note being destroyed. 

Doubts were dispelled by letters from Lord Chief Justice Coleridge personally guaranteeing the security of the loan; from the Prince of Wales avowing his support; from the Queen herself, requesting that “Lord Clinton” visit her at Balmoral or Buckingham Palace, assuring him that his case was being carefully considered, and sometimes warning him, sternly, against any further bad behaviour. 

In 1878 Beynon also was invited with Furneaux to Balmoral, Aberdeenshire. They set out together and got as far as Ballator - just seven miles from Balmoral - when Beynon was taken sick. Furneaux continued alone, and after her return to Ballator, a letter arrived for him purportedly from the Queen. Beynon blamed his indisposition on the cold weather, and only later after prodding by the prosecution did he concede that he might have been drugged. 

A Liverpool gasfitter, Benjamin Fowell, aggravated by the non-repayment of his loans, began sending hostile letters. Miss Furneaux took him to court for ‘threatening to murder a lady'. The judge ruled that debt was no excuse for the threats and sentenced Fowell to a year in prison.

Beynon was never actually told that Furneaux was Clinton; hints and suggestions were dropped and he decided that Clinton must be the person. Once the relationship was established, and loans made, Furneaux-as-Clinton frequently visited Beynon’s home, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman.

One time Furneaux took a position as a governess, but was dismissed on suggestion that she was actually a man. As Clinton did, so did Furneaux. She was profligate with money, dressed with a dandy’s care, always at the height of men’s fashion: spats, kid gloves, a walking stick. She always wore a man’s shirt, collar and necktie, but sometimes otherwise wore a mixture of male and female clothing. Once a railway guard suspected that she was a man in women’s clothes. She kept fancy dogs and cats, collected musical instruments and model ships and she put on concerts and suppers. A groom said to Fowell that Furneaux was a man given the way that she handled the reins of a carriage.

In 1882 the case came to court, both Furneaux and Gething charged with personation fraud. Lord Chief Justice Coleridge was called as a witness. He affirmed that he knew neither party, and on presentation of letters supposedly written by him, he replied that in no case was it his handwriting or his signature. The major witness was Edward Beynon. After his evidence Furneaux consulted with her solicitor and changed her plea to guilty. She was sentenced to seven years, and Gething acquitted. Her properties were sold at public auction.

  • “Extraordinary Alleged Swindling”. Reynold’s Newspaper, November 26, 1871.
  • “A Woman Personating Lord Arthur Clinton”. Lloyd’s Weekly,November 26, 1871.
  • “From the archive, 9 May 1882: Adventuress sentenced in cross-dressing fraud case”. The Guardian, 9 May 1882, reprinted 9 May 2014. Online.
  • “The Champion Adventuress: Miss Fearneaux, alias Lord Arthur Clinton”. The Penny Illustrated Paper, Feb 25, 1882: 1,11; Mar 4, 1882: 6-7.
  • The History of the Year: A narrative of the Chief events and topics of Interest From October 1, 1881, to September 30, 1882. Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co, 1882: 83-5. Online.
  • Abigail Joseph. “Jane Furneaux and the Social Lives of Fraud”. In Exquisite Materials: Episodes in the Queer History of Victorian Style. University of Delaware Press, 2019: 78-112.

Joseph comments: “Jane Furneaux, I want to suggest, embodies a certain queer version of melancholy gender. A lesbian, she assumes a false identity as a gay man, which (though by itself it was by all accounts convincing) she then complicates further by claiming that that gay man is compelled to disguise himself as a woman. Thus she oscillates between fragmented versions of masculinity and femininity, occupying both gender positions and neither one, an in-between state justified by her sensational story of un-death. Unable to let Lord Arthur Clinton die, she incorporates him: she becomes him and, in his name, pursues wealth and friendship; romance with girls and homosocial relations with men; possessions that, in their own eccentricity or in the eccentricity of her ownership, become queer. One explanation would be that what she was mourning—thus attaching to, refusing to cede, and incompletely performing—was the impossibility, as a woman, of phallic authority and elite power, that in her frauds she was trying, through the hyperbolic logic of her facade, to claim them. “

08 March 2022

Jack McConnell (1900 - ?) crane operator, driver, pugilist

In January 1922, in Philadelphia, a young man, Jack McConnell, was arrested after a fracas with his girlfriend. 

McConnell was a remarkable 22-year-old. His grandfather was James Gray, a retired member of the New York and Virginia bar, who had raised the child alone after the deaths of his daughter and then of his wife. They had travelled much across the mid-west, and from mid-teens, Jack had thrived in the more masculine trades. He had worked with machines, as a crane operator, and driven both four-horse teams, five-ton trucks and ambulances. 

He also joined juvenile gangs, usually after demonstrating his ability as a fighter. In Philadelphia it was the Iron Gang. He beat their best swimmers by swimming three and a half miles across the Delaware River, and became the leader of the gang. 

But the remarkable thing about young Jack was that when he was stripped and bathed after arrest, it was discovered that he had a female body. He admitted to another name: Florence Gray. 

The judge granted a suspension of sentence on parole but only on the condition that Jack live exclusively as Florence. She was supplied with a blouse, a skirt, silk stockings and the rest. Her major problem was finding work. Despite her driving experience, no one would employ a woman to drive. 

The transformation of Jack into Florence was kept quiet until August 1922 when the new leader of the Iron Gang entered a soda shop and recognized Jack. He made queer-phobic comments about Jack being in female clothing, a fight ensued but Florence fell over her skirts and came off worse. The man was arrested and sent up for a year. 

But the story was now out. Several newspapers - especially the Washington Times - ran the story in detail for a few weeks, and then, as newspapers do, they lost interest. Florence had spoken at length about getting into the girl-thing, dresses, heels, make-up and so on - as she was expected to do. 

It is not known what Jack/Florence did after the period of parole was up, and the newspapers were no longer paying attention.


Men’s swimming togs in the 1920s included chest covering, which would not automatically have outed Jack.

Yes, silk stockings, not the cotton stocking that most women wore.

The Washington Times was published 1893-1939. The publication currently using the same title is a different publication.

Nowadays, in some jurisdiction Jack could be charged with rape for obtaining sexual services by deceit.  And in others James Gray could be charged with child abuse for allowing his grand-daughter to be a trans-boy.

There is currently (March 2022) a play being performed in Philadelphia that takes the basics of Jack's story, and adds extra.  

  • “Fighting ‘Iron Gang’ Leader, Whipped, Turns Out to be a Girl”. The Evening World, August 9, 1922:8.
  • Florence Gray. “Girl who led Iron Gang, posing as Boy, Seeks Movie Job: Now like Feminine Trinkets”. The Washington Times, August 12, 1922: 2.
  • “’Truck Driver’ proves to be girl”. Calexio Chronicle, August 14, 1922.
  • “Girl Pretender tells about her ‘Gang’ “. The Union Times, August 18, 1922.
  • “Girl Adventurer lived for sixteen years as a boy; ‘Whistling Jack McConnell revealed as Florence Gray”. The Washington Times, September 3, 1922: 3,7.
  • “How they found out Florence was a Girl”. The Washington Times, September 24, 1922: 7.
  • Toby Zinman. “Florence becomes Jack - and famous”. Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 2022. Online