On 28th of December, 2022, Google Doodle honors the 140th birthday of Lili Elbe, but who is she and why is she significant in history?
Google Doodles are temporary new spins on the famous logo to celebrate holidays, discoveries, and the lives of key historical figures. Today’s version has taken a break from its festive holiday art to pay tribute to Danish painter and transgender woman, Lili Elbe.
HITC dives into the significance of Elbe and her achievements.
GET TO KNOW LILI ELBE, THE FACE OF TODAY’S GOOGLE DOODLE
Born December 28, 1882, Lili was known to be one of the early recipients of sex reassignment surgery, making her an influential figure in the LGBTQ+ community. Her dead name was Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener.
As Wegener, Lili was a famous landscape painter with education from the Royal Danish Academy Of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. It was there where she met her wife Gerda Gottlieb. The pair fell in love and married in 1905 when Gottlieb was 19 and Lili was 22.
The painter realized her true identity after dressing up in women’s clothing, including stockings and high heels, to fill in for Gottlieb’s model. The couple relocated to Paris where Lili could openly live as a woman, though under the status of Gerda’s
The Vejle, Denmark native transitioned in 1930 with a gender affirmation surgery in Germany. She was 47 years old. The procedure was highly experimental and unknown at the time, but Lili wanted her body to match her identity. She underwent four operations over two years.
The first surgery was the removal of testicles, followed by ovary implantation, and a third for penis and scrotum removal.
1931 marked her fourth and final operation: to transplant a uterus and construct a vaginal canal. This made her the second trans woman to receive a vaginoplasty from Dr Erwin Gohrbrandt, who performed it on his first patient just weeks before.
Her legal name was finally changed to Lili Ilse Elvenes.
Due to complications from the surgery to transplant a womb, Lili passed away on September 13, 1931, at age 48. It occured three months after the operation, due to cardiac arrest.
LILI ELBE’S LIFE WAS CREATED INTO AN OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM
If Elbe’s life sounds familiar, it’s because Eddy Redmayne took on the role of the painter in the Oscar-nominated film, The Danish Girl.
The 2015 romantic drama was loosely based on Elbe and Gottlieb’s love story and the former’s gender reassignment surgeries. Alicia Vikander portrayed Gottlieb, for which she won an Oscar for best-supporting actress.