The Desparate Struggle of a Trans Man

The Third Sex Issue 2, article 4 (September 1930)

A letter from a trans man1 who desperately fights for his rights by all means shows that it is not only trans women who have to struggle with difficulties, unfortunately in vain - as the following lines show:

The facts are as follows: A. was assigned female at birth2, showed transgender tendencies from early childhood, always felt masculine mentally and, after having reached majority age, sought permission to wear masculine clothes and to use a masculine first name. This permission was given to him in Berlin because, according to a prominent report, A.’s body had developed in such a way that the masculine internal substances (testicles) had gained the upper hand in the course of time. Despite the fact that the external structure remained feminine, the risk was taken to apply for re-registration in the civil registry.

The preparatory investigations began in early 1927 and were quickly completed, so that shortly afterwards the famous and notorious official path could be started. A competent lawyer took on the matter and waged a titanic struggle, but alas — negotiating with the authorities is and remains the purest Sisyphean work. The thicker the file, the thinner the client became. Months passed, commitments grew to the point of impossibility, but nothing changed. Indeed, if a simple employee does not do his job quickly and precisely, he can simply flee, but a civil servant can afford to slow down and earn his fat allowances on our tax expenses, etc. —

Now A. wanted to go abroad. In order to get the necessary passport, he needed to change his birth certificate. And that was the crux of the matter! As the last deciding authority, the district court of his place of birth (province) made the whole effort illusory — thanks to a blessed provincial folly!

The reasons for rejection can only elicit a sympathetic smile from an enlightened person. It says, among other things, “the law knows two types of sex, namely male and female, hybrids are out of the question. Sex must be determined and indicated immediately after birth, later changes are not permitted.” So the body has already made itself a criminal offense by changing itself without first asking. According to an entry in the registry office his body has become a forgery in flesh and blood! It would therefore be best if the female organs that were left behind were arrested and proceedings initiated against them for unfair competition or false pretenses, while the male body would be charged with identity theft.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Constant excitement, constant waiting — and in the end: a fiasco! To top it all off, there was, understandably, a nervous breakdown that drove A. from his job, so that he is now left with nothing and also has to bear all the costs. Perhaps some wise authority can advise how to do it! —

So one can come to the conclusion that it is the most useless thing in the world to achieve something legally that is outside traditional frameworks. For example, if A. obtained a false passport, that is, he left all piety behind and cast off his reputation, then he could still earn his living honestly abroad today without having to worry about it. But for the sake of his family, he wanted to go the straight path, which, as his example3 shows, despite him being a taxpayer like everyone else, was led through distress and poverty. It is so limitlessly easy to kill a person from the desk of a bureaucracy4. They live and exist in paragraphs and you don’t even need to think about the consequences of such a decision.

Yes, gay5, transgender6, and intersex7 individuals’ lives are bitterly difficult, fighting against narrow-mindedness, trying to live “according to the law.”

  1. The original source uses “transvestite woman” and “transvestite man,” but I’ve translated them to the modern “trans man” and “trans woman,” respectively. See about the term Transvestite

  2. Ger. als Mädchen geboren, “born as a girl” — I’ve chosen to use modern terminology here. 

  3. Ger. Figura, (in literary theory) a person or thing representing or symbolizing a fact or ideal. 

  4. Ger. vom grünen Tisch, lit. the green table 

  5. Ger. Homoeroten, homoerotics 

  6. Ger. Transvestiten 

  7. Ger. Hermaphroditen, hermaphrodites