I Am My Own Woman: The Outlaw Life of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, Berlin's Most Distinguished Transvestite

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Hailed by Der Spiegel as speaking to "the fate of a whole generation of German homosexuals," I Am My Own Woman is the exquisitely written autobiography of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, whose lifelong pursuits of sexual liberty and antique furniture offer a unique perspective on European history. During World War II, von Mahlsdorf murdered his father, dubbed himself Charlotte (after his cross-dressing lesbian aunt's lover) and has lived openly as a transvestite since. Dressed in high-heeled sandals and a good suit, ...
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Overview

Hailed by Der Spiegel as speaking to "the fate of a whole generation of German homosexuals," I Am My Own Woman is the exquisitely written autobiography of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, whose lifelong pursuits of sexual liberty and antique furniture offer a unique perspective on European history. During World War II, von Mahlsdorf murdered his father, dubbed himself Charlotte (after his cross-dressing lesbian aunt's lover) and has lived openly as a transvestite since. Dressed in high-heeled sandals and a good suit, Charlotte has collected furnishings from the Grunderzeit for half a century: in the Third Reich, she "rescued" pieces from Jewish deportees; in the German Democratic Republic, she protected "bourgeois cultural assets" from the Stasi. Now well past sixty, a quietly passionate, steadfast and serene figure, Charlotte shuns makeup, wearing the simplest frocks. The Grunderzeit Museum - which Charlotte and her friends have defended against assault from skinheads - has become a symbol for the German lesbian and gay community.

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (nee Lothar Berfelde) has lived openly as a transvestite since the 1940s. In high-heeled sandals and a good suit, Charlotte collected ornate, hand-crafted antiques of the Grunderzeit period through the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the GDR, and into the unified Federal Republic of Germany. The subject of an acclaimed film by Rosa von Praunheims. 33 photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Out Magazine
Move over Quentin Crisp: a naked civil servant is nothing compared with this German boy in a dress.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde in 1928 in Mahlsdorf, was the son of a benevolent mother and a tyrannical father. At a very early age (seven or eight), he discovered that he liked to wear his mother's old clothes, jauntily noting that ``I still have my mania for aprons.'' His story is not all lightness and lipstick, however. Mahlsdorf recalls being transferred from public to private school after a teacher beat him for making a crack about Hitler Youth. He found a job working after school in an antique furniture store. But then a Jewish co-worker was taken away (``They probably need farm workers in Poland,'' his employer insisted hopefully), and more and more often they began dealing in ``Jewish bequests.'' Mahlsdorf escaped the war and his father by going with his mother, sister and brother to East Prussia, and from there to stay on his aunt's farm, where he was encouraged and nurtured by his lesbian aunt, herself a cross-dresser. Near the end of the war, when he returned to his home village, he killed his violent father during a confrontation and used a precursor of battered women's syndrome as his defense. Mahlsdorf did not slow down a bit in later years. He recalls creating a house-museum almost from scratch, East Germany's underground gay culture, the persecution he suffered from appearing in women's clothing in public and the divisiveness of the Berlin Wall. Although this is nonfiction, I Am My Own Woman reads like a traditional action-adventure storywith a cross-dressing furniture buff as the hero. Photos. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573440103
  • Publisher: Cleis Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.52 (d)

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