Dora Ratjen, a German Olympic athlete, who was arrested at a train station on suspicion of being a man in a dress, 1938[655x1070]

Dora Ratjen, a German Olympic athlete, who was arrested at a train station on suspicion of being a man in a dress, 1938[655x1070]

So it seems that it is actually a man in a dress, but he was raised as a woman by his parents due to the midwife misidentifying the apparently disfigured genitalia. When they found out 9 months later that the child was in fact male, the doctor said to just continue raising them as female. When reached the age of 10 or 11 he realised that he wasn't female but he just went along with it.

Germany is historically a pretty progressive country. That is if you ignore... the incident.

The father, Heinrich Ratjen, stated in 1938: “When the child was born the midwife called over to me: Heini, it’s a boy! But five minutes later she said to me: It is a girl, after all”. Nine months later, when the child, who had been christened Dora, was ill, a doctor examined the child’s genitalia and, according to Heinrich, said “Let it be. You can’t do anything about it anyway”.

Some extra pics

Well that's surprisingly progressive for mid century Germany.

Edit:I don't know what the downvotes are for here. A doctor suggesting someone be raised a woman in a society that would be mass murdering cripples in a few short years seems surprisingly liberal. I'm not supporting the bloody Third Reich.

the fact that he was only 9months old when they discovered he wasn't a girl makes me wonder why his parents didn't make an effort to raise him as a boy. It's not like it was too late to change things

It might have been an intersex situation. Having both sets of sex organs or a variation on that means that the sexual identity isn't necessarily going to default to male or female either way.

Looks normal to me [NSFW]


Decades of inventing and innovations and progress and contributions to society and humankind. Hundreds of years of architectural history. But you have ONE Holocaust, and what do they remember you for?

Though it can't be proven, there is evidence that German athletic officials were aware of Ratjen's genitalia. During the training camp for the 1936 Berlin games Ratjen's teammates became suspicious of her deep voice, private bathing routine, and frequent shaving. Suspicions were reported to the coaching staff who in turn ordered them to remain silent on the matter. After Ratjen was arrested in 1938 at a train station by German officers who were on high alert for spies moving through out Germany, he admitted that he had been forced to compete by the Hitler Youth Movement in order to win medals for the Third Reich.

To add to the controversy, Ratjen had been selected to the 1936 German Olympic team while Jewish athlete, Gretel Bergmann was cut from the team despite being allowed to train for the Olympics, winning all of her qualifying competitions, and setting a German highjump record only a month before Berlin Games. Had she matched her record setting jump of 1.60m, Bergmann would have medaled at the '36 Games. Ratjen only finished 4th amongst his female competition.

whoever taped that together did a really shit job

edit: at the suggestion of /u/JFeth I tried to fix it

whoever taped that together did a really shit job

edit: at the suggestion of /u/JFeth

The article (linked somewhere else in this thread) explains that the back of the penis had a cleft running from the head all the way down the shaft. Think a penis, but with vagina lips running down the underside, and the urethra opening at the bottom. As an infant, before secondary sexual features developed and testicles dropped, this could easily have been interpreted as a vagina and not inspected closely while the child grew up. As a teen... well, just imagine growing up thinking you're a girl, not seeing other girls genitals and not knowing anything strange about yours, and just when all the other girls are getting their periods and growing boobs, your balls drop. :/ Even if the parents had known, they may not have spoken about it at all, or given him the context to understand himself. Denial is an understandable course of action, all the way up to getting stripped down and fondled in a train station.

Thought this was in reference to the genitals, then I clicked the picture...

Weimar Germany was one of the most accepting places in the world for gay and transgender people at the time. Nazis snuffed out a famously vibrant culture.

Reading the article answers all of these questions as well as definitions.

Intersex, in humans and other animals, is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Such variation may involve genital ambiguity, and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female. Intersex infants with ambiguous outer genitalia may be surgically ‘corrected’ to more easily fit into a socially accepted sex category. About 1% of babies have genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. A common method is default to girl because its easier to remove tissue then try to build up.

I don't think the doctor made the decision based on gender identity and assignment like we talk about now. He was an intersex child presenting ambiguous genitalia. After 9 months he probably presented a bit more male than female, but still not obviously either (what used to be referred to as a hermaphrodite). The doctor may have thought that the child would have problems no matter what in regards to their genitalia in adulthood, it would be less disruptive to the family and child to simply keep the baby as a female. That is giving the doctor the benefit of the doubt.

The critical view would be the doctor was over his head, didn't really know what to do, and was scared of forcing the family to change everything they knew of the child and telling them they now had to go back to their village with a son. So instead he just let them keep doing what they had been and pushed the decision and possible consequences off until a later day (and onto a different doctor).

How is that ambiguous at all...

Also amazing is that Gretel Bergmann is still alive to talk about it! 102!

New born infants have giant balls. It's actually pretty freaky.

Doctors in general up until recently would suggest anyone with ambiguous genitalia (read: no dick) be raised as female. This was because they felt that having a dick was very important to being male, and that you could just raise people as whatever and it would stick. See David Reimer.

"We already bought pink bedding..."

Intersex is a biological term that includes people with various levels of ambiguous sex organs, chromosomes, or other issue regarding sexual reproductive outliers/abnormalities. The fact that experienced medical personnel weren't sure on his sex very well could indicate that there is some sexual ambiguity on a biological level involved.

This has nothing to do with feminism- Swedish or otherwise.

China's got a wall, Egypt's got some pointy buildings, and Germany's got that. It happens.

1% is a lot higher than I would have guessed for something like this

Heinrich Ratjen (20 November 1918 – 22 April 2008),[1] born Dora Ratjen, was a German athlete who competed for Germany in the women's high jump at the 1936 Summer Olympics at Berlin, finishing fourth, but was later discovered to be male.

Well, that was easy.

Most young people haven't seen an infant boy's genitals. Why is that surprising to you?

I see. I didn't know this.

No. Nothing like David Reimer. He was born as a male with a penis, but had a botched circumcision and a crank for a doctor who decided to have him reassigned as a girl.

Intersex people have ambiguous sexual traits. Things like sex chromosome patterns of XXX, XYY, X0, XXY, etc (instead of XX/XY). Or they have sex organs that don't correspond to their sex chromosomes. Or they exhibit male and female organs. There are more, but those are just quick examples.

Having an intersexed kid (if this person was that way at all) raised as a male or female is fine as long as there's a positive environment and given information about their situation. Most people push to not assign one sex at birth, and allow the kid to grow up and make their own choice. Many decide to just be intersexed, and not be traditionally male or female from it.

What an interesting story/life. I'm shocked it took that long because that is a very masculine person.

See learning that there was a vibrant gay culture within spitting distance of the Beer Hall Putsch thirty years before Alan Turing would be criminally tried for being gay is surprising to me. It's cool, I don't have any reason to not believe it, but it's certainly surprising.

"Yeah this is Gustav from the train station again. That disgruntled looking man in the dress - he's back."

I know about German history in broad, international strokes like I do with most western counties. It's not like you could explain the significance of Alverstone's decisions during the Alaska Panhandle dispute or the events set in motion by the Toronto bathhouse raids but both of those are standard curriculum here.

Actually, from what I've read, the pink/blue colors were switched in the '40s, so pink could have been appropriate for a boy.

It's super cool that she's survived long enough to see the full impact of her legacy in Jewish sport be celebrated including the naming of two sports stadiums after her - one of which she was banned from in 1933.

"I didn't know this."

It's ok to use these words more often.

Before reading the comments, I was going to remark that is one masculine woman, especially their hands.

It is. The real number is less than a tenth that.

Edit: That was based on memory. After hasty googling, I'll amend to say that "it's complicated." It may be as high as 1%, depending on what is counted.

What amazes me is that from the mugshot in the article, you can see that she kept her sideburns.  From the profile view, you can't even tell that she identified or was trying to pass (as seems to be the case) as a woman.

What amazes me is that from the mugshot in the article, you can see that she . From the profile view, you can't even tell that she identified or was trying to pass (as seems to be the case) as a woman.

I hope that's not what you think the definition of being progressive is

Lol the young actor from American horror story could totally pull this role off.

Lol the young actor from American horror story could totally pull this role off.


the physician described the genitalia as having a “coarse scarred stripe from the tip of the penis to the rear”, and stated his opinion that with this organ sexual intercourse would be impossible. This seems to describe an appearance similar to the result of a mika operation by Australian aboriginals in which the male urethra is slit open along the penis. After birth a high degree of hypospadias on a micro-penis, plus cryptorchidism, may give a midwife the impression of a vulva with a long clitoris – and the error may continue for many years, especially if the intersexual escapes expert medical examination.

Seems when he was a kid, they thought his genitals were oddly-shaped female genitals (with some maleness), and raised him as a girl, but then when puberty hit, turns out they were oddly-shaped male genitals (with some femaleness).

Biology isn't black and white on these things.

Probably because it's not very progressive. There have been cases of people raising male children with disfigured genitalia, or intersex children, as females even though they feel male. David Reimer is a famous example. His penis was destroyed during a botched circumsicion, so his parents decided to raise him as a girl. It didn't work out well for him, he became depressed committed suicide.

Well this isn't exactly the mid 20th century we're talking here... This woman was born in 1918... meaning this whole decision to raise her a woman wouldn't have been made any time after 1920... So we're talking about a period when the Spartacus League was fucking shit up. Hardly a reactionary period.

rofl his wiki picture, I can't even believe how close it is.


rofl his , I can't even believe how close it is.


Epic photoshop fails 1938 edition.

You think they're talking about the Nazis? They're talking about the Weimar Republic, which was famed for being one of the most liberal places (at least Berlin was) on the planet at the time.

Just shows how much people outside of Germany know about my country. Not much besides Nazis apparently.

I was thinking of the David Reimer case! But I don't know enough about the cultural norms of early 20th century Germany in regards to penis and masculinity to assume that they felt the same way. But I think you are right that it was usually the case to default to female when there was ambiguous genitalia.

Germany is historically a pretty progressive country. complex society where not one monolithic manifested 'idea' excluded all others.

Sure, some parts of society were progressive, others weren't. You had an authoritarian imperial government with feudal hierarchies that also was pioneering the concept of a welfare state. You had old conservative nobles, liberals, communists, social democrats, radical nationalists (many of whom actually didn't think that racial biology, segregation and heavily authoritarian dictatorship wasn't 'backwards', but rather part of the whole German 'progressiveness')

Germany was one of the centers of queer social freedoms in the west through the 1920s. There was a very open debate over gay rights, especially in the medical community. The Institut für Sexualwissenschaft - Institute for Sex Research - agitated for decriminalization and tolerance of homosexuality and transgenderism.

It was the openness of that debate that unfortunately opened up a lot of queer people to persecution with the coming to power of the Nazis. 50-60,000 men were convicted for homosexuality from '33 to '44, an upside-down pink triangle was their mark in concentration camps. The nazis sacked the institute and seized membership rolls and doctor's notes about gay patients in 1933. The Nazi Youth also publicly burned their books, and the director of the institute was eventually sent to a concentration camp. Gay clubs and associations were shut down, some homosexuals were targeted during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, and the Gestapo created an anti-homosexual division in 1936.

That's not progressive, that's ridiculous. He wasn't transgender, they were just too ignorant to understand or correct the mistake they made.

The first thing I said when my child was born was "look he has giant balls!"

Some of those Winter Soldier years got weird...

Ah, the ol' bathhouse raids.

Remembers fondly

Exactly... it's call intersex... which is what you're arguing about.

"The word intersex has come into preferred usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing" - from the fucking wikipedia article you claimed to read.

Yeah the irony of the situation is that Jews, gay people, etc. were flocking to Germany before all that happened because it was so progressive for the time.

Longing, rusted, furnace, daybreak, seventeen, benign, nine, homecoming, one, freight car.

Read the article above. It's biology, not semantics

Is that Billy Corgan?

The autobahn?

I suggest that you agree on a different birth story to tell her while there's still time.

there was a huge traditionalist, imperialist and monarchist faction though in Germany that thought this liberal elite degenerate and contributing to the decline of masculine potential and vibrancy. These were commonly promulgated by fascists but were in a key strain of conservative thought too

I spent all day painting that babys room pink, there's no way I'm gonna change it to blue now!

Yeah, but like, she was a hrmphcough

Back in those days it was probably one in the same.

I don't care which bathroom but it does seem wrong to allow a man to compete in womens' sporting events.


We believe in nothing! NOTHING!

We believe in nothing! NOTHING!

Even Peters. Totally!

It takes a lot more than an anti-smoking campaign to make up for the systemic annihilation of people a fascist regime branded undesirable.

I'm sure my commute would have improved immensely with the new infrastructure improvements and affordable cars. That doesent mean my boyfriend and I are going to be making out in Nazi Germany if given the option.

Good on you for keeping it not emotional. It's rare to see arguments like this to so well.

Have you never heard of hermaphrodites?

You truly don't know anything. Please stop.

Doesn't look like anything to me.

I don't think 'progressive' is the right word for a doctor telling parents to raise their child as a different gender.

It's different if the child has shown to identify with that gender, but here it's just a doctor going, 'fuck if I know, I dunno, just raise em still a girl I guess?'

As an American living in 2016, just how am I expected to be able to relate to any of that?

Something to keep in mind.

You do realise that, apart from the whole mental transgender thing, there actually exist a number of conditions that present ambigously?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasiafor example. Female (XX) bodies (XY as well but obviously with less pronounced effects) with an abundance of testosterone due to a defect in the enzyme that produces cortisol/aldosterone. The precursor hormones "overflow" into the testosterone pathway. In the end you get a very much enlarged clitoris (can be mistaken for a penis) and a bunch of other problems.

Other than the denial, the parents made the right choice in this case.

Imagine if the doctors had cut off his penis to make him appear a normal girl? When he grew up he'd realize someone stole his dick.

You're right. I don't know all that much about Germany. I know a little bit about ancient history, and then it jumps forward to WW1, WW2, and a modern country that doesn't tolerate Nazis, is great at engineering, and loves beer and dirndles.

Maybe it looked a lot different before his/her testicles descended.

Can confirm: when my daughter was born last year the first thing her dad said was, "why is her labia so swollen?" He was very concerned until the doctor explained that it's normal. Also babies can lactate right after birth sometimes. Hormones are a powerful thing.

it's 2016 for 3 more days or so dont jinx it

Yeah, you don't get to decide what is and isn't important.

Am german. We just call it "the failed atempt".

I guess I forgot the average age of the user base...and it isn't just the boys who are swollen

How do so few people know this? It's like nobody has seen a baby born before.

Both genders have swollen bits at birth because of the mom's hormones.

Also, Gretel Bergmann still alive at 102 in Queens, NY.

we called our son "nuts and bolts" for a bit; Dr. even commented during an early visit that the size is temporary - I nudged my wife and asked if I should show the Dr. the size is not temporary by showing her mine

Oh, my sweet summer child. This is before Germany split

"disfigured genitalia" or simply intersex?

Really it was the invention of cheap clothing that lead to the rise in the US and other counties.

Before children would commonly just wear white clothing that was passed on from generation to generation. When clothes became cheaper reach kid began to get a set and eventually colors were established between the sexes.

Who's that?

No, not at all. You are just someone who accuses others of being nazi apologists.

In the US. In Germany, pink/blue only became a thing in recent decades.

seen 1 - thinking to know about all of them - pretty freaky human behavior.

It's often not that obvious or imactful. I didn't know I had an intersex gonadal situation until I was 22 and got an ultrasound. Some people go their entire life without knowing.

Is that Cara Delevingne's grandmother?

I'm in my 30s and I've never seen a new borns. I've seen older babies but mostly just girls and I never examined them closely. That would have been weird.

Seems that he wanted to be found out so he was no longer living with this huge secret. One of the comments was about knowing his career in women's sports was over but being relieved that the truth was known.