Interview with Nora Eckert - Part 2

Monika: You are working on a project about the history of the transgender movement in Germany. Can you identify any symbolic beginning of the transgender community or at least the first transgender women that dared to challenge society?
Nora: The first transgender woman to go public to stand up for the rights of trans people appeared in the 1970s. We need to mention here Gerda Hofmann, who caused a sensation at the time with her appearance on a talk show, but also earned a lot of sympathy for her justified demands for legal regulation.
We were probably too small a group to organize ourselves even then. Organizations were formed only in the '90s and then especially after the turn of the millennium. Until then, it was always individual, very courageous people who stood up for a trans* policy that conformed to human rights and fought for it through the courts.
In any case, research into trans* history in Germany after 1945 is urgently needed. It has been missing so far. I am determined to fill this gap. There is a lot of work waiting for me, but I like to do it because this story tells of our emancipation and our struggle for equality.
Monika: And Jean Lessenich, Jeanette Schmid and Charlotte von Mahlsdorf? I thought you would mention their names too.
Nora: The question was what significance people had and still have for the transgender movement, i.e. whether they were and are activists in a political sense. Of course, one could still name very, very many names of trans people who found their way into the public eye and, for example, worked artistically or perhaps were just life artists in their own way. We should also consider whether a person is actively committed to the rights of trans people. On the other hand, we also make a political statement through our lives alone, by directly denying our right to exist.

"The Internet is very helpful for our cause. It enables
a worldwide transfer of knowledge and solidarity-based networking."

Monika: What do we know about the transgender movement in East Germany under the communist regime?
Nora: Little. However, I hope with my trans*history of FRG/GDR may bring a little light into the darkness.
Monika: In the ‘90s we can see more and more transgender women that are successful in the German showbusiness. Gloria Gray is a good example.
Nora: Right, but even more interesting I find the fact that there are trans people in artistic professions everywhere today, without them having to organize a big carnival out of it. There are trans men and trans women who work in film, in the theater, and as musicians, and, by the way, also on the opera stage. It seems important to me that it should become a matter of course.
Monika: What do you think about the impact of the Internet on the situation of the transgender community?
Nora: The Internet is very helpful for our cause. It enables a worldwide transfer of knowledge and solidarity-based networking. Without the Internet, this interview would certainly not exist.
Monika: We are facing another sign of times, which is an unprecedented rise in the number of transgender teenagers that can take advance of puberty blockers, for example, Kim Petras?
Nora: I don't think that's just a sign of times. It is probably mainly due to the fact that today there are more places and countries where we can live freely and are accepted. Trans*kids today can name what they are and what I could not do in my childhood and youth, for example. I had an inkling that I was somehow different from the others, but I just couldn't say what it was exactly. At the age of 22, I finally knew. That's why I envy the trans*kids who can start their real lives much earlier.
As for the question of puberty blockers and hormone therapies, well, this can probably only be decided individually, because being trans is not a new "norm" and is lived very differently. We, humans, are very diversely "knitted". It seems important to me to take Trans*Kids seriously.

"Unsere Geschichte sollte Teil unseres
Selbstbewußtseins sein."

Monika: On the other hand, I could not find any German transgender politician.
Nora: One name immediately comes to mind: Tessa Ganserer. She is with the Greens and is a member of the Bavarian State Parliament in Munich. She is running for the German Bundestag in September as a Green politician and she has a good chance of becoming the first trans woman in the Bundestag. Many years ago, the Green Party presented a sensible bill as a successor to the basically scandalous Transsexual Act (TSG). The guiding principle in this is self-determination - and we trans people finally need it in Germany.
Monika: When can we expect your history of the transgender movement to be published?
Nora: It's going to take some time. I hope to have a preface and maybe already one or two chapters ready as a sample by the end of the year. But I still have a lot of research to do. However, I have already found interesting material that has not yet been published. I am at work with great enthusiasm, because the trans*history of FRG/GDR does not yet exist and it is an important part of society. Our history should be part of our self-confidence.
Monika: Can I book another interview with you once the book is published?
Nora: Gladly!
Monika: Nora, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you.
Nora: It was a pleasure to meet you.

Main photo: Ralf Günther (07.04.21)
All photos: courtesy of Nora Eckert.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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