Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Am My Own Woman (Ich bin meine eigene Frau) is a 1992 German documentary-drama directed by Rosa von Praunheim.

Lothar Berfelde was born in 1928 in Berlin. She almost immediately began cross-dressing. Her father, a Nazi party official, tried to kill her in 1944 and she killed him instead. Jailed for murder, she was released (as almost all prisoners were) by the Allies in 1945. Living openly in East Germany as a woman, she changed her name to Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. She publicly supported the nascent gay liberation movement in East Germany, risking her life, and helped preserve hundreds of LGBT items of historical interest. After the fall of Communism, she was viciously attacked by right-wing German skinheads.

The film, which is both documentary and dramatic recreation, is based on von Mahlsdorf's autobiography, also released in 1992.

In 2003, the American playwright Doug Wright wrote IAm My Own Wife, a one-actor play with more than 40 parts. It was based on on von Mahlsdorf's autobiography. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for Drama. The following year, a revised autobiography of von Mahlsdorf (who died in 2002) was released with the title IAm My Own Wife.

I know all about von Mahlsdorf. From 1992 to 1994, I lived with a blond stripper named Billy who desperately wanted to be a full-time drag queen. Billy embraced his Germanic heritage like a dying man clings to a life-preserver, and he not only avidly read her autobiography but corresponded with her and consumed every news story and article about her which he could get his hand on. Billy raved about what a heroine and legend she was...

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