The tragic story behind the world's first documented transgender person

A long list of advancements made in surgery and medicine have allowed transgender people to undergo gender confirmation surgery in ways far more successfully and safely executed than ever before.

But it can be easy to forget a time where the surgical success rate today was far lower and even unknown. And for that reason, we will never surely know who or how the first transgender person came to be.

However, there is a great deal of conjecture that transgender woman Lili Elbe's journey to becoming a woman wasn't just difficult, but unprecedented.

Images from LGBTQ Pride month 2017:

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BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 27: Thousands of members of the LGBTQ community gathered today for the Birmingham Pride parade on May 27, 2017 in Birmingham, England. The Birmingham Pride is an annual festival for the LGBTQ community usually taking place over the Spring Bank Holiday. The event begins with a parade from Victoria Square in the city center to the Gay Village in Hurst Street. PHOTOGRAPH BY Jim Wood / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Jim Wood / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
A picture taken on June 5, 2017 shows a new green pedestrian crossing symbol depicting a same-sex couple in Madrid as the capital will host this year's World Pride festival from June 23 to July 2. / AFP PHOTO / OSCAR DEL POZO (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on June 5, 2017 shows a new green pedestrian crossing symbol depicting a same-sex couple in Madrid as the capital will host this year's World Pride festival from June 23 to July 2. / AFP PHOTO / OSCAR DEL POZO (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
QUEENS, NY - JUNE 4: Members of New York City's gay, lesbian and transgender community prepare to march in the Queens Gay Pride parade on June 4, 2017 in Jackson Heights, Queens. The parade route down Northern Boulevard travels through a working class immigrant neighborhood. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
QUEENS, NY - JUNE 4: Members of New York City's gay, lesbian and transgender community prepare to march in the Queens Gay Pride parade on June 4, 2017 in Jackson Heights, Queens. The parade route down Northern Boulevard travels through a working class immigrant neighborhood. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
<> on September 29, 2016 in New York City.
BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 27: Thousands of members of the LGBTQ community gathered today for the Birmingham Pride parade on May 27, 2017 in Birmingham, England. The Birmingham Pride is an annual festival for the LGBTQ community usually taking place over the Spring Bank Holiday. The event begins with a parade from Victoria Square in the city center to the Gay Village in Hurst Street. PHOTOGRAPH BY Jim Wood / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Jim Wood / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 27: Thousands of members of the LGBTQ community gathered today for the Birmingham Pride parade on May 27, 2017 in Birmingham, England. The Birmingham Pride is an annual festival for the LGBTQ community usually taking place over the Spring Bank Holiday. The event begins with a parade from Victoria Square in the city center to the Gay Village in Hurst Street. PHOTOGRAPH BY Jim Wood / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Jim Wood / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
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Elbe, who also went by Lili Ilse Elvenes, was one of the first ever identifiable recipients of such a procedure in 1930.

She was born Einar Wegener in 1882 and became a landscape painter. It wasn't until Wegener posed for a painting by her wife and fellow artist, Gerda Gottlieb, that she realized she was Lili Elbe.

Subsequent to her discovery, Elbe began spending less time creating art and more time molding her newfound female persona. According to her autobiography, Man into Woman: The First Sex Change, Elbe started going out in public dressed as a woman and even claimed to be her own sister.

LILI ELBE (1886-1931). The first known recipient of sexual reassignment surgery.Lili Elbe (1886-1931) via Getty

Her wife became an essential part of her transition, providing her with the acceptance and love she otherwise didn't receive from others at the time. They later relocated to Paris where they felt a lesbian couple would be more socially permissible.

After several years in France, however, Elbe decided she could no longer be satisfied until she fully transitioned into a body that matched her identity. So, she traveled to Germany, where she underwent an operation unheard of in those times, a gender confirmation surgery.

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She had multiple operations under the supervision of an established sexual psychiatrist, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld. First, Elbe had her testicles removed, second, her penis, and she then received an ovary transplant, which her body reportedly later rejected.

Though she was able to legally change her name, her change of sex presented a legal problem as her and Gottlieb's marriage could no longer be recognized by the government due to the two being the same sex. Subsequently, the marriage was annulled and the two went their separate ways.

Elbe later attempted to have a uterus transplant in in 1931 and died from heart failure shortly after the surgical procedure.

Her story has since been told in her autobiography, Man into Woman: The First Sex Change, and, most recently, in The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff -- which was later adapted into a film in 2016.

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