Friday, June 30, 2023

Gay History: Toni Simon

Born Anton, Toni Simon (1887 - 1979) was raised in Thuringia, Germany. Even as a child Simon wore girls’ clothes whenever possible, and was pleased to do housework with her mother. At age 17, Simon volunteered for the cavalry to avoid service in the infantry where his ‘girlish’ gait would be mocked. After completing three years of service, Simon became a machinist in a bicycle factory, worked in breweries and tanneries, went to sea as a stoker and herring fisherman, and even worked as a bridge builder in northern cities such as Kiel, Wilhelmshaven and Bremen. When World War I broke out in August 1914 Simon was running a business selling newspapers and maps, which was taken over by his wife while he was conscripted. After 1918, Simon opened a restaurant in the Ruhr area, and in 1923 opened Café 4711 in Essen's Segerothstraße, which also acted as a “neuer Damenklub” for Essen’s transvestites. Herr and Frau Simon separated in 1927 and their divorce was finalized in 1932. The marriage produced five children.

Simon was arrested several times for illegal beer sales from the secret bottle cellar of Café 4711. In August 1929, Simon was summoned to appear before the Essen district court, and appeared in women's clothes. The judge found this "improper", and imposed an administrative fine of 100 marks. Simon's appearance caused a stir not only in the Ruhr press, but also in the Berlin transvestite scene. Completely impoverished by 1932, Simon had  to close Café 4711. After the Nazi takeover in 1933, Simon’s Transvestitenschein, official permission to wear female clothing, was cancelled. 

After his release from Welzheim police prison/concentration camp in 1939, Simon worked as a tester of high-voltage pylons. In this, and in the applications for reparations, she was referred to as Anton and Herr Simon. Yet, at the same time she was considered as a survivor of the pre-war queer scene in Stuttgart, and worked with the gay group Kameradschaft die runde which met in Stuttgart pubs. She arranged meetings and dances, and ‘Toni Simon’ was mentioned in advertisements in the local press. Her Transvestitenschein had been restored in 1951.

She supplemented her pension in the 1950s by smuggling in queer pornography from Denmark which at that time had a more liberal attitude to such publications.

Toni Simon died age 92.

( ~ Zagria)

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