Heinrich Ratjen, 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.
He set a world record for the high jump at the 1938 European Athletics Championships, but competed as a female at that event. His true identity was discovered while riding on a train headed for Cologne.
Ratjen was born in Erichshof, near Bremen, into a family described as “simple folk”. 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.” Dora stated, also in 1938: “My parents brought me up as a girl [and] I therefore wore girl’s clothes all my childhood. But from the age of 10 or 11 I started to realize I wasn’t female, but male. However I never asked my parents why I had to wear women’s clothes even though I was male.”