TRANS-cendence is IN! The Danish Girl and More

Although still a newbie, most people on this site will recognize me for my articles on the horror genre. I love watching horror films and I enjoy sharing my views on them just as much. The dark and sinister things that scare most folks out there thrill me (with the exception of most torture porn). But today I would like to talk about an upcoming film from director Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl, which chronicles the trans woman’s journey to “self.”

This film stars Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. It is the story of the artist and illustrator Gerda Wegener (Vikander) and her husband, Einar Wegener (Redmayne). Lili Elbe, formally Einar Wegener, transitioned from male to female and is one of the frist known recipients of gender reassignment surgery in the world.

Lili Elbe by Gerda Wegener
Painting of Lili Elbe

In the 1920s, Gerda Wegener asked her husband to stand in for a female model in a portrait. The initial portraits were well-received, which led to her making additional ones of her husband as a woman. The act of sitting for his wife as a woman awakened a desire within him. He realized that he enjoyed his “self” as a woman. He liked the way he looked and felt.

His female self, Lili Elbe, he soon discovers, is the real Einar and he transitions into living as a woman. This discovery will lead Lili to become the first ever recipient of sex/gender reassignment surgery. Gerda supports his decision, but it undoubtedly puts a strain on their marriage ending with her coming to the realization that Einar is no more. Lili’s childhood friend, Hans Axgil, portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts, is also an integral part of the story as he causes a multifaceted love triangle with the couple.

I am quite excited for the arrival of this film. In our ever-changing world it’s great to see someone tackling this subject, transitioning/transgender issues, with care and sensitivity. We as a society often make fun of that which we do not understand and that which makes us uncomfortable. This films endeavors to tell a poignant narrative about the difficult evolution of one trans woman as she navigates her own self-discovery and realization.

Redmayne as Lili
Eddie Redmayne / Lille Elbe

This film comes at a time when new champions of gender equality/gender identity/trans advocacy are making extraordinary strides in the fight for acceptance and equality. With advocates like Janet Mock, Thomas Beatie (the pregnant man), Candis Cayne, Kim Coco Iwamoto, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), and, most recently, Olympic Champion Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans gives me hope the world is moving towards a place of “live and let live” and acceptance. A few years ago this kind of film dealing with this subject matter, with this type of star power would not have been a possibility. It is a welcome change.

Transparent Poster
Jeffrey Tambor and co

Also notable is to watch in the transverse is the Amazon Studios original series Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor as the patriarch of a LA family who finally comes out to his three daughters as transgender. ABC Family is attempting to contact this subject with their new reality TV show Becoming Us, which revolves around a Midwestern teenage boy, Ben, who is coming to grips, not only with his parent divorce, but with his father transitioning into a woman, Carly. Did I mention that this teenage boy also has a girlfriend whose father is transgender? It will be interesting to see how things turn out.

It is refreshing to see the entertainment media tackling meatier subjects.

**Check out Soldier’s Girl (2013) with Troy Garity and Lee Pace.

Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah "Cookie" Beyah hails from North Carolina. She is a pop culture nut and loves all things Nathan Fillion. Ms. Beyah has a passion for the macabre and the horror genre. She serves on the "Nevermore Film Festival" selection committee in Durham, NC and attends several comic and horror conventions each year. She holds an MA from Duke University, but is a dyed in the wool North Carolina Tar Heel fan! She also enjoys writing and reading creative non-fiction.