“I think Lily's thoughts, I dream her dreams. She was always there.”
December 22, 2015 6:43 PM   Subscribe

The Danish Girl [YouTube] [Trailer]
The Danish Girl is a 2015 British-American pseudo-biographical drama film directed by Tom Hooper, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by David Ebershoff. The film stars Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener, Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil and Ben Whishaw as Henrik.

- 4 Transgender Actresses Who Could Have Been Cast In The Danish Girl. by Rose Moore [Movie Pilot]
The issue, it seems, is a circular one. Studios claim that they don't want to cast a relative unknown in a starring role, in case they simply aren't a talented enough actor. (This despite the many times that unknown actors have been given a big break in a larger role.) There simply aren't very many well-known trans actresses in Hollywood. This is true, but there will never be a huge pool of trans actresses to cast from if there are no roles for them to play!
- Danish Girl director Tom Hooper: film industry has 'problem' with transgender actors. by Andrew Pulver [The Guardian]
Without explicitly acknowledging the controversy surrounding the casting of Redmayne, a non-trans actor, in the lead role of Einar Wegener – the real-life Danish painter who underwent a series of operations in the early 1930s to become Lili Elbe – Hooper said: “There’s something in Eddie that is drawn to the feminine; he’s played women before, most notably Viola in Twelfth Night. In our film, Lili is presented as a man for two-thirds of the movie, and her transition happens quite late on, so that played a part in coming to a decision.” Hooper also said that the production had reached out to the trans acting communities in the cities where they shot – London, Brussels and Copenhagen – and ended up casting “40 or 50 trans supporting artists”. He said: “I’m pleased we achieved what we did, but I’m sure there’s more to do.”
- The Liberation of Lili in ‘The Danish Girl’ by Rachel Lee Harris [The New York Times]
The androgyny challenge In the postwar 1920s, women’s position in society changed, and so did their clothing, Mr. Delgado said, adding, “We go from a silhouette based on the corset to one that is much more androgynous.” And while that may seem like an assist when dressing a transgender character, in some ways it presented more of a challenge, he said. Clothes were moving away from the body, waistlines were dropping, chests were being de-emphasized, but Lili needed to have a waist. “Men’s bodies are sort of waistless. If you say a man has a waist, it is not a compliment,” Mr. Delgado said. “But for women, it means they are sensual, feminine, and that’s what we wanted to achieve.”
- The Danish Girl: Portrait of a Lady by David Sims [The Atlantic]
If there’s an optimistic take on the movie, it’s that at least the circle of Oscar-bait filmmaking has widened to take in the story of one of the first people to have gender-reassignment surgery. Einar, better known as Lili Elbe, was a pioneer in trans history and her life was the subject of a 2000 novel by David Ebershoff, adapted for the screen by Lucinda Coxon. But in the hands of Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables), much of the nuance and complication surrounding her story is stripped away, resulting in a film that’s sensitive and often touching, but not remotely compelling.
- Eddie Redmayne: An Education by Paul Flynn [Out]
In the three years between being cast as Lili Elbe and playing her, Redmayne’s research took him far from the texts Lana Wachowski first recommended. He began with Jan Morris’s Conundrum before moving on to Kate Bornstein’s pivotal gender theory work. His first research meeting was with the volubly outspoken and powerful British trans activist Paris Lees. “She was the first person I’d met when the film had been green-lit,” he says, “and she was very kind to me, actually. Gorgeous.”

Lees took to Redmayne. “I really liked him,” she says. “He’s a nice, affable lad.” The meeting took place at Redmayne’s apartment last summer. “The grand piano didn’t impress me — it was the little details,” Lees explains. “He has lovely cupboard doors. I asked him what he thought of people criticizing him for playing a trans woman. He said, ‘Look, I’ve just played a man in his 50s with motor neuron disease. I’m acting.’ I found that hard to argue with, and it really helped with my thinking on the subject.” There is a potential foreseeable problem in the trans community with the casting. “As a trans woman, I don’t think that if and when they make a biopic of my life I would want a cisgender man playing me,” Lees says. “Politically, it makes me groan. But if anybody’s going to do this justice, then I’m happy it’s Eddie. We had a good chat about everything.”
- Laverne Cox on Cisgender Actors Playing Trans Roles by Faran Krentcil [Elle]
Both Elle Fanning and Eddie Redmayne have recently come under fire for playing trans characters. Do you think only trans actors should play trans roles?

I think only good actors should play those roles. [Laughing.] I haven't seen Elle's movie trailer yet, so I feel ill equipped to discuss it… But I did see the trailer for The Danish Girl and I am so excited. Lili Elbe's story is so important. I hope they get it right. I don't know what that even means, but I hope they do. I was in Berlin for the very first time ever this year, and I got to see photos of Hirschfeld's clinic that was burned down by the Nazis. He had a clinic for human sexuality. Lili got her first gender confirming procedure there.
- Regressive, Reductive and Harmful: A Trans Woman's Take On Tom Hooper's Embarrassing 'Danish Girl' by Carol Grant [bent- a Queer blog]
"The Danish Girl"'s struggle to portray Lili Elbe's story magnifies not only the most glaring weaknesses of both Redmayne and Hooper, but also the cisnormative gaze of the transgender community. You get this in Redmayne's performance, of course, only instead of approximating a single individual, he's approximating femininity itself, ratcheting his exaggerated, nervous physical ticks to 11 when playing both Einar and Lili. As Einar, he's doing a proto-Stephen Hawking, with shaking hands, sad eyes, a sickly complexion, and a breathy voice. As Lili, he performs womanhood by way of stereotype. Amy Nicholson describes it very well in her LA Weekly article: it's “exaggerated, simpering body language, all head-ducking and languid caresses, which she learns studying a peep-show stripper—someone who is herself playacting a faux femininity for men.”
- Eddie Redmaybe Simplifies Womanhood in The Danish Girl by Amy Nicholson [LA Weekly]
It's hard to tell how much of The Danish Girl is an oversimplification — or, more interestingly, a rebuke of being “womanly.” Take Caitlyn Jenner, who irritated feminists by announcing herself with a lingerie shoot. Hadn't NOW spent decades telling women they didn't have to dress like Playboy Bunnies? The Danish Girl is being pitched as the story of a brave pioneer — it even uses those words in its concluding title cards — but I suspect Hooper is quietly cross-examining Lili's quest. He surrounds her with cities full of bold, aggressive, loud, strong women, from Ulla the outrageous ballet dancer (Amber Heard) to the brusque fishmongers at the market, yet Lili herself acts more retrograde than every other female in the film. She quits art, obsesses over her weight, and dreams of being a housewife. “I want to be a woman, not a painter,” she sighs. Supportive Gerda finally snaps, “Well, some people have been known to do both.”
- The True Story Behind The Danish Girl by Jessica Goldstein [Think Progress]
Elbe was living in Copenhagen during the 1910s and 1920s, the period between the World Wars, which was “kind of a high-water mark for trans and queer culture in Europe,” said Stryker. “It was Jazz Age Europe. The cities were becoming electrified. There’s nightlife, there’s jazz music, there’s flappers… It was a really exciting time. That is what starts to get rolled back in 1933. So if anything, I think, rather than representing Elbe’s life as ‘Oh my God, you were surviving in the Dark Ages!’ it’s like, ‘This is Rome before the fall.’ This was, in some ways, the height of modernity. Before fascism, really, gained political power. In some ways I see it as being very easy. It’s more like a precursor to the contemporary period, rather than something that was almost a century ago.” Elbe was a pioneer by choice, but also by chance: she happened to come of age a time when “there were new possibilities for who and what a person could be.” Medical and legislative progress were on Elbe’s side. “There’s this kind of a nascent sense of possibility for the transformability of human self through medical science that is exactly what Elbe is exploring, and Gerda along with her. They were grasping the potential for something new, and it’s really exciting.”
- How The Danish Girl Forgets About the Girl by Richard Lawson [Vanity Fair]
I a computer were programmed to create the perfect Oscar movie in 2015, it would probably look something like The Danish Girl, director Tom Hooper's stately, overwhelmingly stylish period melodrama about Danish artist Lili Elbe, the first known transgender woman to undergo sexual-reassignment surgery, and her devoted wife, painter Gerda Wegener. Every required part of an awards movie is there: stellar cast (Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander), lush cinematography, plaintive score, a stirring social message. But despite, or perhaps because of, all that perfect, well-appointed polish, there is something rather lifeless at the heart of this well-meaning film. It concerns a topic with true relevance to today, but that urgency is too often drowned out by Hooper's heaps of aesthetic indicating, and by Redmayne's fastidious, oddly self-conscious performance.
- The Incredibly True Adventures of Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe by Nadya Lev [Coilhouse] [NSFW Illustrations]
This is the true story of turn-of-the-century lesbian romance, erotic Deco illustrations rife with harlequins and crinolines, the world’s first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, and the 1950s pulp novel that brought it all to light. The story begins one hundred years ago. In 1912, artist couple Gerda and Einar Wegener arrived in Paris, hoping for greater prosperity and freedom than their conservative hometown of Copengahen would allow. They checked into the Hôtel d’Alsace, where – they were shocked to learn – they had been placed into the very same room where Oscar Wilde had once died twelve years earlier. The couple spent the next few days reading Wilde’s works out loud to each other. The forbidden sexuality, transformation, beauty and tragedy in Wilde’s work was reflected in the couple’s following years together.
*This link was posted previously on the blue but I linked it here again for the sake of context.
posted by Fizz (46 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I went into a screening of The Danish Girl with no clue what the film was about. After seeing the movie and hearing Redmayne and Hooper talk about their work in a post-show Q&A, I walked out of the theatre with nothing but the highest praise and respect for Lili's story and their work presenting it, which had honestly moved me to tears. It's been strange to compare my own feelings about the movie to the (tepid at best and deeply critical at worst) responses like the ones above - they're so at odds I feel like I either must have seen a different film or am a wildly ignorant person. Which, for the record, I don't think I am?
posted by that silly white dress at 7:43 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fantastic post. A family member recently transitioned, and I find myself newly hyper-aware of the portrayal of trans men and women in media. I love the mix of pull quotes you've chosen here and plan to read each article.

I don't yet know how I feel about the movie, but I am excited to discuss it with my family member.
posted by samthemander at 7:46 PM on December 22, 2015


I mean, there's a lot that could be said about why trans women have reacted to the movie the way we have.

But for me, a big piece of it is that … Look, a year or two ago, something amazing was happening: mainstream cis culture was starting to listen to people who we ourselves looked up to as spokespeople and role models. Laverne Cox was on TV saying real shit about her own experience, shit that a lot of us recognized and identified with, and cis people were paying attention. Cis people were reading Janet Mock's book. Cis movie nerds were paying attention to Lana Wachowski. Cis music nerds were paying attention to Laura Jane Grace.

These are all people who had a decent amount of activist credibility with trans women. Most of us were willing to point to at least one or two of the people on that list and say "Yeah, she knows what she's talking about. She speaks for me. She's saying the stuff I'd want people to hear about my life." And a big piece of that credibility was that they were telling well-rounded stories about what trans lives were like: not just "Trans women are brave, beautiful martyrs who suffer and die alone" or "Trans women provide cis people with a golden opportunity to polish their own generosity, patience and tolerance" but, like, "Hey, trans women have built this really cool community from the ground up, and we support each other and work together and do cool shit and take care of ourselves and each other, and we'll keep doing all that shit whether or not cis people can be bothered to listen." Getting that shit out in front of mainstream audiences was fucking revolutionary.

And in the past year or so, a lot of that has been reversed. Mainstream media outlets have taken it upon themselves to nominate a new set of spokespeople for us. I don't know a single trans woman who thinks Caitlyn Jenner is a better spokesperson or advocate than Laverne Cox — but it's been decided that Caitlyn Jenner is going to be the New Voice of the Trans Movement, and she's been promoted and amplified as if she spoke for the rest of us, when in fact everyone I know thinks she's an utter jackass with more money than sense. And the same sort of thing has happened to so-called "allies" like Jill Soloway. She honestly comes across as shockingly transphobic in interviews, and she's managed to turn this show ostensibly "about" a trans woman into a long meditation on how hard we are to love and how awful it is for cis people to have to put up with us, but apparently that's the sort of trans story cis people want to hear right now, so they've decided to crown her as some sort of spokesperson for us.

So I don't know. Lilie Elbe is an important part of our history. But by all accounts The Danish Girl is another real step backwards in terms of representation. It's back to the old bullshit about martyrdom, isolation, suffering and dying alone, needing cis saviors to give our lives meaning, blah blah blah. I'm sure it's a beautiful story, and I'm sure Eddie Redmayne did a competent job telling it. But it's a story we're sick of hearing, and it's pretty obnoxious that cis people have decided they'd rather watch The Danish Girl than pay attention to our own perspective on our own lives.

None of which makes as good a soundbite as "Eddie Redmayne sucks" or "Cis actors should never be allowed to play trans roles." But it's where a lot of us are actually coming from on this, if anyone could be bothered to listen beyond the sound bites.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:17 PM on December 22, 2015 [98 favorites]


I guess the tl;dr is, I see no reason why I should bother to watch The Danish Girl. It's not about me, any more than The Little Mermaid is about marine biology. I'm sure it's a beautiful fairy tale, full of all the things cis people love to imagine about trans people. But I already know more than I ever wanted to about the things cis people imagine about us. If I want a fairy tale, I'll watch The Little Mermaid again. If I want actual trans stories, I'll go read some Casey Plett.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:30 PM on December 22, 2015 [38 favorites]


Thanks for sharing nebulawindphone.
posted by Fizz at 8:47 PM on December 22, 2015


(Thanks for the post! These links look great!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:55 PM on December 22, 2015


The timing of the whole thing leaves me feeling a bit squick straight off the bat. If this film had come out ten years ago, it'd have been cut a lot more slack than now, where it feels like an exercise in bandwagon jumping by a bunch of cis people after a bunch of newspapers have declared a 'transgender moment'.
posted by Dysk at 1:29 AM on December 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am a cis woman asking this question from a place of good faith:

I understand the issues related to casting cis people as trans characters who have already transitioned. Those roles should absolutely go to a trans actor, no question. When casting a trans character who is not presenting as their true gender, though--who hasn't or hasn't yet transitioned--why is casting a cis actor an issue? Wouldn't casting a cis actor for the pre-transition scenes make more sense?
posted by pxe2000 at 3:48 AM on December 23, 2015


When casting a trans character who is not presenting as their true gender, though--who hasn't or hasn't yet transitioned--why is casting a cis actor an issue?

That's not the case in this movie, though, since Lili does present as female for at least part of the film.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:36 AM on December 23, 2015


When casting a trans character who is not presenting as their true gender, though--who hasn't or hasn't yet transitioned--why is casting a cis actor an issue? Wouldn't casting a cis actor for the pre-transition scenes make more sense?

The short answer is that it reinforces this idea that trans people didn't always possess/embody their genders, that somehow they changed and became someone else. By asking you to understand Redmayne, a cis man, as a woman when Elbe transitions, they're tacitly saying that you have to suspend disbelief to understand any trans woman as a woman (when she comes out our after).

To challenge the notion that you can't have someone of the appropriate gender play a trans character pre-/during transition, there's Romeos.
posted by hoyland at 4:41 AM on December 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


There's also a kind of weird double standard here, where most of the time the cultural commentary about us is all "O M G she looks so much like a man, that's so gross," and it's only when we ask for representation in (male-passing) pre-transition roles that we get "No, that's impossible, you're much too feminine."

Like, yeah, some trans women really are too stereotypically feminine-looking to "back-pass" as male or as pre-transition. But a lot of us aren't -- and we KNOW we aren't, because we hear about it from cis people all the time. So when directors get all "Oh no, no trans woman could ever butch up enough for this role," the lie is really obvious and it stinks.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:46 AM on December 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wouldn't casting a cis actor for the pre-transition scenes make more sense?

Only in an alternate universe where it's common to cast (non- or badly-passing) trans women as cis women.
posted by Dysk at 6:08 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. Please don't derail and disrupt with "just asking" questions about other scenarios that are very, very different than the situation being discussed here.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:12 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know if I ever meet a male actor cast in the role of a trans woman I'm sure I'd be polite as Paris Lees.

But it still irritates me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:15 AM on December 23, 2015


First and foremost: cis men playing trans women erases our bodies.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:32 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's not the case in this movie, though, since Lili does present as female for at least part of the film.
Tom Hooper gave an interview with Metro newspapers where he excused the casting of Redmayne by saying that Redmayne only presented as female at the very end of the movie, and it worked better to have a cis man play Lili Erbe. I could understand his perspective, but something about his reasoning seemed off. In cases like Transparent, a transwoman should have played Maura, especially since Jeffrey Tambor comes off as so wrong as a transwoman, but I wasn't sure about movies and TV where a transwoman only presents as female in parts of the movie.

Thanks for the recommendation of Romeos, which I have added to my library queue. 52 Tuesdays, a film about a high school-aged girl whose mother begins the transition to male, is a powerful film with a transman in the role of the protagonist's parent.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:40 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


In cases like Transparent, a transwoman should have played Maura, especially since Jeffrey Tambor comes off as so wrong as a transwoman, but I wasn't sure about movies and TV where a transwoman only presents as female in parts of the movie.

I actually think Tambor does a fine job on Transparent, and it should be noted that Jill Soloway used the same argument that Hooper uses, including the many flashbacks in season one. I don't think I will go see The Danish Girl, though, since I don't want to actively give money to this sort of casting anymore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:54 AM on December 23, 2015


Can anyone who's seen it let me know what "terrible last line/ending" I've seen critics mention actually is? I saw a joke on Twitter that it was along the lines of "Turns out we were all the Danish girl...inside" beyond-parody bad?
posted by Gin and Broadband at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2015


Also, before I forget, the huge difference between Transparent and The Danish Girl is that the former has always had transgender actors playing important roles on the show, and now has transgender women on the writing staff.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:02 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lili got her first gender confirming procedure there.

Emphasis mine. This is a much better framing than 'reassignment' and, since it came out of the mouth of an actual trans person, it's what I'm going to use if for whatever reason it comes up in conversation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:23 AM on December 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


My main issue is "cis girls are hot, let's show them nude and sexy" on media and trans women are mostly played by men and rarely (ever?) shown nude outside porn and fetish outlets.

This is so discouraging and damaging it's hard to even begin to describe how hopeless it feels sometimes.

Even transparent falls into this trap. (Maura is shown with a training bra on GASP!) I have boobs. I want people to know that (some, not all) trans women have actual boobs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lili got her first gender confirming procedure there.

Emphasis mine. This is a much better framing than 'reassignment' and, since it came out of the mouth of an actual trans person, it's what I'm going to use if for whatever reason it comes up in conversation.

That's one of the reasons Laverne Cox is such a good public face for trans women. "Gender confirming" is terminology that's been around in the trans community for awhile. As has Cox. She feels, to me at least, like an insider.

I'll also point out that in the first season of Orange is the New Black, there were flashback scenes to when her character was still presenting as male, and she played them just fine.
posted by not that girl at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2015


nebulawindphone, great comments. Thanks for putting into words the way I feel about many presentations of trans people in the media. xoxo
posted by not that girl at 8:10 AM on December 23, 2015


I'll also point out that in the first season of Orange is the New Black, there were flashback scenes to when her character was still presenting as male, and she played them just fine.

That was actually her identical twin brother, M Lamar.
posted by Lucinda at 8:13 AM on December 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


"when her character was still presenting as male, and she played them just fine."

IIRC she has a twin who played those parts? Is that right?
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:13 AM on December 23, 2015


I'll also point out that in the first season of Orange is the New Black, there were flashback scenes to when her character was still presenting as male, and she played them just fine.

That wasn't Laverne Cox! That was her twin brother.

As far as I can tell this is one of the sources of the "Post-transition trans actors can't play pre-transition trans characters" meme. My understanding is that Laverne Cox wanted to do those scenes, but just didn't have the right appearance for the role.

So, like, that is definitely a thing that can happen. (And FWIW too it's a good example of why "Cis actors should never play trans roles" is an unfair exaggeration of the trans community consensus on that stuff. Very few of us were mad at OITNB for bringing in her brother for those scenes.)

But it's also worth remembering that Laverne Cox is a real outlier in terms of appearance. Most of us don't look like her. Many of us will never lose the ability to back-pass the way she did. So generalizing from that one anecdote to "See, you have to have a cis dude on cast if there are going to be flashbacks" is pretty ridiculous.

posted by nebulawindphone at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Er, jinx.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll also point out that in the first season of Orange is the New Black, there were flashback scenes to when her character was still presenting as male, and she played them just fine.

That was actually her identical twin brother, M Lamar.

I stand corrected! I guess the solution is for trans women actors to have identical twin brothers.
posted by not that girl at 8:28 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


nebulawindphone, it's also an evolving thing. As more and more trans people come out as children, lots of folks will receive medical interventions earlier, and will never have to go through puberty with the wrong hormones, which has a lot to do with passing. Not that passing is or should be any barometer of value.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:30 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, totally. I mean, I'm speaking from my own perspective, as a late-transitioner with very few friends who transitioned before age 20 or so. But just like there are still gay people who come out at 30 or 40 even now, there will always be trans people who transition late too. (And there will always be young transitioners who still don't pass, or who still can back-pass if they want to.) It's not like we're ever going to end up in a situation where cis men are the only casting option because non-passing trans women have gone extinct.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


But there's no such thing as a non-passing trans woman actress, though. I mean, that's the point. If you can cast a cis man as a transgender woman, you can always do better by casting a transgender woman as a transgender woman, and if she needs to present as male for the role, makeup and hair are great.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2015


there's no such thing as a non-passing trans woman actress, though.

Hi. I'm a non passing trans woman. If I could act, I'd be a non passing trans woman actress. I assure you such people exist.

I mean, that's the point. If you can cast a cis man as a transgender woman, you can always do better by casting a transgender woman as a transgender woman,

Something has gone haywire here. I agree with all of this, and can't imagine why you'd think I don't.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Sorry. I'm taking up too much space in here. I'm out, mods please delete as needed.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2015


Can we please stop with the passing/non passing stuff?

Eddie Redmayne is gorgeous in the role and I hate everything about passing and beauty.

The truth is that real trans women do not have to be "pretty" and a lot of us never will be. Seeing a man pass more than I do in a role like this is...damaging, harmful, triggering, dysphoric, causes feeling of self-harm.

UGH.

And nebulawindphone, you are beautiful. Hugs and hugs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have nothing to add to the gender identity discussion here, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Tom Hooper leaves a mighty trail of bad feeling behind him on a film set. Just a god awful human being.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2015


I saw The Danish Girl without knowing what it was going to be about. For what it's worth, I enjoyed it and was moved, but I can see it is not the movie trans gender women are waiting for.

“I want to be a woman, not a painter,” she sighs. Supportive Gerda finally snaps, “Well, some people have been known to do both.”

This was the most memorable line in the movie for me.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


As more and more trans people come out as children, lots of folks will receive medical interventions earlier, and will never have to go through puberty with the wrong hormones, which has a lot to do with passing.

I think you're operating from a bizarrely utopian perspective and assuming that all trans people "knew when they were three". The people who transition before puberty are, by definition, people who were able to articulate that were trans at a young age. Now, transphobia is a factor in the fact more people don't do that, but erase transphobia and you're still not going to have everyone transition before puberty.

Also, maybe I'm a grumpy guts, but it comes off like you're telling trans people about transitioning, as if people who've done it don't know what hormones do.
posted by hoyland at 10:50 AM on December 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hi. I'm a non passing trans woman. If I could act, I'd be a non passing trans woman actress. I assure you such people exist.

Sorry, I meant that if you are acting, you can be anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:31 AM on December 23, 2015


+1 to the 'can we stop putting so much emphasis on passing as if it matters' and while we're at it, maybe we can do the same for beauty?
posted by Dysk at 11:57 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can Hermoine be a black person? Can Othello be a white person in blackface? Is Peter Brook's vision of theatre racist or anti-racist? Should Rock Hudson never have have kissed a lady? Should Greta Garbo never have kissed a gentleman?
In Shakespeares Globe, every female part was played by a man, and so was every female part in my dad's all-male boarding school, and yes this was significant in many subtle and less subtle ways. My lesbian great aunt was not trans-gender at all, but she would find freedom in male dress. The past is far away and hard to understand.

Discussing this outside the real context and history of acting and life is absurd, IMO. I haven't seen the movie yet, but it is a rather obvious place to address the convention of cross-dressing within acting as part of the artistic ambition. And it is absolutely necessary to demonstrate the pain of all LGBT individuals during Lili's and Gerda's lives. My great aunt, who might actually have known them, never came out. She committed suicide when I was 17, in 82. Attitudes were changing dramatically at the time, but she never got to feel it.

The thing was: just plain walking on the street could get you imprisoned, if that walking in any way indicated that you were not cis-normative.

My kids can't even imagine how LGBT friends could not be accepted. When I tell them about it, they are shocked. A film like this is a way for them to see a not so distant past, and acknowledge the struggle family and friends have gone through. Judging from the trailer, Redmayne does a good job of conveying this struggle.

Because I am Danish and interested in art history, I've known this story forever, and it's always been a powerful message for me that Lili and Gerda were (lesbian) lovers and life long friends. Knowing their backgrounds, what they did for each other was incredibly rich and generous — and trusting. I can fully understand why a film-maker would choose this angle. From my point of view, it is a story of acceptance, not only between Lili and Gerda, but also among their friends. A story I learnt a lot from when I was a young person (But obviously, this was the real story, not the fiction)

Very long story short: I strongly believe that the casting for a film such as this should focus on engaging the audience. And for what it is worth, while I think a black Othello is a natural choice in our day and age, it is the black Desdemona who would really open our eyes
posted by mumimor at 6:55 PM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


mumimor, it's great that this film feels useful and sympathetic to you as a cis person, but the overwhelming consensus from trans people is that this representation is problematic. Subsuming trans representation into the wider LGBT movement and pushing trans people and our concerns aside as a result is also something that has a rich history, and it's pretty much what you're doing in that comment.

(Also, blackface/race comparisons are just not cool for a whole host of reasons)
posted by Dysk at 2:02 AM on December 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Mumimor, we are a lot of degrees of apart on what I strongly believe and what you strongly believe. All I have have to say is that for what may seem "the not too distant past" to you, it's "happening to people like me still".

Even your comment illustrates how far there remains to go...because you know blackface is wrong but you don't yet know that men putting on trans women bodies is wrong too. Someday you will though. Until then, people like myself will continue to be erased, commit suicide, be murdered, marginalized and stigmatized like we do.

I really hope you take time to read what trans women are saying in this thread and give what we say more merit than you already have.

Because your comment is seriously distressing to read.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:27 AM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


My apologies for being insensitive. Living in a (small) community where it is entirely safe to be oneself sometimes blinds me to the realities of the world.

(Also, blackface/race comparisons are just not cool for a whole host of reasons)
I don't think you understood what I was trying to write, which is entirely on me. However, I think it would be senseless to try again.
posted by mumimor at 11:53 AM on December 26, 2015




I don't think you understood what I was trying to write, which is entirely on me.

I genuinely don't think it matters; it is not a topic to introduce into this conversation, regardless of what it is in aid of.
posted by Dysk at 12:39 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


(well, it has been over seven hours since that last comment...can somebody go to the theater and check on odinsdream?)
posted by mittens at 4:25 PM on January 10, 2016


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