I attended an advanced screening of ‘The Danish Girl’ last night, a movie highly anticipated in the trans community. It's the story of the first person to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, played by oscar winner Eddie Redmayne.
The film is beautifully crafted. The sets, wardrobes and locations espouse authenticism. Eddie Redmayne plays Einar Wegener and Alicia Vikander portrays Gerda, his wife. They pour their heart and soul into the roles and produce emotions that explode from the screen and engulf the audience.
I found it hard to watch. Dysphoria is present in all transgender lives, but Redmayne's portrayal is on the extreme side, giving Einar’s pain a life of it’s own. When Einar begins to express Lili, his female side, he not only loses sight of Einar, but exhibits split personality.
Lili believes herself to be completely independent of Einar and therefore not subject to any of his obligations. When confronted about a kiss shared between Lili and Henrik, Lili tells Gerda ‘Einar did not kiss him, Lili did’. She seems completely unaware and uncaring of the emotional pain she is inflicting on those around her. Lili, who began with the full awareness of Gerda, begins hiding her activities from her, systematically shutting her out of her life. Her quest to rid herself of the ‘sickness’ that is her male physical body, becomes a self destructive terminus.
Gerda would drag Lili back to her over and over again, her love was overwhelming. But Lili had already separated Gerda along with Einar. Einar’s love for Gerda was not compatible with Lili.
None of the trans people that I know have true split personalities. We do sometimes refer to our alter egos in the third person, but we know we are the same person. Our feelings for others do not change with our appearence. Divorce happens but being transgender is one of many factors not the root, and many transgenders remain happily married.
This Movie's portrayal of transgender is certainly a step up from the usual sex-worker role of previous cinema, but still is a limited view of what it means to be transgender. I fear it will do more to solidify the public image of us as mentally defective.