Sexuality and Gender Identity through “Carol” and “The Danish Girl”

Hello people of the Universe !

It has been a long time since my last update (studies first, you know) but I come back with a very important article about what is still so, so taboo in our societies nowadays: sexuality and gender identity. I already wrote a piece about sexuality, using The Big Bang Theory to illustrate relationships, but writing about transsexuality and homosexuality is very different, even if I tend to deny it.

 

I think being a member of the LGBT+ community is not shoking at all, and even though many questions go through my head, I don’t consider this being an issue in today’s world. I consider the lack of education or access to healthcare being issues. So why is it very different, you may ask? Because I am not used to speaking about sexuality, even less about transsexuality. Not that I don’t want to, but it is not something that comes in the conversation — except when you go to watch a movie about it, right? It is different because you can’t touch it, you can’t deeply understand it if you never went through it. Supporting a friend, a member of your family, your husband/wife… you are spectator of a phenomenon that occures inside of their own selves and even them struggle to explain it. Fortunately, we have the chance to find art on our way to put words and feelings on something that is so difficult to describe.

First, Carol. When I left my friend and took the bus to go home, I immediately used my phone to write about it. Oddly enough, I wanted to feel a piece of paper under my palm skin and use that elegant fountain pen a friend sent me from the United States. Maybe it was because the story took place in the 1920’s, because of all those old telegraphs and huge telephones, or maybe it was the fault of those beautiful autumn colors we could admire on their clothes… I was full of emotions because Carol’s love for Therese was a revelation.

I fell in love with Carol’s voice and the way she moves her hands and how her tears fill her blue eyes. Her whole character is about movements and looks, I could spend hours just concentrating on how she puts her chin in her hand. She has a powerful ability to seduce in a very simple way. There is a sentence I can’t stop using when someone asks me about Carol: “If anybody looks at me the way Carol looks at her beloved, I would immediately fall in love with them.”

You know, this sentence… When it came to mind, I immediately realized how powerful it was. Not because I had a crush on Cate Blanchett, but because it was the exact expression of love. I went to see this movie to know more about a relationship between two women, I went out with the feeling to know what true love is. I didn’t care about them being women, or about their age or social class difference, or anything else. I just had the chance to assist to the birth of love, more magical than any fairytale could ever create.

There is that beautiful scene when Carol and Therese make love. Therese is in front of a mirror and you know it is the right time for both of them. You don’t even listen to the dialogues — they don’t have any importance. You just follow their looks, then their hands, then their kisses, and you dive in bed with so much tenderness you almost feel the sheets on your skin. Nothing else exists but their two souls, reunited, and one thought struck me: Carol loves a woman the way I wonder if I could ever love someone. 

I went to see these movies for specific reasons, apart from enjoying a nice moment: I wanted to know how sexuality and gender identity would be described. Exhibited, like a show? Touched on, as if it could burn our eyes? Would it be so intimate I’d feel like a voyeur? I dread these approaches, it is so easy to ruin a message of hope, acceptance and equality. Love is fragile, so is self-esteem.

The Danish Girl is the true story of a painter, Einar Wegener, who physically became Lili Elbe after several surgeries. I didn’t get as moved as when I saw Carol and found the movie a bit long, but the actors blew my mind. Every single movement of Eddie Redmayne is true, every single look and trembling smile arrive at the exact right moment as if Lili was born again. As if he was Lili. The evolution of the character is impressive and I must say many scenes made me wonder how he was able to play them.

Thanks to Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander (Gerda Wegener), I had the possibility to enter the life of a transgender supported by her wife and loved for who she was. It was a step by step process, with many questionings, but the wish to reach happiness and, at least, be at peace with herself. A scene touched me deeply: the discovery of his own body, when he imagines himself as a woman, physically. He is surrounded by dresses and he, very slowly, looks at every part of himself, hidding his sex and trying some feminine postures. At the same time, you can see Gerda painting him dressed as Lili and it is very beautiful, very sweet and intimate. You don’t even wonder why or how, you just realize he is Lili.

I was very surprised to see how much Gerda supported her husband. The only reference I have related to transsexuality is Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan. The Danish Girl allowed me to have another point of view, with less fights and bitterness. Also with less passion, in a certain way. All those moments of reunion and reject in Laurence Anyways don’t exist in The Danish Girl, or with less powerful emotions. Gerda and Lili keep a beautiful relationship, they love each other until the end and they grow together. Fred and Laurence’s love tears them apart. They can’t even speak without hurting themselves and instead of sharing, they attack each other. So I was glad to see another way to communicate in a couple who goes through this.

In both movies, I noticed abandonment, even expressed in different ways, had a big impact on the characters’ lives. I don’t know why we feel abandoned when someone changes. It is like we, the other person, are the one who “doesn’t change”, the one who “stays the same from the beginning to the end.” But it is wrong. We evolve all the time, our tastes and opinions do, too. We don’t notice it because it is often a long process and we don’t make radical decisions from one day to the next. I realized the characters were not really shocked by transsexuality or homosexuality… What was complicated for them to admit was the change, the “I leave you to be myself.” It was like the death of a logical and usual pattern. Their husband/wife looked for a reason — was it their fault or was it a mental illness? — but nothing was truer than their feeling to not be themselves. I don’t think we should see this as a death. A butterfly is first a caterpillar. 

Love and respect, put your life in parentheses and absorb the beauty of these two movies, Marion

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2 thoughts on “Sexuality and Gender Identity through “Carol” and “The Danish Girl”

  1. I loved The Danish Girl! I think Redmayne deserves an oscar for his role here. I haven’t watched Carol though.

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