Ahead of the release of Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne‘s The Danish Girl, in which he stars as Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery (in Dresden, Germany, in 1931), he’s spoken publicly about his own ignorance when it comes to transgender people.
Speaking to Details, he said:
“I fell into all the clichés of ignorance. I didn’t realise that gender and sexuality weren’t related. I confused the terms transvestitism and transgender. But what’s lovely is, the second you understand the difference, you see how gigantic it is and how important itis that we educate ourselves.”
While researching his character, Redmayne spent hours speaking to transgender people – one of whom, a friend, told him the decision to transition comes down to being willing to “give anything and everything to a live a life authentic” – as well as endlessly researching Elbe (born Einar Wegener) and her partner Gerda Wegener.
And in the film, he gives it 100%, going full-frontal for a scene in which he tucks his penis to create the illusion of a vagina. Dedication, thy name is Eddie.
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe.
Look, there was always going to be some well-deserved controversy over his casting. He’s cisgendered, Lili was transgender, and there was an opportunity to cast a transgendered actor in a major film role that just sailed on by.
“There is a prevalent idea that viable transgender actors and actresses simply do not exist,” said transgender writer Kat Haché about Arcade Fire‘s video clip for ‘We Exist‘, which also stars a cisgendered male as a transgender woman. “Naturally, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when they never gain exposure, rendered invisible by the lack of acknowledgement on the part of directors.”
That being said – and it’s an important discussion to have – The Danish Girl is still telling the story of about a seminal figure in transgender history. And its timing? Bang-on.
Never before have the rights and stories of transgendered people, which for so long have been ignored, overlooked, or blatantly violated, have been so high on the public agenda.
Andreja Pejic, Laverne Cox, and (love her or hate her) Caitlyn Jenner are household names, Amazon has just commissioned Season 2 of its transgender-focused TV show ‘Transparent‘, and for the first time, a movie distributer is backing not one but two transgender actresses for Academy Awards in their correctly gendered categories (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor from ‘Tangerine‘).
Without wanting to come across as glib, 2015 has largely been the year of transgender people.
Andreja Pejic and Laverne Cox at The Danish Girl premier:
Last night at the premiere of the #TheDanishGirl So good to kiki and be nerdy discussing herstory and our roots. No one has more dedication or strength then this woman, glad to see she’s getting what she deserves.
The Danish Girl comes out in Australia on January 26 next year; check out the trailer below:
In the spirit of education, or for access to transgender support services, head to www.gendercentre.org.au.
Image: Jason Merritt via Getty Images.