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Emily Watson: The Danish Girl is brilliant propaganda and another blow to human happiness

Eddie Redmayne may soon be picking up an Oscar in addition to the Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe that he won as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. His performance in The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, one of the first recipients of gender re-assignment surgery, has been hailed from all quarters as compelling, extraordinary and brave – a watershed in trans acceptance into mainstream culture. Director Tom Hooper, when asked about the timing of the film in an interview in Slate, replied “there’s definitely like a tipping point in trans narrative acceptance in the mainstream culture that’s happened so recently.” This film was seen as too controversial to be made seven years ago, but in the brave new world of 2015, reviewers and audiences alike were primed and ready.

The story of The Danish Girl is that of Einar Wegener, who was born in 1882 and worked as a successful artist. He married fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb in 1904 at the age of 22, and they lived a bohemian life in Paris for a number of years. Einar’s awakening to the female persona of Lili happens when posing for his wife as a female model. He subsequently presents himself as a woman called Lili Elbe on a regular basis throughout the 1920s, finally undergoing sex reassignment surgery in Germany in 1930. His marriage to Gerda is dissolved in 1930 following the surgery, and he dies a year later, aged 48, as a result of heart surgery following a uterus transplant. Gerda enters a second marriage but divorces after a few years, her second husband having burned through her savings, and dies destitute in Denmark in 1940.

Looking at the bare bones of Einar’s story, it’s certainly a sad one. Perhaps most poignant is the fact that Einar stops painting after his surgery. His identity as a successful artist, who doubtless brought pleasure to many through his work, has been replaced by the female identity of Lili.

Artistry is at the forefront of Hooper’s film, with reviewers sighing over its “sumptuous visual qualities” and “picture-postcard beauty”. In his adulatory review in The Telegraph, Robbie Collins describes the film as “a beautiful, humane and moving biopic”.

It’s no surprise that the story of a pioneer of the transgender movement is presented as aesthetically as possible. This film is a crucial weapon in the transgender lobby’s cache, as a way to use cultural propaganda to win over mass audiences while governments across the Western world push through with cold hard legislation. Culture is undeniably a powerful tool in influencing popular opinion, as other recent films have shown, such as A Single Man, making the case for same sex marriage, or the euthanasia propaganda film Amour, where a loving husband smothers his paralysed wife. Love is Strange pits a devoted gay couple against the tyrannical Catholic Church, when George is dismissed from the Catholic school where he works after marrying his partner Ben.  Obvious Child, marketed as the first abortion rom-com, seeks to normalise abortion into a simple medical procedure that carries no trauma.

Undoubtedly, The Danish Girl will win yet more legions of sympathisers to its own particular cause: where a human being is the only arbiter for his or her identity, regardless of the inconvenient scientific reality.

Well, what is wrong with this, might object a disinterested observer?  What’s the problem in bringing to light the very real, traumatic feelings that someone undergoes when they feel that they are trapped in the wrong body, and arousing compassion instead of distaste or mockery?

The reason is that to live a life disconnected from reality is to be unhappy – sometimes to the point of suicide. 41 per cent of active transgender people attempt suicide – almost ten times the national average of 4.6 per cent. Walt Heyer, who lived as a woman for a number of years and now runs a site called SexChangeRegret, has written very movingly of the despair he felt following his surgery. Of course, this not only causes damage to the individual in question, but to all his loved ones, creating a ripple effect of pain and confusion throughout society.

Activism, propaganda and increasingly legislation choose to ignore the inconvenient testimonials and warnings of Heyer and others. Last month, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights released a new interpretation of the city’s transgender anti-discrimination law. Violations of this new legislation, such as failing to use an individual’s preferred pronoun, restricting same-sex facilities and limiting a person’s options to just male and female can now incur fines of up to $250,000 for each violation. In Canada, Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne is forcing a graphic sex education curriculum on schools, where the theory of gender fluidity is being promoted to children as young as 8. In the UK, transgender activism is flourishing at universities, with students tearing Germaine Greer off her feminist pedestal due to her heretical views on the subject. The most egregious example of transgender activism is perhaps this article in Slate, where the author denounces the evils of “infant gender assignment”. It’s not inconceivable that you may soon be fined for sending out a card with “It’s A Boy!” after a successful delivery.

So Hooper’s film is certainly riding the crest of a transgender wave. His philosophy seems to echo that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who said in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “Liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Yet this so-called right to self-definition, free from objective reality, leads to a sterile narcissism. In The Danish Girl, Gerda says of how she fell in love with Einar, “It was the strangest thing, it was like kissing myself.” The Big State, backed by totalitarian legislation, would have every man an island, family ties and duties thrown aside in the endless quest for self-fulfilment. But no amount of enforced “tolerance” will bring about the happiness that people like Einar crave – this can only be achieved through a life of purpose, rooted in reality and centred on satisfying others rather than pandering to the insatiable appetite of the ego.


(Image Courtesy Global Panorama, Flickr)

Emily Watson

  • Earthenware

    “The Big State, backed by totalitarian legislation, would have every man
    an island, family ties and duties thrown aside in the endless quest for

    The Big State has no interest in individual self-fulfillment. It is, by definition, collectivist and the rights or desires of the individual are of no consequence.

    The destruction of the family is all about the removal of the father and his replacement with the government. This is another of those areas that people consider to be conspiratorial, but that’s only because of their ignorance. The extermely influential book The Authoritarian Personality clearly defines the nuclear family as pathological and the root of most evils in society. Read it yourself if you don’t believe me.

    Add to this the openly-declared feminist objective of the destruction of the family (read Steinem, Friedan, Greer etc), which is very influential in today’s government, and you can see a natural progression from self-sufficient families to state dependency.

    Dependency means power for those dispensing government largesse. Politicians and bureaucrats love nothing more than power.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Compare and contrast the bien pensant treatment of men who would rather be women – mawkish and/or triumphalist – with that for women who would rather be men – raucous and/or provocative. Is it a subliminal reflection of the gradual feminisation of society or does it reflect male/female gender differences that can never be eradicated?

  • kinetiq

    Like a man with a beard wearing a dress and singing on Eurovision, the more bizarre and twisted the idea, and the more you can add of warped sexuality, the more the leftie darlings love it.

    • Gimme some fightin’ room

      That’s their narcissism showing – virtually all leftists are a self-absorbed lot and their weak ego leads to a constant need for praise.

  • Josephine Victoria O’Carroll

    “The reason is that to live a life disconnected from reality is to be unhappy – sometimes to the point of suicide. 41 per cent of active transgender people attempt suicide – almost ten times the national average of 4.6 per cent.”

    Let me correct and expand on that misleading statistic. The PRE-op suicide rate for transsexuals is 41% – The POST-op suicide rate is 4.1%. It would seem you have a preference for the former rather the latter.

    • Dave

      Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Surveysays a staggering 41% of transgenders surveyed report they have attempted suicide and that those who have medically transitioned and surgically transitioned have higher rates of attempted suicide than the general population. Ttransgenders have higher rate of HIV infections. They are more prone to heavy drinking and the use of drugs. They have high rates of homelessness, unemployment and extreme poverty, even more so in the more difficult economic times of the last 5 years.

      Maybe we need to investigate the real reason for these delusions, rather than indulging the apparent symptoms.

    • Little Black Censored

      Joseph Victor?

    • Amelie

      Hi Josephine. Please do take a look at this article:

      As you’ll see, Heyer testifies to the high number of suicides among post-operative transsexuals. This is borne out by the witness of a doctor who carried out surgery, and said that 80% of people who seek sex reassignment surgery should not have it.

      Heyer also writes:

      “Although their intentions may be good, many activists for transgender acceptance actually keep transgender people from getting the help they need. Because coexisting mental disorders are not treated properly, it is likely that high suicide rates among the transgender population will continue.”

      Food for thought I think.

    • Amelie

      This might also be worth reading: “Gender, Lies & Suicide”

  • Dave

    So many times I have been asked when travelling on business “Is everybody in Britain gay? Whenever I see a British movie it’s full of gays!”

    Well, ever since “The Crying Game” made a big splash based on very little investment, British filmmakers have been obsessed with making films about LBGT subjects. Selling movies for gays pays out big-time. Even when the film is not about gays, they like to squeeze the odd gay in there anyway, to ensure positive reviews in “Gay News”.

    Of course, the Crying Game was a trans movie which exposes the lie that we have suddenly become more open to discussing trans subjects. We haven’t. We are merely being told we should be ready to have an onslaught of trans related propaganda aimed at us. The lobby-groups of the left have given up on their previous project – voluntary euthanasia – because MPs voted it down so decisively. Trans-gender politics was obviously next on the list. It will be promoted by the same body of left-wing activists no doubt. There are only 3000 trans genders in the UK so I don’t see it improving Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of being elected very much.

    I’m not sure people are so keen on trans-genders. Women, in my experience, have a deep distrust of men that claim to be women and start using the women’s toilets. Judging by the open-mouthed horror of those that saw the trailer for “The Danish Girl” as it was shown before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” it won’t be that popular. It opened some time ago in the US grossing $5million against a budget of $25million. It gets only 3 stars on IMDB. However, I expect it is in with a good chance of getting an Oscar, because it’s “worthy”.

    • ramesesthegrumbler

      Personally I don’t care one way or the other. If this surgery makes them happy and no one else is hurt by it should we, the people, have any say in whether or not they go through with it? To me its an issue of personal freedom.
      The State, however, should not be paying for any of this.

      • A Sensitive Scholar

        Nobody is saying it should be illegal. We’re saying it is weird and that we disapprove of it, and that we shouldn’t be censored for saying things that are perfectly reasonable.

        Trannies are weird. Being a live-and-let-live classical liberal or libertarian doesn’t entail being a totally blind pushover who accepts people mutilating themselves as normal. They are free to ruin their lives by choosing to live a lie but they aren’t free to dictate how other people think.

        • ramesesthegrumbler

          I sort of agree but the reverse is also true. What right do those who oppose this have to dictate how these people live their lives.
          Live and let live. Just don’t ask me to pay for it.

          • Dave

            I don’t think it is a matter of freedom. This is a deliberate intervention by third parties. The trans-gender surgery game is worth £4million a year. Should people be free to make big fat profits out of medical interventions on mentally ill people that don’t have great outcomes?

            Some people wouldn’t call that libertarian. They would call it exploitation. Here’s some more exploitation of the mentally ill that might make it clearer what I mean:-


            …somebody made big money turning that man into a cat with boobs. The outcome was not positive.

            My concern is that the availability of gender change surgery is exactly what is driving the lunatics to crave it. Probably the cat-man will also start a trend for lunatics to crave species change surgery.

          • ramesesthegrumbler

            Reductio ad absurdum.
            Again, their money their right to spend. My money, no chance.

          • Dave

            Their money, their right to spend. Why not just sell them heroin and get them right to “happy” without any of the complications of surgery, as that seems to be your measure of success.

            As for “reductio ad absurdum” the phrase “their money their right to spend” in this context is a classic example of “reductio ad absurdum” – but perhaps you were being ironic?

          • Little Black Censored

            It is not just weird, it is wrong. Getting somebody to mutilate your body is no better than mutilating that of another person.

          • SimonToo

            I have few rights to dictate how anyone may live his life, but I am free to comment on how he does choose to live it. Good manners may constrain how and when I exercise that freedom, but I have that freedom.

          • ramesesthegrumbler

            We all do, for the moment …

      • Dave

        So many of them seem to leave it very late to change sex. I’ve known two and they both changed in mid-life. Neither were in the least bit feminine when they changed. They ruined their relationships with everyone around them just as Kelly Maloney and Caitlin Jenner did. It’s hardly a panacea.

        Nor is it a “cure”:-

        • ramesesthegrumbler

          No indeed. The only one I have known was a 6 foot plus hirsute rugby player. He looked ridiculous in a dress but he seemed, on the surface, happier.
          That’s the end point – happiness. If they are happier and hurting no one does it matter?

          • Dave

            Let’s give everybody Prozac then we’ll all be happier won’t we? And nobody will get hurt.

        • John Standley

          Kelly? Caitlyn?
          I’d be more convinced if they chose names like Doris or Mildred….

    • A Sensitive Scholar

      Whatever the intentions behind it, The Crying Game has surely got to be one of the funniest films ever made. Much of it feels like an hour long setup for the sublime punchline when that IRA terrorist finally sees the willy flop out in front of him and vomits in the bathroom.

  • Tom Burroughes

    Redmayne will be hailed for making such a “challenging” film but in fact there is nothing all that daring about making such a film in this PC age. He is obviously very talented. Cannot see him as the next 007, however!

    • The Git at the Gobshites Rest

      Lefties are the worlds most boring conformists!

    • Carvetii

      “Cannot see him as the next 007, however!”
      – You’ve not seen this then…?

  • English Advocate

    “Perhaps most poignant is the fact that Einar stops painting after his surgery. His identity as a successful artist, who doubtless brought pleasure to many through his work, has been replaced by the female identity of Lili.”
    A man is what he does.

  • Bogbrush

    I don’t mind them making whatever film they want, and if they all want to celebrate it then fine, it’s up to them.

    What I don’t like is the reaction to Barry Humphies comments, specifically that he should be censured.

  • JB

    Just read the referred to ‘Slate’ article. Welcome to insanity.

  • franknowzad

    That sort of flora is “Normal for Eton”

  • Nockian

    Excellent article. I’ve made this point many times.

    Men are born men and women are born women. It’s no concern of mine what somebody does to their body, but reality cannot be ignored.

    There are potential consequences to this pragmatism that are real, not theoretical. There are many so called transgender websites run by transgender people, who are dedicated to exposing the harsh reality of what can only be described as dishonest misrepresentation of self.

    Surely those who wish to mutilate their bodies in this way are doing so in an attempt to find happiness. Who would possibly object to someone wanting to be happy ? Yet, it must invariably weigh on the person that they must now relate to woman and men knowing full well their own history and actual sex. It’s not the damage they do to others by this deception-but to themselves. Worse still, this mutilation is impossible to reverse, they are forever stuck in a horrific limbo in which they either deceive, or openly flaunt the reality that they are males/females in heavy disguise. I cannot see how anyone can ever find happiness if they are constantly living a lie.

    • Dave

      In the case of Frank Maloney and Bruce Jenner, changing from men to women totally destroyed the relationships they had with their nearest and dearest. Of course, they are half women – I believe both have retained their penis and of course neither have wombs and will not have to put up with periods and menopause. As half-women they are unattractive to both hetero women and lesbians. How can this state of affairs lead to unending happiness? Their continuing unhappiness will of course be blamed on the rest of us for not being open-minded enough.

      I have libertarian sympathies but it seems to me that gender-change surgery is indulging a serious mental health disorder that only makes matters worse. I don’t think the Caitlin Jenner and Kellie Maloney stories are going to end happily, and the left will once again find themselves on the wrong side of the argument (as always).

      We should be looking at what happens to TS people in countries where gender-change surgery is not available, just as it wasn’t available here for most of our history and yet somehow people survived. I suspect that very availability of the surgery is exacerbating the problem, like some kind of mass hysteria.

      • Nockian

        Exactly. It isn’t us that have to accept gender changers, it’s the poor sods that have the operation that are going to have to accept themselves.

        I’m sure there are those who will undergo surgery, purely for the purpose of being flamboyantly different and I will assume for them it will be fine, but, having looked at the personal websites of those who have undergone surgery it isn’t very common.

      • bobo

        A lot of cultures admit ‘transgender’ identity. There’s a Hindu sect (if that’s the right word) comprised of men who live as women. The Sioux had a similar societal role for men who chose to adopt feminine attire and duties. There are many others in anthropology.

        • Dave

          You’ve got to be careful of this kind of propaganda.

          Julian Clary is far more feminine than Frank Maloney ever was, but Julian Clary is not claiming he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body. He’s not claiming that because that would be the talk of crazy people.

          • bobo

            Oh, I’m not propagandizing for the likes of Jenner et al. Other cultures just shrug their shoulders and let the Ladyboys get on with it. It’s only the liberal west that elevates them to the status of martyrs and heroes and expects the rest of us to emote over them like, interestingly enough, emotionally incontinent Ladyboys.

        • mdj

          But no surgery is involved in these examples, is it?

          • bobo

            Nope. But the problem is in the mind: “I’m an x trapped in a y body.” And you can’t cure a mind with surgery. You also don’t get to choose your sexuality. Or your mind.

    • Bogbrush

      Probably as good a reason as any to pity the poor people and tell them what they want to hear – that they aren’t mutilated people with a mental disorder. Trouble is, no good is served by promoting a comfortable lie.

      It might be better in the long run if research gave attention to the mental disorder this probably is.

      • Nockian

        Im not a psychiatrist so I defer making the judgement that it is a mental disorder.

        It seems to me as if this is the effect of the general belief that anyone can be anything they want and all that holds them back is the attitude and opinion of other people. If they can just get rid of the bigots that discriminate against them, then they feel as if they have manipulated reality to match their conscious desire.

        We need to ask why anybody wishes to modify their bodies for purposes unassociated with medical conditions. What drives desire to the point of submission to the surgeons scalpel ?

        I have a theory this is directly attributable to the philosophical change that has dominated the last few centuries perpetrated by Kant. It has given rise to an ethical deterioration because it is believed that consequences are whatever anyone claims they are. It isn’t just body modifications either, it has spread into every aspect of our lives. As soon as the word ‘equality’ is mentioned. Be it physical, or economic. That we can ignore reality because we cannot really know reality and therefore manipulation is not only possible, but desirable.

        Once reality is no longer a limitation, then morals can be dumped. We can take values because the consequences don’t matter. The only guide is whatever the Government says is prohibited or whatever it decrees are rights and the Government is using exactly the same Kantian playbook as everybody else. We hear Cameron saying “…and it’s right thing to do…” There appears no link between reason and action, just ‘feeling’ something is true is now good enough.

        • Bogbrush

          Yes, well put.

          That insistence on denying reality is what really irritates me so much on many matters. It’s a trump card, played to override rationality.

          The two things that confuse and amuse me in turn about trans are

          – people claiming they have a whole body defect cannot accept they might just have a mental problem. Interesting, because unlike homosexuals they lay claim to a serious defect yet want the right to decide where the defect lies.
          – the ‘progressives’ have a real problem with trans. Their instinct is to wholeheartedly subscribe to their argument that they fundamentally “are” the other sex, yet these are the same people who argue in terms of feminism that gender is merely a social construct. Could they make their minds up here? :)

          • Nockian

            Yes, homosexuals dont attempt to defy reality.

            Progressives clearly are functioning irrationally. The term ‘progressive’ suggests it. It is inevitable that reality will eventually cause a conflict to occur within their ideology.

            This I noticed from Germaine Greer who refused to treat TG as women. Also, in Cologne the progressives have been in favour of mass immigration, but when it turned sour and women were being attacked it bashed right up against the progressive feminists.

  • Dave

    Here is some video of Frank Maloney before he became Kelly Maloney:

  • Sapporo

    Its predictable middle-class liberal bubble politics. They fiddle with high-brow sexual identity politics, whilst in the real World, Europe is suffering an abuse & rape epidemic, unprecedented in modern times.

    • Angular Merkin

      Yep. What miniscule proportion of the population does this really truly affect? 0.01%? 0.001%? Whatever the actual figure it doesn’t warrant such attention.

      • Amelie

        Yes, we seem to have replaced the dictum “hard cases make bad rules” with “hard cases make the rules”. The consequences will be disastrous.

  • Angular Merkin

    One big problem is that we can no longer just be tolerant, we have to be seen to be joyously celebrating such things. To do otherwise can be career suicide in some cases.

  • Phil R

    Don’t confuse acceptance with legitimisation. The general public may accept the autonomous choice of transgenderism in the abstract. It most emphatically does not accept it in the particular. Just ask yourself how many fathers want a transgender son? That isn’t going to change. That is why there is an ongoing quest for legitimacy.

    Heterosexuality is its own justification. This is self-evident from biology and complementarity. To acknowledge this is to submit to obvious facts inherent in human nature. Transgenderism (and other sexual isms) on the other hand is the assertion of desire against that very self-evident observation. It is an assertion of the primacy of human will over against human nature. That’s why it requires external justification. It can never find justification within itself.

  • Jeremy Poynton

    major problem in that kids are being taught that they can change gender at will; add to that, gender-neutral schooling in Sweden – both assaults on childhood.

  • Amelie

    This is a fantastic article by Walt Heyer, who is referenced in the article. He saw the film and here are his thoughts.

    For me, this is the key paragraph in his article:

    “The makers of The Danish Girl are clearly trying to sell the popular idea that trapped inside of Einar all his life was a girl. Do not be fooled by the “sales pitch.” Look a little closer, and you will see a misunderstood and undiagnosed series of mental disorders that led Einar to become Lilli, the transgender woman. Transgender people are not born that way; they evolve from experiences that shape their emotions and desires.”

    It has become borderline abusive to say that people undergoing gender dysphoria need psychiatric treatment. But if we truly want to help them live a happy life, that is the first port of call, rather than meaningless affirmation which could lead to despair and suicide.