Posted by: Debrah Martin | September 4, 2015

A Danish Girl in Venice – or the world over

The Danish GirlBased on the book of the same name, The Danish Girl is to be screened on 5th September 2015 at the 72nd Venice Film festival. So it’s another film festival and another new film? So what?

So it’s an exceptional film about an exceptional woman.

And Lili Elbe was the forerunner of other exceptional women living exceptional lives today, with her courage and self-belief now embodied in the likes of Caitlyn Jenner, Paris Lees and April Ashley. Yet, there are many, many more unknowns who live out their journey from the gender they were born with to the gender they instinctively know themselves to be in relative obscurity, so this blog post is as much about them as it is to celebrate an exceptional film because they are just as inspirational.


Let’s start with why am I so excited about this film?


It’s one of a growing number of sensitive and empathetic portrayals of the crisis of identity questioning gender causes, and a celebration too of the courage it takes to affirm self-belief. The Danish Girl tells the story of Einar Wegener, husband of the Danish artist Gerda Wegener, and how his self-perception is intrinsically challenged after he stands in for the female model his wife was to paint, but who failed to turn up. It leads him to question his identity and find in himself the person he – she – really is, as well as testing the relationship with Gerda.  The theme of the film therefore is not only self-belief, gender orientation and courage =- it’s what the true nature of love between two people is about. Eventually becoming the first known recipient of male to female sex reassignment surgery, Einar became Lili – Lili Elbe. Her story ‘Man into Woman’ was published posthumously in 1933.



But being transgender isn’t a modern phenomenon. Lili received her SRS in the 1930’s – approaching a century ago. Since then it has been a battle for acceptance, understanding and dignity, fought in the twilight of transphobia, narrow opinion and often, derision.



I was amazed, moved and humbled when I was learning about the true cost of the journey towards sexual reassignment as I wrote Chained Melodies – also the story of a man coming to terms with being born into a woman’s body, and how the emotions shared with his alpha male best friend also transform into an understanding of what love really is – genderless, non-judgemental and beyond the boundaries society is inclined to set with its definitions of heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, and transgender. The frankness and positivity of the transgender community I met was an inspiration to me, then a naïve, ignorant cisgendered woman. I know that knowledge and understanding is now (slowly) being disseminated into schools and beyond, and questioning sexuality and gender is no longer taboo, but it isn’t children and teenagers who really need educating. Its adults dating back to the 19870’s and beyond, when Chained Melodies is set; the people who still make the laws, set the precedents and create the social climate we live in. Here’s a film to educate them ALL!

I wrote Chained Melodies so that readers could live in the mind of Billie and experience – if second hand – what Billie experienced. Books can be a means of education too, as well as entertainment. I hope you’ll think that too, and if you’re a reviewer and would like to review Chained Melodies, please get in touch. The more readers it has, the further the message will reach – and of course, reviews are always very welcome!

You can find me on: 

Or follow me on Twitter @Storytellerdeb

Or find me on Facebook: Author



Image of The Danish Girl courtesy of


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