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Einar Wegener is not a person most people are familiar with, but most transsexual people acknowledge as the progenitor.  A German artist as well as a model named Lili Elbe for his wife (the former Gerda Gottlieb), Einar was the first recipient of a sex-change operation, performed in Germany in 1930 by Dr. Kurt Warnekros, under the supervision of German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld.  A series of surgeries included transplantation of ovaries and a uterus, which didn't work out so well.  Lili Elbe died of transplant rejection in 1932, at the age of 50.  The painting to the left is Portrait de Femme, by Einar, done in 1923.

Currently there is a movie about Lil Elbe under production, called The Danish Girl, scheduled for release in 2014, based on a novel by David Ebershoff.  Nicole Kidman is slated to star as Elbe.  Gerda was originally to be portrayed by Charlize Theron, then Gwynneth Paltrow, then Uma Thurman, then Rachel Weisz…and who knows who is next (Marion Cotillard).  There are apparently problems with the script.

What I want to focus on in this diary, however, is the connection between transpeople and the arts.

You know I do my own dabbling.  But what I produce is little more than 21st century doodling.  It's a stretch to call it art.

While you are waiting…while all of us are waiting…for The Danish Girl to be finished…if ever…there is a film available for viewing now:  French-Canadian Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways won the third annual Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.  Melvil Poupad stars as Laurence Alia, a teacher and writer who tells his fiancee Fred, played by Suzanne Clement, who works in the film industry, that he is going to transition into a woman.  Dolan, who is only 23, made his third film (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats) and impressed the critics.  Brad Brevet's review is at RopeofSilicon.com.  Brevet calls Dolan "an up and coming master of cinema".

I reserve the majority of my praise, however, for Dolan whose script is just as impressive as his direction. Early on Laurence and Fred play a game, listing their interpretations of colors, but it doesn't end there as it is then cleverly woven throughout the entire film. In this game, colors such as pink, blue, red and brown all say something about a person and after the rules have been established those colors bear stronger intent as the film plays out, be it a red filter or a pink brick. I also can't help but mention Fred's entrance to a formal ball that was so cinematically sumptuous you couldn't have forced me to look away. This entire film is candy for the cinephile and Dolan had me eating out of his hands.
One of my readers, Renee, let me in on a well-kept secret also.  I Stand Corrected is a documentary which relates the career of jazz bassist Jennifer Leitham.
I can't recall a better world premiere in my 23 years of covering film festivals in the Coachella Valley than the festival's presentation of  'I Stand Corrected' by Andrea Meyerson."

--- Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun

And finally, we have something to watch for down the road.  John Irving, who introduced us to transgender former linebacker Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp has published his 13th novel, In One Person.
More precisely, the novel deals with sexual orientation and gender identity. Although society traditionally draws distinct lines to separate men from women, gay from straight, the characters who populate "In One Person" again and again demonstrate the porousness of those arbitrary borders.

--Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Irving's narrator, Billy Abbott, grows up bisexual in a small Vermont town.  Billy's youth is colored by a grandfather who likes to perform the aged female roles in community theater and he develop crushes on "the wrong people":  Miss Frost, the statuesque librarian with man-sized hands and a secret, who introduces Billy into the ways of the world, and Kittredge, the cruel wrester/bully who is Billy's lifelong crush.

Billy becomes a writer, like Irving.

Garp is a more radical novel than In One Person; the satire is broad, the situation extreme.  In One Person is a more realistic novel:  A young bisexual man falls in love with an older transgender woman.  The bi guy is the main character, but two transgender women are the heroes of this novel.

Billy is not me, but my imagination of what I might have been if I'd acted on all my earliest impulses as a young teenager.

When I was a boy, I was confusingly attracted to just about everyone; in lieu of having much in the way of actual sex — this was the '50s — I imagined having sex all the time, with a disturbing variety of people I was attracted to my friends' mothers, to girls my own age, and — at the all-boys' school I attended, where I was on the wrestling team — to certain older boys among my teammates. Easily two-thirds of my sexual fantasies frightened me.

--John Irving

When I was preparing this, it became much too long.  I am not yet, I think, halfway done.  But I shall end this portion now and continue later in the week.

Originally posted to TransAction on Tue May 29, 2012 at 06:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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