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29 November 2015

Lili Elvenes, known as Lili Elbe, and the film not of her life

If you are considering a visit to the cinema to see The Danish Girl, please bear the following in mind:

The film is based on a 2000 novel by David Ebershoff.

It is not based on Maurice Rostand's 1933 novel La femme qui était en lui. It is not based on the 1933 Man into Woman: an Authentic Record of a Change of Sex. The true story of the miraculous transformation of the Danish painter, Einar Wegener edited by Neils Hoyer.

Gerda Wegener née Gottlieb was the daughter of a Danish pastor. Ebershoff turned this Danish 'girl' into a California 'girl' !!!!

"Girl" is a very patronising term for women in their late forties.

Lili's post-transition name was Lili Elvenes.

The name "Lili Elbe" was a media construct developed by the pioneering Copenhagen journalist, Louise (Loulou) Lassen.

It is not true that "Lili Elbe" was the first "man into woman".  Charlotte Charlaque, Toni Ebel and Dörchen Ritcher had already had transgender surgery before Elvenes arrived in Berlin, and unlike Elvenes had been living fulltime as women before surgery. Also, perhaps because they were patients of Magnus Hirschfeld rather than Kurt Warnekros, they survived. Elbe and Charlaque even survived the Second World War. What about a film based on these true pioneers?

There is a new detailed book on Lili Elvenes by Sabine Meyer: Wie Lili zu einem richtigen Mädchen wurde, which I have had no chance to look at yet.

I wrote a 3-part essay on Lili last January (incorporating information from a earlier publication by Meyer):
Part I: Einar Wegener, artist
Part II: Lili Ilse Elvenes, surgery and womanhood
Part III: Lili Elbe, media construct

Lili Elvenes in Copenhagen late 1930

1 comment:

  1. I bought a digital copy of David Ebershoff's book - I find your article here rather more interesting than his novel! In fact I stopped reading "The Danish Girl" after I got into it, thinking "Oh! Dear!" It seemed wrong for me. Maybe the novel does some good, with luck. By the way if someone calls me a girl in my 70s - I really don't mind, my dear. You mention three others above, too, of whom I knew nothing. So thanks for very interesting info.


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