The Danish Girl

Anyone following me will know I am in a terrible state right now.  I am tired, stressed, and emotional.  Last night, I came home from a trying day (really, weekend) at work to my wife rushing out the door to party at the neighbor’s.  I collapsed on the bed and cried in my isolation.  I wrote last night’s post, then mindlessly watched some TV.  When my wife came home, she almost instantly went to bed without conversation.  There as no real opportunity to decompress with her, and it compounded my feelings of isolation I described yesterday.  Then, I decided to watch a movie, and what did I find?  The Danish Girl.

For those not in the know, The Danish Girl was released last year.  It is based on the true story of Lili Elbe, who was one of the first people to receive gender reassignment surgery (GRS) back in the 1930s.  The story details her transition and its affect on the relationship with her wife.  I had not seen the movie before.  I had always meant to get around to it.  I am not sure why I chose last night to watch it, but that is what happened.

The movie is not perfect and has its flaws, but it gets a lot of things right.  There were several moments that I could feel both Lili’s pain and that of her wife, Gerda.  Aside from the sexual aspect of Lili’s transition (which is practically non-existent in my life), there were so many things with which I could identify, especially when it came to Lili’s feelings and the obvious strain on their marriage.  Being married myself, I have experienced firsthand the devastation a transition causes.  The fights, the tension, the negotiating.  It’s all real and palpable, and watching the movie reminded me how real that struggle has been.  Like any transition story, mileage varies, and Lili’s transition does differ from mine in many ways.  However, the need to be one’s authentic self in spite of the severe and everlasting consequences cannot be understated.  Watching this movie was like being slapped in he face, a stark reminder of the reality of my situation.

I cried and cringed several times, and I bawled during the closing credits.  Waves of emotion crashed against me.  I could not help be reminded of the struggles of the last two years.  Further, the fears I have of the future were renewed.  Who will love me?  Who will accept me? What have I done to my kids, my wife, my family?  Will anyone remember me when I die?  If so, how will they remember me?  As a woman or something else?  My recent bouts of isolation and depression fed into these fears, and I lost it.  I must have cried for about 20 minutes, but really I have no idea.  It wasn’t like I was watching the clock at 2:30 in the morning.  A friend of mine happened to be awake, so I vented on her a bit, and then I fell asleep on the couch.  I woke up after sunrise and an hour before I was to take my son to school, so I stayed up and took a shower.  I took so long in the shower, that my wife ended up taking him to school, and I went to bed for a few hours.  When my daughter woke me up, I was still very sleepy and exhausted.  I continue to be.

I do not know why I decided to watch The Danish Girl on this particular night, but I did.  I am happy I got around to it, but no matter what I do and how much things improve over time, I cannot help but watch a movie like this and be reminded of all the uncertainty I still have yet to face.  I have overcome many hurdles, but there are several more landmines ahead, and just the the thought of them challenges my resolve and heightens my fears.  I feel like I am on the verge of mental breakdown, but no one asks how I am doing.  At least Lili found internal happiness even if cost her everything else.  My search continues, and who knows how much more pain myself and the people around me must suffer for me to find that peace.  Such a cruel trade-off.

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