It must take a special type of woman to be married to a cross dresser. Do they turn a blind eye? Put a lock on their clothes cupboard? Do they go along with the thrill of it all? Are their minds full of deep suspicions? Do they accept this aspect of their husband’s personality. These themes are explored in a film I have recently seen called “The Danish Girl”. The film is based loosely on the life of Lili Ilse Elvenes, who was born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener. Lili married Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, and they married in 1904, when Gottlieb was 18 and Wegener was 22. Elbe started dressing in women’s clothes one day filling in for Gottlieb’s absentee model; she was asked to wear stockings and heels so her legs could substitute for those of the model. Elbe obviously took to wearing women’s clothing. The way the films portrays Gerda and Lili’s relationship, is that from the start it was a “game”… a game for thrills, to see how things could go. The introduction of this new ingredient in their marriage is bound to have an impact. Lili/Einar suffer terribly, as he/she faces the fact that he is a woman caught in a man’s body. Gerda suffers as she comes to the realization that the game has moved on and she now has to face the fact that she is losing her husband, who is not the person she married. Gerda does however benefit from the fact that her paintings of Lili, suddenly elevate her artist’s career. However going by what we see in the film, she does accept losing her husband in an almost saintly manner. We have to remember that this is a film set in a time when ignorance prevailed, most doctors perceiving Lili/Einar as being perverted or insane. These are pre-David Bowie days.
Lili finally concluded his/her salvation is to go the full way and become a fully-fledged woman, even entertaining the idea of being able to have a child. Consequently she opted for sex reassignment surgery, which was experimental at the time. Sadly this led to her death.
Grayson Perry, like Lili is an artist. There may be some discernable differences between the two. Perry is married and has a child. From an early age he liked to dress in women’s clothes and in his teens concluded that he was a transvestite. The artist first borrowed a dress from his sister when he was 10-years-old, but never told her why. The artist says that his alter-ego Claire – whose style is inspired by Little Bo Beep, “the crack cocaine of femininity” – gives him a certain level of anonymity.
Aging is a constant battle, Grayson Perry says Trannies go through this horrible cycle,” he said. “When they’re really young and just post-pubescent, they can look gorgeous as a woman – you’re fairly androgynous, you’re thin, you just look good. Grayson Perry’s wife is a psychotherapist, quite a useful métier, not surprisingly Grayson Perry’s childhood was fraught with family problems.
Why does he cross dress? Because I feel compelled to, I suppose,” he ventures. “It gets me excited. A whole raft of feelings, really. It’s not just an erotic thrill. It’s also kind of like a coming-home.”
Other known cross dressers include J. Edgar Hoover’s femme name was apparently “Muriel”. Herman Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe in WW II, was also a crossdresser and partial to silk nightwear.
Comedian/actor Eddie Izzard describes himself as “a straight transvestite or a male lesbian”. He has also described himself as “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body and “a complete boy plus half girl”
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