(From my m-b-s autobiography Life and Soul – cheapest at Amazon.)
I call it surge. I first experienced it by proxy watching Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew, as healer, moralist, and possible avatar, Jesus of Nazareth, starts on his mission of performing miracles and rounding up apostles. It also appears, in a wonderful expression of it, by Richard Dreyfuss, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the wondrous Steven Spielberg film. I’ve experienced surge myself several times. A drivenness, on autopilot, into high risk with a sense of holiness rampant, whirling dervish ecstasy, a mission, inevitability, helplessness … in the hands of Providence, in the arms of Chance … music can have it: the rolling third movement of Mozart’s 39th symphony does it for me. Willing thralldom, flying free, and O the soaring strings, the sounding brass … headstrong, heartstrong, soulstrong, beyond death into the eternal flow … Gloria in Excelsis … sacred and profane … lost, pell-melling with love … soaring firebird to the stars … heedless mystic questing, eyes glistening, roseate with light … Lord of the Dance, of the Firmament, of Eternity … it’s heady ascension to spirit, free wheeling, anarchic, dangerous, no safety- net, compulsive … at its heart is passion, in its head conviction, in its soul love … it’s heroic and epic … ever feeling the loose, hip, quickening and ever onward, ever upward … fearless amid dread.
THE DANISH GIRL
Lili Elbe 1882 – 1931
Both film and novel are partly fictitious takes on the true story of a pioneer man-woman transitioning. We’re in 1920’s Copenhagen with a happily married young couple making a modest living as painters … Einar with his sombre landscapes and Greta with her popular portraits. Greta’s working on a portrait of Anna, their opera singer friend, and, because Anna can’t make one of her sittings, Greta asked Einar to wear her shoes and stockings, and then her dress: He looked down at his shins, the silk smooth except for a few stray hairs. … The yellow shoes looked too dainty to support him, but his feet felt natural arched up, as if he was stretching a long-unused muscle. And later … He liked the dress, and he could nearly feel the flesh beneath his skin ripening. … Einar quickly pulled the dress over his head, adjusting the lap. He was sweating in the pits of his arms, in the small of his back. The heat was making him wish he could close his eyes and return to the days when he was a boy and what dangled between his legs was as small and useless as a white radish.
Later, when Einar’s female persona is named Lili, she stands naked before a mirror, bends, and gathers the genitalia and pushes them back between her thighs, then glories in the neat bush.
The film was very affecting … if anything constrained – no burlesque clichés, at moments overwhelming. I welled up twice, cried twice … a first for me. I was moved by Einar’s gradual escalation amid Greta’s steadfast devotion. The set pieces were movingly dramatic rites of passage: public violence, the first boyfriend, the first job.
Lili is on a surge.
Greta, too, is experiencing a transition of her own as she stands by her … woman. Alicia Vikander won an Oscar this year for supporting actress and Eddie (Stephen Hawking) Redmayne deserved one for leading actor.
The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff and dvd – autobiography Man Into Woman posthumously published 1938
‘The Gender Identity Research and Educational Society (GIRES) estimates that about 1% of the British population are gender nonconforming to some degree. The numbers of trans boys and trans girls are about equal.’
‘’GIRES’ purpose is to improve the lives of trans and gender nonconforming people.’
‘The current growth rate in the number of people who are presenting is 15% … 1,200 per annum who undertake transition to a new gender role.’
‘The number who have presented is doubling every six and a half years. Gender variant people present for treatment at any age. The median age is 42.’ (GIRES website)