Study Guide

The Danish Girl Gender

By David Ebershoff

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The Danish Girl is your average everyday boy-meets-girl, boy-becomes-girl, girl-meets-boy story. Okay, someday that will be a more average story as trans people gain more acceptance and visibility in society, but The Danish Girl will never be an average story because Lili Elbe was the very first person to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. Yeah, she's kind of a big deal. They didn't even have words to describe it then, which is why we have a whole book explaining what her process was like.

Questions About Gender

  1. How do Einar and Lili conform to the gender norms of the time period? How do they defy them?
  2. Does Greta fall into a traditionally female gender role? Or is she a blend of male and female herself?
  3. What kinds of reactions do Einar/Lili receive when they talk about their gender? Do you think these reactions are realistic? Would people react the same today or differently?

Chew on This

Because Einar isn't shamed for wanting to explore his feminine side, he feels comfortable pursuing his transition.

Although sex and gender aren't always linked, Einar is both male and female because he possesses a pair of ovaries. The technical term is intersex, FYI.

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