A transgender woman whose life has inspired a controversial film, Girl, has defended the production against its critics.
Nora Monsecour wrote an oped in The Hollywood Reporter declaring, “Girl tells my story in a way that doesn’t lie.” The film follows a 15-year-old Belgian dancer, Lara, as she trains to become a ballerina and prepares for gender-confirmation surgery.
Girl sparked criticism among some LGBTQ critics after being nominated for a Golden Globe in the foreign film category last week. The movie was called “trans trauma porn” that “should be avoided at all costs” by Into, in response in part to a graphic scene of self-mutilation.
The blog owned by Grindr also pointed to the cisgender director, Lukas Dhont, and the cisgender actor who portrays Lara (Victor Polster), the fictionalized version of Monsecour, as other problematic elements.
"It's sadistic exploitation made for uneducated cisgender audiences to feel like they get it," summarized Oliver Whitney in a previous column for The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "It's the most dangerous movie about a trans character in years.”
"Netflix’s Girl is Dangerous and Doesn’t Deserve an Oscar," echoed the title of a piece for Out, The Advocate's sister magazine. GLAAD, the LGBTQ media watchdog, did not comment on Girl, but did promote these reviews in a Twitter thread.
The oped responded to many of these criticisms. Of Girl's cisgender director, Dhont, Monsecour wrote, “while our personal journeys were different, Lukas understood my uncompromising need to be true to myself. I often think about how powerful it felt to learn that people of such different backgrounds can still relate to each other.”
Dhont, she asserted, is “a cis director who believed that my trans story deserved to be heard. A human being that loved someone so much, he dedicated 10 years of his life thinking about how to tell her story.”
And of the controversial scenes labeled as problematic, Monsecour said, “Girl is not a representation of all transgender experiences, but rather a retelling of experiences that I faced during my journey.”
“We made a film with some hard, honest scenes,” Monsecour continued. “Scenes that might be disturbing to watch, but that are crucial to show. I do not want to sugarcoat my experiences or hide away my darkest thoughts. I shouldn’t have to — they are real and not uncommon in the trans community.”
Monsecour also delivered a message directly to Girl’s critics:
"Those criticizing Girl are preventing another trans story from being shared in the world, and are also attempting to silence me and my trans identity," she said, adding, "To argue that Lara’s experience as trans is not valid because Lukas is cis or because we have a cis lead actor offends me."
Girl is the Belgian contender for foreign-language film category at the Academy Awards. It won several awards at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, including the Caméra d'Or and the Queer Palm.