“I’m transgender”: Lilly Wachowski makes a statement

Photo: Lilly Wachowski via Windy City Times

There are announcements. There are statements. And then there are statements like Lilly Wachowski’s.

The two filmmakers who created “The Matrix” were know at the time as Larry and Andy Wachowski. Both have now transitioned from male to female. Lana announced her transition in 2008 and Lilly, yesterday.

Hollywood figures have publicists and announce things in a disconnected and ritualized way — remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling“? But Lilly Wachowski is no shrinking violet, and she has the experience of her sister Lana’s transition to help. So, after being hounded by a reporter from the Daily Mail, she decided to make the announcement on her own terms. The result is a personal statement unlike any you’ve ever read. Excerpts:

. . . Then last night while getting ready to go out for dinner my doorbell rang. Standing on my front porch was a man I did not recognize. . . . He proceeded to explain he was a journalist from the Daily Mail . . .

After he had given me his card, and I closed the door it began to dawn on me where I had heard of the Daily Mail. It was the “news” organization that had played a huge part in the national public outing of Lucy Meadows, an elementary school teacher and trans woman in the UK. An editorial in the “not-a-tabloid” demonized her as a damaging influence on the children’s delicate innocence and summarized “he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.” The reason I knew about her wasn’t because she was transgender it was because three months after the Daily Mail article came out, Lucy committed suicide.

And now here they were, at my front door, almost as if to say—

“There’s another one! Let’s drag ’em out in the open so we can all have a look!”

Being transgender is not easy. We live in a majority-enforced gender binary world. This means when you’re transgender you have to face the hard reality of living the rest of your life in a world that is openly hostile to you.

I am one of the lucky ones. Having the support of my family and the means to afford doctors and therapists has given me the chance to actually survive this process. Transgender people without support, means and privilege do not have this luxury. And many do not survive. In 2015, the transgender murder rate hit an all-time high in this country. A horrifying disproportionate number of the victims were trans women of color. These are only the recorded homicides so, since trans people do not all fit in the tidy gender binary statistics of murder rates, it means the actual numbers are higher.

And though we have come a long way since Silence of the Lambs, we continue to be demonized and vilified in the media where attack ads portray us as potential predators to keep us from even using the goddamn bathroom. The so-called bathroom bills that are popping up all over this country do not keep children safe, they force trans people into using bathrooms where they can be beaten and or murdered. We are not predators, we are prey.

So yeah, I’m transgender.

And yeah, I’ve transitioned. . . .

Filmmakers tell stories. Lilly Wachkowski told her own story, in the first person. She’ll be dragged through the mud publicly, but she spoke on her own terms.

The statement also includes this passage:

But these words, “transgender” and “transitioned” are hard for me because they both have lost their complexity in their assimilation into the mainstream. There is a lack of nuance of time and space. To be transgender is something largely understood as existing within the dogmatic terminus of male or female. And to “transition” imparts a sense of immediacy, a before and after from one terminus to another. But the reality, my reality is that I’ve been transitioning and will continue to transition all of my life, through the infinite that exists between male and female as it does in the infinite between the binary of zero and one. We need to elevate the dialogue beyond the simplicity of binary. Binary is a false idol.

This might seem academic and stilted and new-agey to you. But if you have any queer, nonbinary, or transgender people in your life, you understand. Life is nice and comfortable when there are two boxes, male and female, and everyone must check one or the other. It’s easier if you don’t have to think about it. But the boxes limit us. Trans people bust those limits and end up in place that make the two-boxes people uncomfortable. That discomfort is where the hate come from. But the truth is, when you look at the boxes, they’re not as real and rigid as you think they are.

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  1. But . . . isn’t transitioning from one gender to the other just moving from box one to box two? How does this make the boxes any less “rigid”? Rather, it seems to make them more so.

    1. Forget it, I see Lily has answered my question already in the article. She does not agree that “To be transgender is something largely understood as existing within the dogmatic terminus of male or female.” Many transgender people would disagree with her on that, though. Many do see it as moving from one box to the other.