Lilly Wachowski — who, with her sister Lana, co-directed The Matrix trilogy and created Sense8 — has come out as transgender in a statement to the Windy City Times. The Chicago native filmmaker who formerly went by Andy has released the statement four years following her sister’s public appearance after transitioning. In 2012, Lana Wachowski came out, and explained — when she received the Visibility Award for the Human Rights Campaign— that she had once “felt like [her] dreams were foreclosed simply because [her] gender was less typical than others” and said that if she could be a role model “for someone else, then the sacrifice of [her] private civic life may have value.”
Now, in Lilly Wachowski’s statement, Lana’s sister expresses some deeply helpful and wise words about how the world’s narrow views on and ignorance toward trans issues needs to shift, while also asserting very understandable reluctance to totally relinquish her privacy to the press. For, though the statement itself is an exceedingly emboldening read, it doesn’t just offer inspiration: Lilly discusses the fact that she’s not coming out exactly because she was ready, but rather because she feared the Daily News was about to do it for her, not on her own terms.
For this reason, following the statement, the Windy City Times emphasizes that “GLAAD and other LGBT organizations strongly condemn the outing of a transgender person before they are ready to tell their own story.”
Lilly Wachowski writes that recently her doorbell rang and she was greeted by an English man who told her he was a reporter and that she should share her “inspirational” story with the Daily Mail. She claims she’d formerly, before this very unwanted visitor showed up, expected the news would come out — and had even written a “statement that was one part piss, one part vinegar and 12 parts gasoline” about it just in case, but ended up thinking she wouldn’t have to use it. But after this man showed up she recalled a former outing of a UK transgender woman (elementary school teacher Lucy Meadows) by the same paper that was not only tactless, but also immensely harmful. She writes:
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 so, instead of letting them break the news to the public without her words and not on her own terms, she wrote this statement, acknowledging both her sister, her wife and her family and friends for their support. She continues:
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…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…We are not predators, we are prey.
She speaks, presumably, of the ultimately vetoed legislation in the likes of Kentucky, Virginia and South Dakota and a similarly proposed measure in Tennessee that would require “that a student use student restroom and locker room facilities that are assigned for use by persons of the same sex as the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.”
The statement is also crucial in its following words, in which Wachowski begins to break down some of the myopic ways transgender lives — and, honestly, the lives of people living under any gender label — are thought of. She says “there is a lack of nuance of time and space” in the words “transgender” and “transitioned”:
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.
She quotes José Esteban Muñoz, queer theorist and author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics and Cruising Utopia: the Then and There of Queer Futurity. Lilly says she “long[s] for understanding of queer and gender theory but it’s a struggle as is the struggle for understanding of [her] own identity,” but she finds this particular quote from Cruising Utopia “resonates”:
“Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality for another world.”
“So,” Wachowski concludes, “I will continue to be an optimist adding my shoulder to the Sisyphean struggle of progress and in my very being, be an example of the potentiality of another world.” Yes, that certainly resonates.