“The editors of these publications didn’t print a story that was only salacious in substance and could possibly have a potentially fatal effect,” Lilly Wachowski, who co-directed “The Matrix” trilogy under the name Andy Wachowski, wrote in a lengthy statement to the Windy City Times, a Chicago LGBTQ publication. “And being the optimist that I am, I was happy to chalk it up to progress.”
But when a man claiming to be a Daily Mail reporter showed up on her doorstep earlier this month, Wachowski, 48, decided to make public what was known already to her friends and family: Like her sister Lana Wachowski — who co-directed “The Matrix” under the name Larry Wachowski — she is a transgender woman.
“So yeah, I’m transgender,” she wrote. “And yeah, I’ve transitioned. I’m out to my friends and family. Most people at work know too. Everyone is cool with it. Yes, thanks to my fabulous sister they’ve done it before, but also because they’re fantastic people. Without the love and support of my wife and friends and family I would not be where I am today.”
The news was stunning. The sibling visionaries behind “The Matrix” — one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history — as well as “Bound” and “Cloud Atlas” had done their very popular work while struggling with their identities. And now that they have both gone public, they join Caitlyn Jenner among the ranks of the most famous transgender women in the world.
“To ‘transition’ imparts a sense of immediacy, a before and after from one terminus to another,” Wachowski wrote. “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.”
The scolding Wachowski offered the Daily Mail also shined a light on the paper’s alleged insensitivity toward people in transition. Wachowski cited the case of school teacher Lucy Meadows, a trans woman who killed herself in 2013 months after she was scorned in an editorial by Richard Littlejohn in the paper, which then faced protests and calls for Littlejohn’s firing.
“Miss Meadows may well be comfortable with his/her decision to seek a sex-change and return to work as if nothing has happened,” Richard Littlejohn wrote in the paper — which has reportedly removed the editorial, now reposted here. “The school might be extremely proud of its ‘commitment to equality and diversity.’ But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.” Littlejohn added: “He’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.”
In her statement, Wachowski returned to the story, saying she feared the headline “Wachowski Brothers Now Sisters” — and slammed the Daily Mail.
“The reason I knew about [Meadows] wasn’t because she was transgender it was because three months after the Daily Mail article came out, Lucy committed suicide,” Wachowski wrote. She added: “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!'” (The Daily Mail did not immediately return requests for comment.)
The LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD said that reporters covering transgender people must be more responsible.
“GLAAD is thrilled that Lilly Wachowski is able to be her true and authentic self today, however, she should not have been forced to disclose her transgender identity before she was ready to do so,” Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Programs for Transgender Media, said in a statement. “Journalists must learn that it is unacceptable to out a transgender person, in the same way it is unacceptable to out a person who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual.”
GLAAD also produced a tip sheet for journalists covering the Wachowski story.
“DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective,” the tip sheet read. “Lilly Wachowski is a transgender woman. DON’T use transgender as a noun. For example: ‘Lilly Wachowski is a transgender.’ DON’T use ‘transgendered.’ Transgender never needs an extraneous ‘-ed’ at the end. DON’T use ‘transsexual’ or ‘transvestite.'”