When a celebrity as admired as Matrix co-director Laurence “Larry” Wachowski transitions from male to female, cracks appear in what many still view as the solid foundation of gender duality.
Larry, now Lana, Wachowski, grew up with a sense of “betwixtness” and all the confusion and bullying that came along with it. When she accepted the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award, Wachowski told the audience:
Here in the absence of words to defend myself, without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head — that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable.
The Wachowski brothers dropped out of university and started a construction business with little knowledge and a lot of bravado (think building an elevator shaft without plans). They were movie buffs from childhood and never stopped writing, eventually translating their fertile imaginations into the wildly successful movie, Matrix.
Lana married and gradually gained the courage to embrace her transgender identity. Still, the idea of telling her family was so traumatic she worked out a years-long plan with her therapist. Two weeks into it, her mother sensed she was losing her son and flew to Australia, fearing the worst. “Instead,” she told Lana, “I’ve just found out there is more of you.”
Lana told the Human Rights Campaign audience she won the lottery with her family, who embraced her as daughter and sister as they when she was son and brother. She married again, a woman she considers the love of her life.
Lana Wachowski reminds me how narrow my understanding of the spectrum of gender experience has been. I am grateful to her for sharing her experience. You can hear in her speech to HRC how much the loss of privacy costs her. She sacrifices it for the sake of transgender youth, “so that this world that we imagine in this room might be used to gain access to other rooms, to other worlds previously unimaginable.”
The Wachowski siblings open previously unimaginable worlds through their films. Lana Wachowski does that through her life as well, opening our imaginations to the breadth and richness of human experience. She gives me hope.