Lana Wachowski, who directed the Matrix trilogy with her brother Andy and came out as a trans woman in July, accepted a visibility award at the Human Rights Campaign gala in San Francisco.
In Wachowski’s moving acceptance speech, which she started saying ‘[I] haven’t given a speech ever’, she spoke candidly about childhood struggles to understand which gender she belonged to and when she nearly committed suicide during her high school years.
‘I am told to get in line after a morning bell, girls in one line, boys in another,’ Wachowski said recounting a memory from her Catholic elementary school.
‘I walk past the girls feeling this strange, powerful gravity of association. Yet some part of me knows I have to keep walking. As soon as I look towards the other line, though, I feel a feeling of differentiation that confuses me. I don’t belong there, either.’
At high school Wachowski described how she was ‘without examples, without models’ and so ‘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 loveable’.
Wachowski talked about writing a four-page suicide note to her parents one day after high school saying ‘I really wanted to convince them that it wasn’t their fault’ before nearly jumping underneath a subway train. ‘Just as the platform begins to rumble suddenly I notice someone walking down the ramp,’ she said. ‘It is a skinny older old man wearing overly large, 1970s square-style glasses that remind of the ones my grandma wears. He stares at me the way animals stare at each other. I don’t know why he wouldn’t look away. All I know is that because he didn’t, I am still here.’
Wachowski then described how ‘years later I find the courage to admit that I am transgender’. She talked about meeting her current wife ‘the first person that has made me understand that they love me not in spite of my difference but because of it’. She described coming out to her parents and their acceptance of her. ‘Having good parents is just like the lottery,’ she said. ‘You’re just like, “Oh my god, I won the lottery!”’
Wachowski’s concludes her well-received speech saying:
‘I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others.’
The filmmaker, who didn’t do a press interview for 12 years after the Matrix to protect her privacy, then said: ‘If I can be that person for someone else then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.’
The Wachowski siblings latest film Cloud Atlas, based on the David Mitchell novel, is released in the US tomorrow (26 October).
Watch the speech here: