Lana Wachowski on growing up transgender

Lana Wachowski, director of Cloud Atlas, describes in a speech delivered this week at the Human Rights Campaign’s gala fundraising dinner how she "once suffered a physical beating at the hands of a Catholic school nun after she failed to join a line of boys and nearly committed suicide as a young adult before being stared down by a man who wandered onto an empty subway platform where Wachowski was standing."

The Matrix auteur tells the crowd, “I don’t know why he wouldn’t look away, All I know is that because he didn’t, I am still here.”

Here's the video, at The Hollywood Reporter. The cheesy montage intro is skippable. The speech that follows from 5:35 onward is not.

Lana and her co-director brother Andy haven't done press or made any public appearances together in 12 years, and as she says in the speech, this was presumed to be have something to do with her gender transition.

"It does not," she explains. "We became acutely aware of the preciousness of anonymity, understanding it as a form of virginity—something you only lose once."

There's an extensive interview with Lana, Andy, and Tom Tykwer about Cloud Atlas here on THR.

(thanks, @somebadideas)


  1. It’s a really good speech. My favorite part was when she talked about how her parents handled her transition. I wish my parents had been one tenth as accepting of my transition as hers have been. It would have made things easier. Luckily, I have had several really good friends “adopt” me into their families.

    1.  My parents were okay with it, sort of. Though my dad didn’t want to be seen with me in public and my mom kept shoveling the guilt on me until I voluntarily disassociated myself from my immediate family. I never fully reconciled with them. My siblings are a bit more accepting but they too keep trying to make it all about them.

  2. The Rolling Stone article that focused on Buck Angel likely set back her desire to come out since they focused so much on the BDSM aspect of Lana and Ilsa’s relationship.

  3. Been there, done that Lana. I’ll never forget the time I was beaten by two guys in Houston and the police arrested ME on the grounds that I should have walked half a mile out of my way in order to avoid them. I was never charged with a crime but around ten pm, (that’s when the buses stopped running), I was released to walk home, bleeding, with what turned out to be a skull fracture and a bruised lung. This was after all of the police officers had gotten tired of ridiculing and humiliating me. My petition for redress was denied and my request to sue the city, (yep, you had to ask permission back then), was of course refused.

     The thing is, after Joe Solmonese, Barney Frank and the HRC threw transgendered Americans under the bus on ENDA in late 2007, I’ll never give that organization another dime of my money or another second of my time. Classy lady though Lana and congratulations on all of your success!

  4. something weird happening with the rss feed, the half dozen articles before this are nmow only showing up as links pointing to the original article site, not boing boing

    1. No, that’s normal. Those posts are short sniplets without a lot of editorializing or comment by BoingBoing’s editors, and the only way to get into the comments page is the little comment balloon icon. Those get posted sometimes.

          1. I can’t speak for the editors, of course. Maybe some of them originally did and then the person posting decided to reduce it to the more minimal posting style, I dunno. Suffice to say, that headlineless mini-posting format is normal.

        1. I don’t know that there isn’t a problem with the RSS feed specifically and it’s failing to render what little bit went with the link AT ALL, but if you look on the main page and see the clump of mini-posts, those are normal and editors occasionally post links like that without the normal headline+blurb’o’text treatment. It’s not as common as the typical post, but it does happen.

          I can’t remember seeing five in a row before, but I also wasn’t trying to remember that pattern either.

  5. Sorry for the off-topic post, but I can’t find the answer anywhere on the site. I read via the RSS feed and noticed a bunch of external links just started showing up in the feed. Is there a feed of just the BoingBoing posts? And why is there no link to the RSS feed anywhere on the site any more? It’s not even listed in the source. Is it going away?

      1.  I saw that. Do I just pick someone and email them? The only people whose job descriptions seem like they might include web support don’t have, like, BoingBoing email addresses, and I didn’t want to tweet @ someone haranguing them about their day job.

        1. For technical stuff that requires a fix, you can contact Rob or Dean. For general questions, account questions, etc, you can contact me. You can contact Disqus directly about Disqus screw-ups.

          1. I always just reply to a moderator in the thread with nasty comments alongside my question. I usually get attention and a response pretty quick. Not the response I want, or the attention, but…

  6. How did she and Andy get Newt Gingrich to take the role of Voice of the Machines in Matrix Revolutions?

  7. I think my most important recent realization came when I suddenly understood, oh, I don’t remember, some time in the last couple of years, that there are a lot of people, a sizable plurality, who experience ambiguity, any ambiguity at all, as a kind of migraine-like pain. If you tell them that an item that they can’t see is either black, or white, but you won’t tell them which, and they can’t find out, it’s a source of distress. If you tell them that it’s black and white or color, they have to know which or else it actually hurts. If you tell them that something is good in some circumstances and bad in others, they freak out on you, accuse you of lying, and demand that you just tell them whether it’s good or it’s bad. And if you tell them that some sentence is true in some circumstances and false in other circumstances, they just stop listening to you altogether.

    And, yeah, unsurprisingly, they turn out to also be gender essentialists who insist that everybody is born male, or born female, and nobody is ever one up until some point and then the other, or sometimes one and sometimes the other, or somewhere in between. You tell them that ambivalent gender exists, and/or that gender identity is socially constructed, and/or that transgender exists and has been documented in every human culture in history, they freak out and demand that you stop lying to them and just tell them: was that born a boy, or a girl? Boy? Then it’s a boy, dammit, stop making their heads hurt!

    And as with many mental illnesses or learning disabilities, I just plain have no idea what to do for those people. Or with them. Or about them.

  8. Beautiful beautiful beautiful!! How did she keep from crying while giving her speech? I certainly did not.

  9.  I watched that and literally cannot breathe. I had some very similar experiences as a kid and I went the other way, basically pushing it down for the last 30 years. I don’t know what I’m going to do now but it has given me a sliver of hope that things will be OK if I do decide to be true to myself.

    1. Make sure to surround yourself with an appropriate social support system. People who will accept you however you are. There are a lot of us out there. 

      Hope everything goes well.

      1.  That’s going to be the tricky bit I suspect. Even my gay friends are transphobic to put it lightly. But hearing this speech made me realise there are other options to the default of just hoping I’d magically wake up one day not feeling like this.

        1. You should watch My Transgender Summer on youtube. It’s from the UK. Great documentary and inspiring.

  10. This was so great! I’ve loved the Wachowskis ever since seeing The Matrix in the theater and had it turn my head inside out (I remember thinking — what is this feeling? Is this some kind of MK Ultra trigger or something?!) She is sooooo funny, what a sweetheart. I CAN NOT WAIT FOR CLOUD ATLAS!!!

  11. I loved her speech. I’ve also found that this is a great video to help explain human sexuality, what the difference is between sex and gender…and between sexual orientation and sexual behavior:

  12. This is a wonderful thing.  I almost never watch 25-minute content online, but this was well worth it.  Thank you Xeni for bringing it to us.

  13. Yes, this was probably one of the most relaxed and “from the heart” discussions on being who you are, trans, and living your life. There’s a lot I and my friends have related to in this short video and thank her for being who she is.

    I wished I could show this to a few folks (notably my dad) and let them know they are kind of like, on the wrong side of things. 

  14. The honesty, clarity and courage of this piece has me gobsmacked. Choosing anonymity for that time has clearly been good for her and for her (our!) cause.

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