Way to celebrate International Women's day. *sarcasm*
The publication is now disputing her claim, stating that their reporter was "extremely sympathetic and courteous". Coming from a publication that frequently rips off other articles, publishes false information and doesn't bother with corrections or retractions... let's just say I'm skeptical. But they could be telling the truth this time. There could have been a miscommunication. My suspicions are just that- suspicions.
So instead of speculating let's talk about what this means, and how we need to respond.
While Lilly Wachowski is a semi-public figure (having co-directed The Matrix Trilogy among other things) she's entitled to her privacy just like everyone else. I hope that all journalists out there will respect her by not asking invasive questions, referring to her by the pronouns she's stated she now prefers, and leaving her alone if that's what she desires. We're not entitled to her story.
"My sister Lana and I have largely avoided the press. I find talking about my art frustratingly tedious and talking about myself a wholly mortifying experience. I knew at some point I would have to come out publicly. You know, when you're living as an out transgender person it's … kind of difficult to hide. I just wanted—needed some time to get my head right, to feel comfortable."
Ps- that gif is from Sense8, a Netflix series created by the Wachowskis.
Here's a hard truth: I spent most of my life being incredibly ignorant when it comes to trans rights and issues. I thought the old man-in-a-dress joke was hilarious. I was sure that everyone experienced gender the same way I do. And for a very long time I stubbornly held on to these views despite the fact that it was really hurting the people around me.
I take full responsibility for my own lack of self-awareness and knowledge. However, now that I've grown and expanded my understanding, I think it's my responsibility to share it (the same way we share new discoveries about medicine or mathematics). It's how humanity grows and it's how the world will become a safer place for trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming individuals. I hope that part of journalistic integrity includes sharing information in a way that helps people access and understand it, instead of spreading misinformation. False stories might spread easily and they're great click bait (there are chain emails out there that STILL won't die) but that doesn't make it the right thing to do.
This is a lesson it took me a very long time to learn: My experiences are my own. I will never know what it's like to be anyone but me.
Which means that I can't speak about the trans experience from the perspective of a transgender person. I am cisgender (which means that I identify as the gender that I was assigned at birth). I will always be speaking from that perspective. Which means that it's not enough for me to speak up. I also need to listen. I need to actively search for perspectives outside my own and accept that their perspective might be different from my own. And most importantly, I need to accept that I might be wrong.
It's really all right. Being wrong feels awful, especially when you find out that someone was hurt because of your mistake. But it's a natural part of learning. What matters is what you do next.
These are people, not punchlines.
I'm glad that lately more and more journalists are refraining from 'shock value' headlines and freak show narratives when it comes to reporting about trans people and trans issues. I hope that this is a trend that sticks around. Not just for people like the person I was, who will be absorbing these messages uncritically. For the people whose lives are actually affected by this negativity. Trans people don't often get wide platforms to make themselves understood because of social stigma, socio-economic factors, and institutional barriers. The power of journalism lies in magnifying the voices of the unheard, not in parroting the opinions of the oppressor.
Respect- Treat people the way they ask to be treated (the way *you* would like to be treated is a good place to start, but bear in mind that your needs are different from the needs of others).
Responsibility- If you have a platform as a journalist or otherwise, remember that these discussions are not hypothetical debates. They are about real people with unique lives and stories.
Humility- Accept that all of us are on our own paths, and at different stages, including ourselves. What's important is that we can all learn and grow.