Filmmaker Lilly Wachowski has publicly come out as transgender in a moving letter published by Chicago LGBT publication the Windy City Times. You know Lilly, 48, as the filmmaker behind The Matrix, V For Vendetta, Jupiter Ascending and, most recently, the Netflix series Sense8 — all of which she co-created with her sister Lana Wachowski, 50, who publicly came out as trans in 2012.
In her letter, Lilly — who also released the selfie above — reveals that she has been out in her private life for some time, but that she was forced to come out publicly after the Daily Mail threatened to out her without her consent.
She describes hearing her doorbell ring and answering it to find a Daily Mail reporter there asking for a statement about her gender identity before their story on her transition — horribly titled "SEX CHANGE SHOCKER—WACHOWSKI BROTHERS NOW SISTERS!!!" — went to press. Lilly decided to preempt the Daily Mail’s story and come out in her own words with a local LGBT publication instead. However, she makes it very clear that she’s coming out only because she was forced to — this wasn’t her choice. She writes:
“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.
"But apparently I don't get to decide this.”
Lilly also writes about discrimination faced by trans people worldwide and how she sees the term “transitioning” and the limitations of the gender binary. Her letter is well worth a read in its entirety.
The Wachowskis have been advocating for trans rights for years, both in the world — Lana received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award and the Freedom Award from Equality Illinois after she came out — and in their work. The Wachowskis’ Netflix series Sense8 features a lead character called Nomi, who is a trans woman played by a trans actress (Jamie Clayton) — a rarity for mainstream media, where trans women are often played by cis men (such as Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent or Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl).
Lilly’s letter is moving and brilliant and we should applaud her poise and strength. But let’s also take a moment to condemn the Daily Mail and other publications who out people for pageviews. Every person should be able to come out in their own time, in their own words, in their own way — and it’s horrible that Lilly had that right taken away from her. In her letter, Lilly details the suicide of a schoolteacher who was publicly outed by the Daily Mail. In some cases, outing someone really is a life or death matter — and the media, and the world, needs to do so much better.
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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at email@example.com.