Lilly Wachowski, who created the Matrix trilogy alongside her sister Lana, has publicly come out as transgender. While this should be cause for celebration (representation is almost always positive), Wachowski was unfortunately not afforded the opportunity to come out in her own time. Although her friends and family knew and were “cool with it,” she had intended to wait longer before opening up about her identity to the public. But a Daily Mail journalist approached her in an attempt to write her story. The Daily Mail was responsible for outing transgender school teacher Lucy Meadows in 2013. The article written about Meadows was sensationalist and offensive – even the headline misgendered her. Shortly thereafter she committed suicide. The Daily Mail has specifically stated that they had no ill intentions with approaching Wachowski, but Wachowski understandably took the journalist’s presence in her life as a threat and chose to come out on her own terms while she was still able.
Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are trans media figures who use their influence to highlight the struggles of the larger trans community
Although it’s wonderful that Lilly Wachowski is now able to live her authentic self in the public eye, her coming out story is tinted with a dark reminder that the media can and often is wielded against transgender individuals. For example, while Caitlyn Jenner has received massive amounts of attention since her coming out, little coverage is given to the black and lower income transgender individuals who are much more representative of the trans struggle. Transgender Americans are four times more likely than cisgender Americans to live in poverty. They are also twice as likely to be unemployed. In 2012, 90% of transgender individual reported facing harassment, abuse, or discrimination while working. Even scarier? The average lifespan of a trans woman of color is 35 years old. Under these circumstances, it’s no wonder that Wachowski feared exploitation by a tabloid, despite her career as a successful filmmaker.
It is downright irresponsible for the media to continue hailing a privileged few transgender individuals while also refusing to expose the reality of the majority of the community. If we are to create safe spaces for greater representation, we must first understand and accept the root of the very problem we are trying to fix. It’s not enough to appreciate and support the most privileged members of a community – we and the media must do more.