Lana Wachowski’s Remarkable Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award Speech

Lana Wachowski’s astonishing, warm, funny speech at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in San Francisco is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m glad to see it get passed around so widely today:

One of the things that’s so remarkable about Lana’s address—in addition to its artlessness, the result of her first major stint as a public speaker—is the way it addresses the inadequacy of everything from the gender binary, to our media culture, to the language we use to describe ourselves. She’s supporting HRC’s work even as she’s calling out the limitations of the current conversation about and tools for advancing equality. When she first uses the term “transition” to describe her physical transformation, she notes that “this is a very complicated word for me because of its complicity in a binary gender dynamic that I am not particularly comfortable with.” Lana explains that she has a horror of talk show culture because she can’t stand the idea of dealing with a host “whose sympathy underscores the inherent tragedy of my life as a transgendered person.” Recounting an incident in which her mother rescued her from the abuse of a nun at her Catholic school, Lana says that when her mother asked for an explanation of what happened, Lana explains “I have no real language to describe it…I am unable to understand why she can’t see me” And given the flights of imagination in her movies, Lana explains how difficult it was, as a child, to feel like “I was stupid and a liar because I myself was unable to imagine a world where I would ever fit in.” The world, in so many ways, is not enough. And the tools we have to improve it can only take us so far.

Lana’s explanation of her own approach to her coming-out process is also novel in an era when coming-out stories have become a highly valuable commodity with an established roll-out process. She’s approaching it from an extremely different angle, from the perspective of someone who has carefully guarded all aspects of her life to the extent of doing almost no publicity for her movies with her brother. “I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it seemed that my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others,” she says of her childhood. “If I can be that person for someone else, then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.”