Lana Wachowski‘s speech upon accepting the Visibility Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s gala in San Francisco on October 20 is extremely moving, sad and inspiring. Her revelation of writing a suicide note while in high school isn’t easy to hear, let alone read and the issues she raises when it comes to the issues faced by someone growing up transgender isn’t something we can all relate to, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
While this isn’t exactly a topic of movie discussion some may feel it doesn’t belong in this space, but the reality of it is that if Lana Wachowski wasn’t a director, her story most likely wouldn’t be heard and would therefore remain silent and many of us remaining ignorant to the problems that affect a portion of society we don’t hear from regularly.
That said, you don’t have to watch the speech, which I’ve included below. You don’t have to read the transcript, which The Hollywood Reporter has placed online right here, but considering the strength it takes to say the things Lana said I felt the very least I could do was take a moment to make her words available in one more place.
For me, the stand out moment comes near the end when she talks about her family and the support her mother, father and brother (Andy Wachowski) have shown:
In Sydney, Australia, I finally came out to my family. When I told my mom what was going on, she jumped on a plane immediately. It was this big, tear-soaked baptism, and she confessed that she had been afraid to arrive and grieve the loss of her son. But when she arrived she found it wasn’t so much a death as it was a discovery. That there was this other part of me, an unseen part, and she felt it was like a gift because now she could get to know that part of me. [applause]
We went to dinner. I dressed as feminine as I could, wanting to be seen by strangers as Lana. Hoping that waiters would not call me “sir” or “he,” as if these people suddenly had the power to confirm or deny my existence. My mom is also a bit talkative. She always introduces herself to the waiter or waitress. And she’s like, “Hi, I’m Lynne. This is my daughter Lana.” And the waitress smiles and says, “Wow, she looks just like you.” [applause]
When my dad arrived he shrugged it off easier than accepting that his wife and daughter had once voted for Jane Byrne instead of Harold Washington [for Chicago mayor in 1983] — a choice that still rankles him today. He said, “Look, if my kid wants to sit down and talk to me I’m a lucky man. What matters is that you’re alive, you seem happy, and that I can put my arms around you and give you a kiss.” [applause] Having good parents is just like the lottery. You’re just like, “Oh my god, I won the lottery! What the — I didn’t do anything!”
I remember thinking about my dad’s words, his acceptance of me, when my wife and I first read about [murdered transgender teen] Gwen Araujo. It seemed impossible that something like that could happen so close to this city, yet here was this person like me murdered by ignorance, by prejudice, murdered by intolerance, it seemed in direct inverse proportion to the acceptance of my family. Murdered by a kind of fear that seeks to obliterate any evidence that the world is different from the way they want to see it, from the way they want to believe it to be.
Invisibility is indivisible from visibility; for the transgender this is not simply a philosophical conundrum — it can be the difference between life and death.
A few short weeks ago after my coming out, the three of us, Tom, Andy and I were being interviewed, one of the reporters ventured away from the subject of the film towards my gender. Imagine that, a reporter. My brother quickly stepped in, “Look, just so we’re clear,” he says, “if somebody asks something or says something about my sister that I don’t like, understand that I will break a bottle over their head.” [applause] Few words express love clearer than these.
Watch the full speech directly below.
Lana and Andy Wachowski directed The Matrix trilogy and have Cloud Atlas coming out this weekend, which they wrote and directed with Tom Tykwer. For more information on that film click here.