In October of this year, the Human Rights Campaign awarded Lana Wachowski with their “Visibility Award.” And as problematic as that organization, or even the name of that award is, i want to interrogate the media coverage of the event. On October 24th, the Huffington Post posted an article covering the event along with a video of Lana’s acceptance speech. Adorably, this was apparently her first public speech. Unfortunately, however, the article was titled “Lana Wachowski, Transgender ‘Cloud Atlas’ Director, Reveals Painful Adolescence, Suicide Attempt.”
Suicide doesn’t even get mentioned by Lana until the end of minute 22 in the video. Not only is it not the thrust of her narrative, this minor point also overshadows some really brilliant bits of perspective. She quips about the gender binary is “not comfortable,” and her “responsibility” to her community. She talks about “loving anonymity” as an artist, which is fairly profound and unique. She has interesting thoughts on the performativity of gender and visibility that are informed by her stellar work on identity. She talks about the materiality of language. And one of my favorite quotes, “The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequence of our words and deeds. The fundaments upon all our knowledge and learning rests is the inexplicable.” Goddamnit, why is the focus suicide here?
She’s no longer allowed to be the pseudo-mysterious, intelligent paint brush behind acclaimed films, no, now she’s relegated to the one parcel of her story that is already embedded into public consciousness. We, as society, do not have a template for fierce, brilliant, beautiful, successful, poignant trans* women, but we do know how to map depression and needing to be fixed onto the image of trans* people. The Huffington Post not only did a disservice to Lana’s story, they did a disservice to all trans* folks be reifying the link to this narrative. By singling out the one aspect of her story that has been heard before and ignoring all the beautiful variance within, they take part in minimizing trans* experience down to a narrow and pathetic stereotype. We’re cast as needing to be fixed and lifted up. i think we can do better.