Lilly Wachowski on Sharing Her Trans Journey: "You're Not Always Going to Change People's Minds"
The filmmaker reveals how Netflix and Warner Bros. executives responded to her transition.
Less than a month after publishing a statement with Chicago's LGBT outlet Windy City Times and coming out as transgender, Lilly Wachowski walked the blue carpet in Beverly Hills at the 27th annual GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday.
It served as the first public appearance since the revelation by the filmmaker — best known for work like Bound, the Matrix franchise, Cloud Atlas and current Netflix series Sense8, all collaborations with trans sister Lana Wachowski — and if it sounds like a quick coming-out party, that's exactly what Lilly says it was.
"This is a little fast for me," she noted during a five-minute interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the carpet prior to the ceremony. "I didn't feel obligated to be here, but I wanted to do something. And it's serendipitous that the awards were a couple of weeks later and our show was up for an award."
The award, for best drama series, was won later on in the evening with Lilly accepting on behalf of the creative team behind Sense8. "Ta-da," she would say, playfully making light of the major moment in front of cameras (the GLAAD Awards air tonight on Logo) and a diverse audience that included two pop stars, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas, Oscar winner Patricia Arquette and Emmy- and Grammy-winner Queen Latifah.
The lighthearted moment drew laughter and cheers, and on the carpet Lilly made sure to applaud the work of GLAAD, specifically its director of programs for transgender media, Nick Adams, whom she noted had "a super calming influence" in leading her to come out on her own terms — as much as she could after being ambushed by a reporter for The Daily Mail on her doorstep looking for a scoop about her transition.
"There is a political aspect to coming out, particularly for someone in my position, and I was acutely aware of that," Lilly noted. "In some ways, it's a burden, but I know that I would have to come out at some point and I wanted to do it in such a way that I could help as many people as I could."
Even if she got stung a bit in the process, it was important. she says.
"It's like pulling the Band-Aid off by being here," Lilly explained. "But that's what I'm doing. I'm here."
By being present, she was able to witness many significant moments during an entertaining, if not emotional, GLAAD Awards ceremony, even if hers was perhaps the most compelling. Another one, though, unfolded when the winner of best reality program was unveiled.
E!'s I Am Cait and TLC's I Am Jazz tied for the trophy, bringing respective stars Caitlyn Jenner, 66, and Jazz Jennings, 15, in front of cameras to share the stage where they offered gracious, unscripted acceptance speeches.
Jenner relayed how "honored" she was to win alongside a beaming Jennings, and their positioning next to one another displayed the diversity of the trans experience from two very different ends of the spectrum — one is a conservative Republican with a world-famous family, the other a teen YouTube star who has been open about her transition on national television since the age of 6.
Caitlyn Jenner accepts the award for outstanding reality program during the 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 2, 2016. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for GLAAD)
"All people deserve to have a family like my family," said Florida-native Jennings, joined by her mother Jeanette. Jenner made no mention of the Kardashians, but she did name-drop her TV family of trans stars that includes Jenny Boylan, Zackary Drucker and Candis Cayne, all of whom joined her onstage.
Those sisters were also on hand to open their arms to a new family member in Lilly, many of them said. "She will sit next to me tonight," Boylan told THR prior to meeting Lilly for the first time. "We want her to know that there is a community that welcomes her and has her back."
Drucker echoed that statement: "Whenever a new member of our community emerges, it's so important to treat them as family. We are a family, even when we don't necessarily agree, the diversity of opinions strengthens us."
Saturday night should serve as a "lesson to the world" that trans people come in all variations, from Jenner and Jennings to the Wachowskis and others in between, said Carmen Carrera. "There isn't one specific type of trans person," she added. Alexandra Billings, a regular on Transparent, offers that there is strength in numbers: Alexandra Billings: "We are in the middle of a major revolution — one that I haven't seen since Stonewall. The trans community is at the forefront."
The Wachowskis are the most famous Hollywood filmmakers to come out as trans, and the fact that they are siblings who both transitioned shouldn't make it any more of a story, Boylan added. "The story should be how great it is that someone has found the courage to come out," said the author and political activist. "Lilly doesn't live in the same world that some other people live in, but the right to live the life that you love should not be predicated upon by your privilege, wealth or geography. Everybody should be able to live their lives with dignity and peace, whether you've made The Matrix or not."
Despite their success, the Wachowskis have never fully embraced Hollywood. "We have such a weird relationship to the Hollywood community. We're such hermits and curmudgeonly, we live in Chicago, not only because it's a great city but there's a nice insulation between all of that," said Lilly. "But everybody that we've worked with that I told were absolutely amazing and fine with [my transition]."
Among those were executives from both Netflix and Warner Bros., the latter of which released the sisters' most recent film, Jupiter Ascending. Both companies allowed Lilly to skip the respective premieres and press opportunities so she could transition in private.
"It's hard to speak about the whole community of Hollywood, but I can say the people at Warner Bros. were fabulous and the people at Netflix were extremely gracious and protective," she recalled. "Warner Bros. had done it before with my sister and I think they had a clock in their head and they knew it would take six months to a year for me and they backed off."
But following the statement of her transition, Lilly said the love has been pouring in from friends and former colleagues. "I got a nice note from Carrie Anne Moss," she said of the actress who played Trinity in the Matrix films. "Notes from a lot of people who I hadn't heard from in a long time."
Thought it's clear she has positively affected those with whom she has a close relationship and even those she doesn't (she received a standing ovation during the awards), Lilly explained that even she doesn't know what the lasting effects her story will have on the world.
"I'm just one person, and I don't know if me being here will help people in North Carolina and encourage them to stop pushing through idiotic and horrifying legislation. Change is slow in coming — it's very glacial," she said. "You're not always going to be able to change people's minds. There's nothing you can do but wait for them to move to the next world."