In a candid statement to Chicago’s Windy City Times Wachowski, 48, formerly known as Andy, said she was going public about her gender reassignment sooner than she hoped because a Daily Mail journalist had attempted to coerce her into an interview about her transition.
Posting a self-portrait photograph, she wrote: “I knew at some point I would have to come out publicly. You know, when you’re living as an out transgender person, it’s … kind of difficult to hide. I just wanted – needed some time to get my head right, to feel comfortable. But apparently I don’t get to decide this.”
Wachowski, one half of the Chicago sibling partnership known for the Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, said she had already come out to family, friends and colleagues. She thanked Alicia Blasingame, her wife since 1991, for her love and support.
“Everyone is cool with it,” she wrote. “Yes, thanks to my fabulous sister they’ve done it before, but also because they’re fantastic people.”
Wachowski said the news had almost come out a couple of times when reporters had approached her agent about rumours, which she saw as “a threatened public outing against my will”. But it never did.
Then earlier this week a man, who said he was a Daily Mail journalist, approached her at home and tried to persuade her to tell him her story, she wrote. After he left, she said she had remembered the Daily Mail was “the ‘news’ organisation that had played a huge part in the national public outing of Lucy Meadows”.
In 2013, Meadows, 32, a primary school teacher and transgender woman, took her own life. The Daily Mail had previously published a column by Richard Littlejohn headlined: “He’s not only in the wrong body … he’s in the wrong job”.
It was reported at the time that a note left by Meadows made no mention of press intrusion, citing financial worries, bereavement and workplace stress. However the coroner was insistent that the unwelcome media attention had contributed, telling the press “shame on all of you” while criticising the “sensational and salacious” coverage.
A spokesman for DailyMail.com, the US digital version of Mail Online, said it “categorically denies that it in any way tried to coerce Lilly Wachowski into revealing her gender transition”.
“As Ms Wachowski herself says, we were not the first media organisation to approach her and we made absolutely clear at several points in the conversation that we were only interested in reporting the story if and when she was happy for us to do so and with her cooperation”.
The reporter was “extremely sympathetic and courteous” and Wachowski had agreed to call him the following day, he added. On Meadows, the spokesman said: “The Daily Mail did NOT ‘out’ her or hound her.
“The story emerged after the school wrote announcing the change to parents, some of whom contacted the local media because they were concerned their children might be too young to understand what had happened.” Her inquest had heard Meadows made no mention of the press, or Daily Mail, “in an extensive suicide note”, the spokesman said.
He added: “We wish Lilly Wachowski well with her journey though we are surprised as to how she has reacted, given the courtesy and sensitivity with which the reporter approached her.”
In her lengthy statement to the Windy City Times, a Chicago LGBT newspaper, Wachowski highlighted the difficulties faced by many who did not have the support she had.
“I am one of the lucky ones. Having the support of my family and the means to afford doctors and therapists has given me the chance to actually survive the process. Transgender people without support, means and privilege do not have this luxury. And many do not survive,” she wrote.
“In 2015, the transgender murder rate hit an all-time high in this country [the US]. A horrifying disproportionate number of victims were trans women of colour. These are only the recorded homicides so, since trans people do not all fit in the tidy gender binary statistics of murder rates, it means the actual numbers are higher.”
She added: “So yeah, I’m transgender. And yeah, I’ve transitioned.”
Lana, formerly Larry, Wachowski, 50, came out in 2012 and received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award that year.
Advocacy group Glaad welcomed Lilly’s statement. “Glaad is thrilled that Lilly Wachowski is able to be her true and authentic self today, however, she should not have been forced to disclose her transgender identity before she was ready to do so. Journalists must learn that it is unacceptable to out a transgender person, in the same way it is unacceptable to out a person who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” wrote Nick Adams, Glaad’s director of programmes for transgender media.
Lilly Wachowski’s transition comes amid a growing spotlight on transgender issues. Last year the reality TV star and Olympic gold medallist Caitlyn Jenner,formerly known as Bruce Jenner, became the most high-profile personality to come out as a transgender woman; she has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights.