Published on August 6th, 2012 | by Nicola Marchant0
Movie Monday: Hollywood’s First Transsexual Director is Here
Several months ago Tom Gabel, the lead singer of punk rock band Against Me! Announced that he was changing his name to Laura Jane Grace and living the rest of his life as a woman. Dishearteningly, fans’ reactions ranged from judgement, horror at risk of their favourite rock band becoming ‘feminine’. Thankfully, others found her an inspiration: it was the first time the music industry has seen such a high profile figure come out in such a manner.
Now it’s Hollywood’s turn. Last week Larry Wachowski, one half of the Wachowski brothers – most well known for directing The Matrix – announced himself as transsexual. She is taking female hormones and has started dressing like a woman in public; she has styled her hair into a maneof hot pink dreadlocks and now goes by the name of Lana. Unlike Gabel, who has had others transgender musicians preceed him (albeit not as high profile), Wachowksi is the very first of her kind – Hollywood has never before had a transsexual director.
It is a phenomenal step for an industry who, despite being wryly known as an organisation predominantly run by gay men, is still covertly awash with sexism: Only 5% of directors working in Hollywood are women, and out of last year’s Oscars board members, 77% were male. Since their beginning in 1927, only one woman has ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This is an industry whose foundation grew from the ‘star system’; an exploitative framework where actors and actresses were moulded by studios like puppets for the purpose of revenue. Classic Hollywood had its tragic tale of Rock Hudson: a gay man who was packaged as a ladies heartthrob and so spent his entire life concealing his true sexuality. The system may have changed since the 50s, but bigotry is still very much embedded in Tinseltown’s values. Jodie Foster famously remained closeted for years, too afraid that coming out would ruin her career. Many actors at the topic of speculation respond to their accusations with shameless homophobia and vicious lawsuits.
The battle for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights is a tug of war that subjects every human rights supporter to a constant pendulum that swings between optimism and defeat. For every world leader outing their support for same sex marriage, there is a national brand that denounces it.
Industry insiders have known that Wachowski has been transsexual for over a decade – but only now are the general public aware. It is a shame. Had Lana belonged to an industry accepting homosexuality and transsexualism as a norm, perhaps she would have come out long before now. She would bump the female director contingent to 5.01%, and one of the biggest sci-fi movies of all time would have had a women at its helm, along with the critically acclaimed V for Vendetta and 90s Noir Thriller Bound.
But, despite of this, her courage for doing so still marks change for LGBT equality in Hollywood. Her coming out as been a relatively quiet one; as of yet, she has not publicy discussed her transition. Nonetheless, her potential as a role model should not be ignored. As Barack Obama’s announcement for supporting equal marriage paved the way for several big name rappers to follow suit, then perhaps Wachowski’s transition will inspire the LGBT community working in the film industry, so future actors, actresses and filmmakers won’t have to live out their careers in secrecy.
If the upcoming collaboration between the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker; Cloud Atlas tickles the fancy of the Academy Awards, perhaps she could be the 2nd female in history to win a Best Picture Oscar, and the first ever transexual to do so. But hopefully not the last.
Nicola Marchant - @nicolamarchant