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Feb 09 2012

Cloud Atlas and The Lana Wachowski Wiki War

There’s a beautiful, wonderful, intricate novel I love called Cloud Atlas. I’d probably be willing to put it in my top ten novels list, if I had a top ten novels list. Do I have a top ten novels list? Maybe I should have a top ten novels list. I’m going to write one more sentence ending in top ten novels list.

It’s structured as six separate stories, nested inside one another like Matryoshka dolls. Each story hops across genres, and moves forward through time. The first is a 19th(?) century journal of a man sailing in the south Pacific, then an epistolary set of letters sent from a bisexual composer exiled in Belgium in the early 20th century to his ex-boyfriend back in England as he becomes embroiled in a complicated love affair and struggle to complete his own masterpiece, then a sort of mystery thriller in the mid 20th century as an investigative journalist unravels a cover-up of flawed safety precautions in a nuclear power plant, then a comedy of errors in present(ish) day as a publisher finds himself mistakenly imprisoned in a nursing home, then a dystopian ultra-corporate future cyberpunk version of Korea where a cloned slave for a fast food chain develops self-awareness and rebels for freedom, and finally a post-apocalyptic (very post, no one even remembers what happened) distant future Hawaii where industrialized civilization has long since collapsed and the few surviving humans are living tribal, pre-agrarian lives.

The stories move forward, getting cut off at crucial points and revealed as a story being followed by a character in the next section, until the middle of the novel, at which point the last story is told completely through, then we start moving backwards into the completions of each story until finally ending on the one we started with: The Pacific Journal Of Adam Ewing.

It’s absolutely, staggeringly, breathtakingly awesome. You should read it. Now. Right away. Before something I’m about to tell you about happens. It’s written by David Mitchell.

No, not this David Mitchell:

Totally different David Mitchell. But that one is awesome too. If you haven’t seen the Homepathic A&E sketch, you haven’t lived.

Right… so the other David Mitchell, the novelist one, he’s one of my favourite living writers. Right up there with Kazuo Ishiguro and Ben Marcus. So I got a little nervous when I heard there was going to be a film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, which has now finished principal photography and is in post-production. It will star Tom Hanks, Halle Barry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant and lots and lots of other folks.

What the…? How the hell do you make a film adaptation of an experimental, multi-genre novel with nested plots unified by nothing but thematic elements?

I also found out the director is Lana Wachowski. She’s one of the directing duo formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers. You know… the ones who did The Matrix. And some other stuff too, I guess.

(THERE WERE NO SEQUELS)

Anyway, what interested me is that the press releases regarding Cloud Atlas have all referred to Lana by her new name, and seemed to consistently refer to her by the correct pronouns as well. This shouldn’t seem all that remarkable, but there’s a pretty strange history regarding the manner in which she has been referred, and the peculiar silence surrounding her transition. You see, up until now, there had been absolutely no public acknowledgment of her transition.

Lana Wachowski on right, at Cloud Atlas wrap-up shoot

 

Lana Wachowski seemed to choose to take a fairly quiet, low-key approach in how she chose to deal with transitioning as a public figure. I completely understand. It has to make things pretty difficult when you’re a famous Hollywood director, responsible for one of the most successful and iconic films of all time, and you have a massive, dedicated fan-base. Things have never gone well for people who choose to transition in the public eye. Renee Richards is a pretty tragic example. It seems that generally, the only way to really deal with it is to keep it all as quiet as possible, like Wendy Carlos did. And Lana Wachowski seemed to have chosen that path. Makes sense.

But where it gets strange is the degree to which her fandom refused to actually acknowledge that this was really going on. They clung to the concept that it was a rumour for years, long after a significant amount of evidence had surfaced indicated that Lana was indeed transitioning. Photographs existed of her presenting as female, the manner in which she was credited with her brother shifted from “The Wachowski Brothers” to simply “The Wachowskis”, her own scripts and documents and stuff began bearing her new name as a watermark, and everyone who knew her personally was willing to attest, in a quiet and non-scandal-raising way that yes, the stories were true. But still her fans clung to the concept that it was a rumour, sometimes arguing in great anger with people who insisted it was the truth.

What became especially interesting was the wiki edit war that ensued. Editors frequently attempted to update the pronouns and name by which she was referred on her wikipedia page, and include references to her transition, only to have other editors convert the page back again. This occurred over and over and over again for a comically long period of time.

Fans of the Wachowskis seemed dead set on denying, ignoring and suppressing the truth that one of their favourite creators was transsexual.

It reminds me in a way of the manner in which people have reacted to information about the gender identity of PFC Manning, the military whistle-blower who leaked an unprecedented amount of classified documents to wiki-leaks, exposing considerable illegal activity perpetrated by their superiors in Iraq. An abundance of information has emerged indicating that Manning was absolutely intending to transition upon being discharged from the military, but their capture and incarceration prevented that. The media, however, has been extremely silent on the issue of Manning’s transgenderism, even when the issue of gender identity disorder was raised in testimony during the (still ongoing) trial.

Yet the media have been very willing to discuss Manning’s sexual orientation, happily painting the issue as being about “gays in the military” rather than the actuality, and turning Manning into a poster-child for something they never really were. Even Manning’s supporters, those who regard them as a hero, have consistently used masculine pronouns and often coat their praise of Manning’s actions in heavily macho, jingoistic language: “Here’s a real man. If only all men had his courage, and were willing to do so much for their country”. Many of the same supporters exhibit a similar extreme level of denial in the face of the evidence that Manning is transgender as the denialism exhibited in regards to Lana Wachowski.

Even in one of my own posts (the 13 myths one, part one) in which I mentioned the silence around Manning’s gender identity and being painted as “gay”, a commenter felt compelled to assert that it wasn’t true, Manning wasn’t really trans and there was no evidence. I then presented some of the abundance of evidence. The commenter, despite having been proven wrong on a significant point (his claim that the only evidence was the Lamo chat logs, which isn’t true), he pressed on asserting that the significant amount of other evidence was insufficient and couldn’t really be trusted.

Why the hyper-skepticism applied to the possibility that people’s heroes can be trans? Why does it seem so impossible for some of us to accept the reality that someone we admire falls outside our expectations about gender? Are the concepts of “transgender” and “admirable” really so incompatible within our cultural consciousness that we adamantly reject their overlaps against all reasonable evidence?

And there’s something especially saddening about the way that the denials of Wachowski and Manning’s genders reads as though defending against accusations of some scandalous, horrible flaw. As though in saying these two people are trans we must be disparaging and attacking them. That it’s an act of character assassination (discussions of Wachowski and Manning’s gender have both been directly claimed to be that). As though being trans would somehow strip them of their accomplishments and deserved recognition. The fact that being trans is seen as so awful that our knee-jerk response is to see its suggestion as an insult or denigration is heartbreaking.

But where I find hope is the fact that not all of Wachowskis fans can possibly turn their backs on her. You can’t just suddenly pretend The Matrix never happened. I’m not a big fan of her work myself, but I know that it’s a part of our shared cultural memory. And now that her publicity materials for Cloud Atlas are openly referring to her as Lana, the fact of her gender can no longer be dismissed as simply a rumour. The fan-boys are going to have to accept that someone they loved and admired is now transgender. And some of them are going to learn from that, and grow. They’re going to accept that trans people exist, and that we contribute, we participate. We have talents and make art and sometimes accomplish great things, just like anyone. Some of those fans are going to learn to regard us as just a little bit more human.

There will be some backlash, I’m sure. And some awful things will, and have already been, said. But the net gain is in the right direction. A few more people will take the red pill and disconnect from the matrix of cisnormativity.

Ow. That metaphor hurt my writer parts.

 

70 comments

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  1. 1
    Anders

    I can understand the people who see it as ‘defending’ Wachowski and Manning to some degree, and I’m already cringing from the backblast to this post. There are a lot of incorrect stereotypes about trans people and being associated with these stereotypes could probably hurt someone’s career. I’m not saying that it is correct, or good, but as character assassinations go it might be effective. But I’m not familiar with Hollywood culture to really say.

    Please don’t kill me.

    Why did you feel the need to point out that there was only one Matrix movie? I thought everyone knew that. I’ve always wondered why there were no sequels to Highlander, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that it would probably have been a badly written hodge-podge of nonsense.

    1. 1.1
      Emily

      https://xkcd.com/566/

      *cough*

      I find it somewhat offensive that society at large tends to see being called trans as offensive. In the end, all that really does is just serve to hurt us.

      I’m glad Lana has been able to transition without the media exploding in her face. Her fans will just have to get it beaten into them that trans is not an insult, and being trans does not tarnish a person’s achievements.

      1. Anders

        I agree with you. It is offensive that society at large finds it offensive to call someone transsexual. Yet it is so.

        If being trans was no big deal there would be no drama in coming out. Almost all trans people wouldn’t to deal with Potential Traumatic Events, 64% of trans people wouldn’t have depressive symptoms and 17.8% wouldn’t have full-blown Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (http://tmt.sagepub.com/content/17/2/56.abstract). The corresponding figure in military veterans is 1.2% (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19413031). Yet there it is.

        I argued that it would probably be rather effective if someone ‘accused’ say Mitt Romney or Barrack Obama of being trans people. That we live in a world where saying that someone is a transsexual is a ‘character assassination’. This as much a cause as an effect of transphobia. And that people who see that may think they’re doing the right thing when they ‘defend’ their idols from such accusations. Hell, a few years ago I might have done the same thing myself.

        And I agree that an effective way of dealing with this is to point out the transphobia implied in the response. Make them think about what they just said.

        Just a few clarifications.

      2. Tualha

        Bwaha, I’d completely forgotten that strip. One of the best, too.

        Please pardon the offtopicality, but who is that incredibly cute anime character in your icon? Looks like the daughter of Nenene Sumiregawa and Maggie Mui (best pairing ever!).

  2. 2
    Cynthia

    The most interesting part of this post for me was that I was unaware of the sexuality of the people you mentioned. And knowing it now, it still doesn’t really matter to me. It’s not my life that is affected by their choices/needs/decisions. It’s theirs and none of my business.

    I like her movies – period. I don’t care if the movies are by a transsexual person – not my business. She’s got an immense imagination and the ablity to put a vision on the screen – so cool! I know myself to be completely unable to do that, so I admire it. That anyone would be upset because she chose to be who she really is appalls me.

    Who are these people, to think they can dictate to others how to feel? It’s ridiculous! Life is a banquet; how can you tell someone they can only order off a small menu when there’s all those choices/options/needs? And why does it matter to them so much? It really seems that people are…afraid of transsexuals. And I don’t understand that anymore than I understand being afraid of atheists.

    1. 2.1
      nats

      Not trying to start a fight, but being trans has nothing to do with sexuality.

  3. 3
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    I just have to say… I love her hair XD

    1. 3.1
      Human

      That’s the exactly same thing i thought of first.

    2. 3.2
      beardofpants

      Me too! ^_^

    3. 3.3
      HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

      That was my first reaction to the pic as well. ZOMG CUTE HAIR. Also, her top looks possibly very cool too.

      /in a clothing and hair rut.

    4. 3.4
      Miri

      I’m also going to jump on the “her hair is cool” bandwagon.

  4. 4
    Ace of Sevens

    To be fair, I seem to remember Lana Wachowski living with a professional dominatrix during transition (no idea if they’re still together). Also, there’s been a long history of false rumors of cross-dressing or intersexuality being used to discredit people that someone didn’t like (J. Edgar Hoover and Jamie Lee Curtis come to mind) and she didn’t speak about this publicly until recently, so I can see why people might assume the rumors were being made up by transphobes who didn’t like the Matrix sequels, especially since they were mixed with such salacious details. At least, i can see why they would initially interpret things this way. It’s been in flat-earth territory for the better part of a decade now.

  5. 5
    Cluisanna

    Whoa, I never knew Bradley Manning was trans*. This has literally never been mentioned in the (German) media I read.
    I read the cloud atlas some time ago, and I felt pretty meh about it… it was interesting, but seemed kind of pointless. Then again, I am really hard to satisfy ;) Now I have to read it again for the movie – oh well.

  6. 6
    Alasdair

    “And there’s something especially saddening about the way that the denials of Wachowski and Manning’s genders reads as though defending against accusations of some scandalous, horrible flaw. As though in saying these two people are trans we must be disparaging and attacking them. That it’s an act of character assassination (discussions of Wachowski and Manning’s gender have both been directly claimed to be that).”

    True, but it would be a mistake not to recognise that in the case of Manning at least, hir gender status and sexuality (I’m going to sidestep the issue by using gender-neutral pronouns) *has* been used as a means of character assassination by the right wing. You don’t have to look far to find plenty of people arguing that Manning is either homosexual or transgender and as a result is variously weak, a sissy, suspicious, duplicitous, and so on. Of course, when Manning’s supporters fiercely deny those allegations, it only reinforces the impression that being homosexual or transgender are things to be guilty about. What they should be saying is that it *doesn’t matter* how Manning identifies – zie’s a hero all the same.

    As for the Wachowskis and Wikipedia, I’m an occasional Wiki editor myself and I do remember trying to keep the rumours about Lana out of the article when they were simply rumours. Wikipedia has a strict policy that contentious material about living people can’t be included without a proper source, and this was certainly contentious. (Again – no, being transgender *shouldn’t* be a bad thing, but many people treat it like it is.) More recently, once there were better sources, I’ve been happy to include it; but I also rearranged the article on the Wachowkis to make sure it focused on their filmmaking achievements first and only later on Lana’s gender. After all, making movies is what they are actually famous for; their genders are much less important by comparison.

    1. 6.1
      Anders

      You don’t have to look far to find plenty of people arguing that Manning is either homosexual or transgender and as a result is variously weak, a sissy, suspicious, duplicitous, and so on. Of course, when Manning’s supporters fiercely deny those allegations, it only reinforces the impression that being homosexual or transgender are things to be guilty about. What they should be saying is that it *doesn’t matter* how Manning identifies – zie’s a hero all the same.

      Thank you for saying what I tried to say in my first reply, only shorter and better.

  7. 7
    Rasmus

    You can actually read some of the argumentation from both sides of the edit dispute on the talk page.

    It looks like a lot of the people who refused to edit the article were well-meaning people who thought of themselves as protecting a someone who’s going through a rough time. It also looks like they were formally right according to Wikipedia’s standards.

    Anything that someone puts on Wikipedia that’s not confirmed by a reputable source can and should be challenged and removed. A person is not considered a reputable source about him/herself, because it’s thought that that would mean that a person could edit their own Wikipedia page to their liking by using references to their own blog or other social media. If you want something about you to be on Wikipedia you have to get what Wikipedia considers a reputable source to say it for you. It seems that Lana didn’t do that until 2011 (correct me if I’m wrong).

    So the people who were reverting the true edits were actually right. There was really nothing else they could do.

    1. 7.1
      Cluisanna

      But that’s really stupid! I mean, I understand that you shouldn’t be able to edit your wikipedia page regarding accomplishments, prizes, etc, but do you really always have to find a person to interview you if you want to say something personal, e.g. what your feelings about your art are?

      1. Ace of Sevens

        You don’t really know who is editing a page. This policy was implemented largely because quite few people would try to whitewash their pages by saying good things about themselves, then citing themselves as a source. It was perhaps defined too broadly as self-identification is the main standard for a lot of issues in biographies of living persons.

      2. Rasmus

        That’s a good question, and it seems my memory is wrong and that Wikipedia’s guidelines pretty much agree with you.

        From the Wikipedia guidelines for biographies.

        Using the subject as a self-published source
        Further information: WP:SELFPUB

        Living persons may publish material about themselves, such as through press releases or personal websites. Such material may be used as a source only if:

        it is not unduly self-serving;
        it does not involve claims about third parties;
        it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject;
        there is no reasonable doubt as to its authenticity;
        the article is not based primarily on such sources.

        These provisions do not apply to autobiographies published by reliable third-party publishing houses, because they are not self-published.

        That sounds reasonable.

        If those are their rules you would think that at least the name change would have been official by Wikipedia’s standards when she edited her IMDB profile with her new name.

        1. Ace of Sevens

          IIRC, your memory isn’t wrong. The guidelines have been revised to deal with the problems caused by earlier versions.

  8. 8
    Nepenthe

    *puts on Wikipedian hat*

    There are two things I think are mildly relevant. 1) Wikipedia is full of assweasels of all sorts. 2) With regards to Wikipedia, it pretty much had to happen this way. The ideal we hold up, especially for articles about living people, is for no potentially controversial information about a person to be included without a reliable source. We can’t look at photographs and infer people’s genders from them, as some of the editors were attempting to do. We generally can’t accept blogs as sources. Ms. Wachowski’s strategy was certainly the best for her but put Wikipedia in the (very mildly) awkward position of having to omit/deny the obvious facts because until press came out properly identifying her, we were stuck. (We get stuck on a lot of these sorts of things. It took us ten years to get the founder’s birthday right.)

    None of which is to say that the cissexism of the editors involved wasn’t obvious and horrible and that this wasn’t far too drawn out. Wikipedia is a great place for assweasels to paddle their douchecanoes down lazy rivers. There is, though, an aspect of the situation that’s a bug to how Wikipedia operates. Usually the policy works great and no one famous is accused of murder or being dead, but in this case… ugh.

    *takes off Wikipedian hat, which looks suspiciously like a pedantic assweasel hat*

    OMG Cloud Atlas is going to be a movie!!! By the directors of The Matrix, no less. *squee*

    1. 8.1
      Nepenthe

      Sometimes I look at what comes out of my mouth and I just want to sew it shut and break all my fingers.

      Re: murders or being dead, those are things that vandals have actually put into articles that weren’t true and that Wikipedia has subsequently been sued for, not things that are as potentially defaming as being trans*.

    2. 8.2
      Ace of Sevens

      Just read the talk page. Ugh. It seems like the driving concern was good documentation, there was some real sexism in there, too. Also, it seems to have taken her a while to settle on a girl name. (She previously used Laurencia and Linda, at least.) Part of the reason you don’t want to don’t want to take unofficial names is you don’t know if they’ll stick.

  9. 9
    Anders

    The Internet Movie Database seems perfectly fine with her transition. Mentions her birth name was Laurence Wachowski but otherwise makes no mention of it. Isn’t that really how undramatic we would want things to be?

    1. 9.1
      Ace of Sevens

      IMDB is more behind the scenes. You don’t necessarily know what it took to get it that way. Unless her agent had it changed, there was probably a dispute until such time as she had a definite credit as Lana. IIRC, IMDB is a good enough source to update Wikipedia. All this argument happened while IMDB listed Larry.

      1. Nepenthe

        We still frown upon IMDb and it definitely shouldn’t be used to source controversial information about living persons. It’s a point of perennial discussion though.

        1. Anders

          Who are “we” and why do we frown upon it?

          1. Nepenthe

            Sorry, I forgot to put my Wikipedian hat back on. We is Wikipedia, why is that, as far as I understand it, the site is a more formalized and oversighted wiki. The content is user generated, perhaps by the person’s agent, perhaps by me, perhaps by my cat knocking against the keyboard. We don’t consider a source “reliable” unless it has editorial oversight.

          2. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

            IMDB also allows anyone on the Internet to edit it (in the same way Wikipedia does) which makes certain attribution of reliable info problematic.

  10. 10
    beardofpants

    I had no idea that she was trans. I’m not sure if that was because of the cone of silence/wiki-fu/black-out or whether it’s because I’ve consistently ignored the Wachowskis ever since the monstrosity of the Matrix sequels. :/

    1. 10.1
      Anders

      There were no sequels. Please report to the nearest self-termination booth.

  11. 11
    Alt+3

    I actually liked the Matrix sequels. I’m not sure what everyone’s problem was with them. Aside from maybe the part where Neo shuts down the sentinels remotely. They did a pretty piss poor job of explaining the mechanics of that.

    1. 11.1
      Chris Hallquist

      I sort of agree–except that Neo’s new powers were a total deal-breaker for me. Not allowed to violate the rules of your own fictional ‘verse like that.

      1. athorist

        Well, if the sentinels are part of the matrix (which wouldn’t really make much sense, but that’s how I saw it), I can sort-of buy Neo having power over them. And he did go into a coma afterwards, so it’s not like it’s something he could do every time. It makes about as much sense as Smith being able to possess people.

        I can see why you’d DisContinuity the sequels. You could probably salvage one decent movie from them. (The burly brawl is good, and I liked the scenes in Reloaded that were done in matrix-code. But holy fuck, the Zion orgy – WHY?)

    2. 11.2
      Miri

      I’m going make myself extremely unpopular, and say I think they all, including the first one, kind of sucked. I wrote this on a forum a few months ago, explaining why, well, it’s a stupid bit of action-fluff filled with plot holes and based on an incredibly dumb and nonsensical premise. As a work of visual art, it’s incredibly beautiful, but a film, which is inherently a narrative medium, it’s a bit of a failure (despite being very successful… to my endless bemusement).

      1. Natalie Reed

        Did you miss the bit where I said “I’m not a fan of her work, myself”? ;)

        1. Anders

          Hey, I wanted explosions, kung fu and gunfire and I got exactly what I wanted. Sure, there were plot holes large enough to drive a Super Star Destroyer through but I’m quite happy to suspend my disbelief for a healthy dose of violence and Hugo Weaving.

  12. 12
    Chirico

    “Cloud Atlas and The Lana Wachowski Wiki War” sounds like the next Harry Potter, except instead of a tale of wizards trying to save the world, it’s about internet drama.

  13. 13
    Anders

    Oh, one more thing – I bet that any time a movie of hers flops from now on a significant part of the mediasphere will imply that this is because she transitioned. “Transitioning may have been good for her personally, but no artistically” kind of stuff.

    Do I hear any takers?

    1. 13.1
      AnonyMaNonny

      I know of a scientist (female to male transition) whose colleague mentioned that his work was much better than his sister’s (i.e. the person did not know of the transition). Meaning that, in addition to transphobia, there will be sexism to deal with. Apparently, being the same person is not enough to ensure that the work will continue at the same quality and that the resulting gender didn’t change anything!

    2. 13.2
      Miri

      There’s no point, the odds in favour of this happening are 1:1, with 0:1 against. The only thing you could bet on really, is when this will happen… :/

  14. 14
    Chris Hallquist

    Photographs existed of her presenting as female, the manner in which she was credited with her brother shifted from “The Wachowski Brothers” to simply “The Wachowskis”, her own scripts and documents and stuff began bearing her new name as a watermark, and everyone who knew her personally was willing to attest, in a quiet and non-scandal-raising way that yes, the stories were true.

    All this is fair, except for the first bit about “presenting as female,” since gender presentation /= gender identity. Until reading this, I had never doubted the stories about the elder Wachowski dressing as a woman, but it wasn’t clear (to me, as someone who wasn’t following the issue closely) whether she was a transwoman or a male-identified transvestite.

    More broadly, I’d urge some sympathy for the journalists and Wikipedians here. I agree that B. Manning is probably a transwoman, but journalists and Wikipedians are supposed to deal in verifiable facts and reliable sources, and from that point of view there’s a difference knowing that someone was talking to a gender counselor, and a clear public statement to the effect of “I am a woman and would prefer to be referred to by female pronouns.”

    In the Manning case, the fact that they’re a criminal defendant creates huge headaches for a journalist. For one thing, journalists will want to be careful about assuming the authenticity of chat logs that are being used as evidence in a trial where the defendant is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. The fact that Manning’s has limited ability to communicate with the media also sucks.

    What would you have journalists do in cases where the facts are, to a degree, unclear?

    1. 14.1
      Anders

      What would you have journalists do in cases where the facts are, to a degree, unclear?

      Couldn’t they have reported the rumors as rumors?

      “There are persistent rumors that Laurence Wachowski is a trans woman, and thus more accurately referred to as Lana Wachowski. However, no official source has confirmed or denied this.”

      1. Nepenthe

        *wikipedia hat*

        We don’t do this for a number of reasons. Some are editorial. (Rumors regarding celebrities are constant, vicious and generally not relevant to their notability. We can’t possibly keep up with the deluge of pure crap from the rumor mill. But that’s for rumors in general.) Mostly, they’re with respect to sourcing. Unless the rumor itself has been reported in a reliable source, we’re up the same creek with no paddle. And if we can’t source the rumor or the claim in the rumor, someone can try and sue us.

        Why actual journalists (and Wikipedia is not journalism) don’t do this, I dunno.

        1. Anders

          Good points. I withdraw my objection. And the reasons that professional journalists don’t do this are probably similar.

          *tries to think of more objections*

  15. 15
    Sour Tomato Sand

    I had no idea Manning was trans. Now I’m even more depressed about Manning’s prospects when they end up in a military prison. And all because Manning was brave enough to expose war crimes.

    I myself was Army intelligence for five years, and you’d think we’d all be the best and brightest, but we’re definitely not. Some of the worst sexist, classist, racist (or any other negative -ist really) bastards I’ve ever met were MI branch. And some of the worst backlash against Manning was by my fellow clearance-holders. I admit I would never in a million years be brave enough to do what Manning did– those espionage laws are disgustingly broad, and something as simple as losing your security clearance can ruin your life, since most of us plan on staying in the field after we get out of the military.

    And on top of all that, Manning has to deal with gender identity issues. All the more respect to them.

  16. 16
    Donovanable

    This is literally the first time I had heard Manning was a transwoman. Granted I grew up without a TV and lived in the south when the story broke (so mainly newspapers and NPR for news). But I’m shocked I’d never heard it mentioned.

  17. 17
    Natalie Reed

    A couple clarifications:

    The main point here is the attitude of the fans, the reaction, the emotional investment in denying Lana Wachowski’s gender.

    Also, as for Manning: the evidence, as I said, goes well beyond the Lamo chat logs. It’s also been introduced into the trial by the defence, so claiming journalists can’t cite evidence being used against Manning in trial doesn’t hold.

    By the way, I’ve been poking around trying to figure out who is playing who in Cloud Atlas. So far all I know for sure is that Tom Hank plays Dr. Goose (who I think I recall is a character in the Adam Ewing sailor story), Whishaw is playing Robert Frobisher (the exiled young composer), Barry is playing Meronym, a character in the distant-future arc and Doona Bae is playing Sonmi-451, the hero in the dystopian sci-fi story.

    If I had to guess, I’ll assume Hugo Weaving is Ewing. I have NO idea who Hugh Grant is supposed to be, as he’s too old to be Frobisher’s lover, too young to be the older version of Frobisher’s lover, much too young to be Cavendish, and too good-looking, well-groomed and nice-teeth to be the hero of the distant-future Sloosha’s Crossing story.

    Susan Sarandon is also going to be in it. Maybe as Luisa Rey? But that seems silly, given that Rey is very clearly supposed to be hispanic. And Ian McKellan too, maybe. He’d probably be the elder lover, or Cavendish.

    1. 17.1
      Chris Hallquist

      What exactly have Manning’s lawyers been saying? From the link provided in the OP, it doesn’t sound like they’ve said anything so straightforward as “Manning has told us she identifies as female.” If they had said that, it would be an easy call for the journalists, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Manning isn’t able to make any such statements. They can’t access the media. However, records of Manning making very explicit statements to others before being turned over by Lamo are available. As far as I know, the defense is saying that Manning suffers from Gender Identity Disorder. That’s about as explicit as it can possibly get. I don’t see why Manning standing up and saying “Yeah, I identify as female” to someone makes all that much of a difference at this point, especially since there are records of Manning saying exactly that in other contexts. We’ll see what happens if the GID ends up being central to the trial if/when Manning is called as a witness.

        It’s worth noting that the media have been more than eager to describe Manning as gay, even though Manning never openly identified as that at all, and it has considerably less evidence than does the gender identity thing.

    2. 17.2
      Rasmus

      Extrapolating from the Wikipedia talk page about the Wachowskis the fans probably had a wide range of separate reasons. Some were probably well-meaning people who felt that they were helping by suppressing rumors and perceived attempts to out her before she would be ready to do that herself.

      I think a lot of people are incredibly challenged by the idea that the standard rule of thumb that describes the identities of ~85% of the population fairly well is just a rule of thumb and nothing more than that.

      Combine that rule of thumb with an inflated sense of order and self-righteousness, and there you go… A transphobe.

      Then there’s the mental illness angle to it. When something is called a mental illness most people seem imagine a broken person who’s beyond repair.

      I should say that the above is me projecting everything I thought I knew about the world at age 18 onto the *phobes…

  18. 18
    BrianX

    There’s nothing quite so screwed up as a culture whose stated first rule is “Ignore all rules” but is filled with people who regularly try to come up with reasons it doesn’t apply. I’ve gotten into arguments with people over sources just because they personally don’t like them — I’m reminded of a particularly pigheaded beer aficionado who absolutely would not accept any American-published materials on the subject. And despite the Essjay incident several years back, I feel pretty safe in saying there’s still people playing the credential game.

  19. 19
    ws

    There was agood article in the australian skeptics magazine about the resilience of misinformation. The basic premise is people have a tendency to keep an idea if there is no viable accurate information. Emotionally loaded, fequently heard ideas are even more resilient. The trick is to dismantle an idea and then fill the vacuum with the correct information. Part of dismantaling an idea is to remove the emotional content. My thoight then is while the debate occurs on wiki, capacity to reduce the emotional content is nil and rather than filling a vacuum with correct information, the vacuum is filled with both correct and icorrect information. It probably won’t end as an argument sinceif a sizable number of americans still believe he was born outside america despite the publication of his birth certificate i can’t imagine fan perceptions changing without irrefutable evidence (i’ll post the details of the article from australian skeptics). It’d be a shame to hate on the matrix or the potentially great films directed by lana in the future only because how she identifies hurts your sensibilities

  20. 20
    Anders

    Also, as for Manning: the evidence, as I said, goes well beyond the Lamo chat logs. It’s also been introduced into the trial by the defence, so claiming journalists can’t cite evidence being used against Manning in trial doesn’t hold.

    Why the hell would they do that? It seems completely irrelevant to the case as I understand it (and as a Swede I don’t understand it very well). Unless they’re trying for insanity defense which would be disgusting and inaccurate at the same time.

    If I had to guess, I’ll assume Hugo Weaving is Ewing. I have NO idea who Hugh Grant is supposed to be, as he’s too old to be Frobisher’s lover, too young to be the older version of Frobisher’s lover, much too young to be Cavendish, and too good-looking, well-groomed and nice-teeth to be the hero of the distant-future Sloosha’s Crossing story.

    Susan Sarandon is also going to be in it. Maybe as Luisa Rey? But that seems silly, given that Rey is very clearly supposed to be hispanic. And Ian McKellan too, maybe. He’d probably be the elder lover, or Cavendish.

    This is Hollywood. Why are you treating it as if it was absolutely true to the source material? You can’t do a movie that way – it would probably be unwatchable. Different media, different rules.

    1. 20.1
      Natalie Reed

      The presence of Manning’s GID could provide a very reasonable argument that the time presently served falls under cruel and unusual punishment, which could be instrumental in achieving a reduced and more humane sentence. It can also be used to suggest a sort of “under mental duress” defense, yeah, not via the GID directly (which would be ridiculous), but by saying the presence of GID contributed to stress and depression, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to say.

      1. Anders

        Okay.

        Cruel I can see, but unusual? Forcing her to spend years in potentially very dangerous circumstances before she can get potentially life-saving treatment?

        Unfortunately, I don’t see how that is unusual at all. :(

        1. Natalie Reed

          I don’t mean the time served in military. I mean the past year and a half or so (?) of incarceration in a men’s prison being denied necessary medical treatment and allegedly being severely mistreated by guards and inmates alike.

          1. Anders

            Actually I was making remarks about the terms which a trans person must face before getting treatment…

          2. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

            The process of transitioning itself might be abstrusely construed as punishment, but it’s not been enforced upon Manning by his incarceration. “Cruel and unusual punishment” clearly refers to Manning’s treatment; denial of medical treatment for her GID falls under that rubric.

          3. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

            *D’oh, still managed to misgender her*

  21. 21
    Michael Brew

    I was wondering why they called a brother and sister The Wachowski Brothers. Though it does roll off the tongue better than The Wachowski Siblings, I suppose.

    As for PFC Manning, the most gracious explanation I can come up with is that the journalists are going with the current, legal gender. I would imagine journalists would be wary of changing how they refer to a person even based on personal preference, and if they’re only hearing a defense claim that Manning suffers from Gender Identity Disorder, it makes it very easy to say “Oh, this guy is just deluded into thinking he’s a woman, like people with multiple personalities or people who think they’re dead!” A lot of people also don’t seem to view a person’s gender identity as “official” until they either begin presenting as their gender choice or go “all the way.” But, again, that’s just me being positive about it.

  22. 22
    Anders

    Speaking for myself, I would love to see what books Natalie loves. And which books have influenced her the most on her way to where she is now. And remember, the two are not synonymous – a book can be terrible and still be influential (example – something like The Transexual Empire could have influenced her towards saner waters of feminism but I find it difficult to believe that she would love it). So I really want two lists, I suppose.

    1. 22.1
      Natalie Reed

      I’ll do a l’il recommended reading post sometime soon!

    2. 22.2
      Xanthë, Amy of my threads

      Coincidentally I read Raymond’s Empire late last month, just to see how off the wall it is. It’s obviously very badly dated, it’s remarkable how few trans* people Raymond actually interviewed to draw the erroneous conclusions she did, which erases the narratives of all sorts of trans people who don’t fit her narrowly myopic and cloudy lens, she caricatures the male and female genders, there is some fatuous spiritualist Newage rubbish that plumbs the depths of inaninty, and not only is it a radical feminist tract, it is also clearly a female supremacist polemic. In short: it’s awful.

      1. BrianX

        I’m not entirely clear on the definitions, but “radical feminist” in and of itself does not actually seem to be a problem. I mean, I look at a lot of third wave feminists (including people like Amanda Marcotte, particularly) and I see people who eschew any hint of female supremacy, transphobia, or sex negativity, but are still absolutely uncompromising on feminism itself. I’m not exactly sure if that qualifies as radical feminist, but it definitely isn’t mushy. (In fact, I find it vaguely amusing in a sickening sort of way when people refer to third wavers as man-haters — it certainly doesn’t apply to Amanda Marcotte, or Jessica Valenti, or Jen McCreight, or Rebecca Watson, and it didn’t even apply to most of the more prominent second-wavers like Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan.)

        1. Natalie Reed

          Radical feminism is actually a specific branch of feminism, not simply a term for any feminist who happens to be particularly strong in her views and commitment. A sort of social-constructivist variation on gender essentialism and an underlying element of transphobia (“womyn-born-womyn”) and misandry are actually some of the defining features of radical feminism.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_feminism

        2. Anders

          Of course, but people will hear what they want to hear. Garbage like the S.C.U.M. Manifesto reinforce the ‘natural’ assumption that anyone who fights male privilege does so because they hate men.

  23. 23
    jolo5309

    I feel like such a rebel, I cannot stand Keanu Reeves as an actor so I never saw the Matrix…

    I also read The Cloud Atlas when it came out and found it forgettable.

    Looking through the Wachoski’s filmography, I find I have only seen one of their movies, that being V for Vendetta (which I thought was ok, and was only a pale shadow of the comic). My only real knowledge of the Wachowskis was Alan Moore’s anger over the comment made by them about how excited he was over the movie.

    All this yammering is saying I didn’t know about Lana Wachowski’s transition, but I can understand the fanbois anger. I may not agree with it, but I can understand it. I was upset when I discovered that Orson Scott Card (one of my favourite writers) turned into something I didn’t understand.

  24. 24
    Fakyuol

    Death to these lbgt mofos. They should be shot and annihiliated. These dogs are worse than niggers, persians, jews and chinese and should be extincted.

    1. 24.1
      Natalie Reed

      Approved a reminder for all of us, especially given how much I’ve been thinking about the cultural climate of white male anger in the wake of the Aurora shootings, but followed by immediate ban.

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