Recently, both the Wachowski directors declared themselves transgender.

So we went from the Wachowski Brothers to the Wachowski Siblings, and now the Wachowski Sisters.

The Matrix movies were made by them. So what is the adequate, sensible way to address the directorship of these films? Before their announcements, we used "Wachowski Brothers", but I think that is not the adequate way now.

As it might be tempting to vote-close this question as off-topic (since how transgender people are adressed in their former works can be generalized), it is niche-sensitive.

In academia, for example, the name of the authors in bibliography remain the same, while the citation use the current scientific name of the researcher.

So, in the scope of cinema jargon and etiquette, how to deal with references to former work of transgender people?

  • 6
    As far as I know, there's no movie-specific niche. The rule is, don't be an ass. Call them by what they choose to be called. They are now sisters, so that's what they are. That being said, I doubt that they're going to edit the credits in the existing films to have their current names because of the cost.
    – Catija
    Mar 21 '16 at 15:50
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    Actually, most people use The Wachowskis, so there is no issue.
    – BCdotWEB
    Mar 21 '16 at 16:27

Unlike academia, the movie industry doesn't appear to have any definitive "rules" or "best practices" in place to handle this type of situation; I expect that the Wachowski sisters are going to be largely defining how this works based on how the industry handles it and how they react.

However, there does seem to be a trend emerging that it's still acceptable to refer to their work that was done before transitioning as being done by "The Wachowski Brothers". As one example, Wikipedia still says:

The Matrix is a 1999 American-Australian neo-noir science fiction action film written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers

The consensus over there seems to be that the credits on the film name them as the Wachowski Brothers (several attempts to "fix" the article have been reverted), so it's still correct to identify the people who directed that movie, at that time, by that name. (I believe this is what would happen if, for example, a director legally changed their name, or chose to use a pseudonym, or any other event that would make their current legal name different from the credits.)

On the other hand, when discussing the sisters themselves, it's more correct to use their current gender identities, even when the topic includes things they did previously. For example, the 2015 book Gender, Race and American Science Fiction, when discussing their Matrix work (it was written before Lana transitioned), says:

While the Wachowski siblings did conceive of the Matrix story as a trilogy...

Of course, many sources just avoid the whole issue by referring to the siblings as "The Wachowskis". The Wachoskis themselves seem to be pretty laid back about the whole situation. At the premier of Cloud Atlas, Andy Wachowski introduced the sisters as "Wachowski Starship".src

  • Haven't they also been referring to themselves as The Wachowskis in their recent films, ever since the first one transitioned?
    – MattD
    Mar 21 '16 at 20:14
  • they have, and for any works they make going forward i think it's obvious that's how we should refer to them.
    – KutuluMike
    May 8 '16 at 16:25

This isn't entirely the first time this has happened in the entertainment industry. Dan Buten, creator of the critically-acclaimed and incredibly influential game M.U.L.E. for Electronic Arts, later transitioned to Danielle Buten.

What seems to have almost universally been done in publications I have seen since is to refer to her, even for past work, as "she" or "Dani". Admittedly, her prior formal first name was "Daniel", so technically "Dani" could be shorthand for either name. However, I never saw it used that way before the transition. It was always "Dan" back then. Some articles will clarify that she went by "Dan" when M.U.L.E. was created.

For the Wachowskis, people seem to have settled on just removing the "Brothers" from their address. The only examples I've seen where "Sisters" was added were places where people were talking specifically about their gender rather than their work.

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