The Matrix is about transgender depersonalization, a dissociative “feeling of unreality” that can be treated by transitioning

An unofficial transgender depersonalization companion guide to The Matrix.

MORPHEUS: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. There’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

NEO: The Matrix?

MORPHEUS: Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room.

Defining depersonalization-derealization disorder

NEO: You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?

NONAKA: They can’t tell the difference. To an artificial mind, all reality is virtual. How do they know that the real world isn’t just another simulation? (“Matriculated”)

Depersonalization in gender dysphoria

Preconscious sensation, preverbal knowledge

THE INSTRUCTOR: Only the most exceptional people become aware of the Matrix. Those that learn it exists must possess a rare degree of intuition, sensitivity, and a questioning nature. However, very rarely, some gain this wisdom through wholly different means. (“World Record”)

KID: Somebody tell me. Why it feels more real when I dream than when I am awake. How can I know if my senses are lying? (“Kid’s Story”)

MORPHEUS: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

Taking the red pill literally

MORPHEUS: Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

MORPHEUS: The pill you took is part of a trace program. It’s designed to disrupt your input/output carrier signal so we can pinpoint your location.

MORPHEUS: What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

Through the looking glass, darkly

Bill Pope (director of photography): This is Keanu once the veil’s been lifted from his eyes. This is his first time back in the matrix. That’s his trip in that car through Chinatown. The thing that used to convince him, before he was told the truth, it now looks remarkably fake. So green screen is too sophisticated a technique — we could make it look real. So I wanted to use something as fake as Hitchcock’s old rear screen projection, the same way Cary Grant looks fake driving down the street in North by Northwest.

John Gaeta (visual effects supervisor): They got a pretty cool quality out of it. It’s an unusual thing to do these days, true, but the colors were nice and saturated, and the defocused nature of it made it very dreamy. (“The Matrix Revisited / Car Ride to the Oracle”)

AGENT SMITH: Can you hear me, Morpheus? I’m going to be honest with you. I hate this place, this zoo, this prison, this reality, whatever you want to call it. I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink. And every time I do I feel I have somehow been infected by it. It’s repulsive, isn’t it? I must get out of here. I must get free and in this mind is the key, my key. Once Zion is destroyed there is no need for me to be here, don’t you understand?

Hugo Weaving: We tried to just go for a very neutral accent, but a more specific character. And the character kind of evolved, that I kind of, I wanted him to be not robotic but not really human, and more like — I kept thinking about a ’50s newsreader or someone like that. And also, the more I hung out with [Lana] and [Lilly], the more I think I picked up on their rhythms. [Lana] and [Lilly] both have an incredibly deep voice and I think that kind of, Agent Smith started to kind of talk a little like that as well.

Lana Wachowski: Somebody said he was imitating us at one point. (“The Matrix Revisited / Interrogation Room”)

And as Redmayne, the best actor Oscar winner for his performance as Stephen Hawking in last year’s The Theory of Everything, explains it, Lana helped him kick-start his research for his latest role.

“She pointed me to where to start reading: Jan Morris’ book Conundrum, Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw and Niels Hoyer’s book about Lili, Man Into Woman,” says Redmayne, adding, “I absolutely adore Lana. She’s such a generous human being.”

If I could not be myself, my subconscious seemed to be saying, then I would not be.

To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial. It is soul, perhaps, it is talent, it is taste, it is environment, it is how one feels, it is light and shade, it is inner music, it is a spring in one’s step or an exchange of glances, it is more truly life and love than any combination of genitals, ovaries, and hormones. It is the essentialness of oneself, the psyche, the fragment of unity.

As I grew older an intense anxious isolation coupled with constant insomnia began to inculcate an inescapable depression. I have never slept much but during my sophomore year in high school, while I watched many of my male friends start to develop facial hair, I kept this strange relentless vigil staring in the mirror for hours, afraid of what one day I might see. Here in the absence of words to defend myself, without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head — that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable.

Know Thyself



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Zinnia Jones

Trans feminist writer, researcher, and activist. Creator of Gender Analysis. Florida. She/her.