“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.” – Morpheus
If you asked most folks what their favorite film is, they are usually very quick to provide a response. Most certainly their choice is shaped from some personal life experiences. For me the answer is simple…. it is The Matrix. Now while I admit that I do enjoy it for its stunning action sequences and post-apocalyptic look (who doesn’t love the idea of cops and robbers mixed with kung fu?) It is something much more than that to me. It is only recently that I’ve come to find its themes of identity and self-discovery resonate in a much deeper way.
The Matrix begs the question what does it mean to be real? How does our mind differentiate what is real and what is not? How are some folks’ perception of real so different from other folks’?
For folks of transgender experience, the journey through the desert of the real can be the most trying of times. The decision to acknowledge our inner reality, confront that disquiet inside, creates absolute chaos in the soul. It’s hard to go against the outward appearances shoved upon us by entities that barely know or appreciate our existence, especially when one’s entire life has been built around outward appearances and societal norms.
The Matrix presents a unique argument in terms of what is our “real self.” There’s a concept explained in the film called “residual self imaging“. It’s the idea that you can remake yourself as you see fit when jacked into the Matrix. The ability to mold both your physical and mental projection of yourself and define who you truly are. The kicker is that you can only reshape that perception upon the acceptance that you have lived blissfully ignorant to the oppression going on around you. The Matrix represents the idea of gender as a system of control created to minimize and oppress those who do not fall in line (i.e. within the gender binary).
Within the Matrix, as in our world, exists a deviant system of control, created by dominant agents to keep the rest of us in line. It is so invasive that it becomes difficult to define ourselves outside of this construct. The system is so intoxicating that we are unaware of how all consuming it really is. Those locked inside the Matrix are blissfully unaware that they are under the control of this system and so do little to change the system and often become defenders of its power.
With self-awareness comes responsibility. The trans experience provides a unique perspective on the ideas of gender, privilege, etc. Prior to my transition, I would have never understood the idea of white male privilege. Like Neo, there are no longer things that I can ignore. There are things that I can never un-see or ever forget about. For me, it creates this disconnect between my reality and the reality that others live within. It can feel very much like you’re an outsider looking in. Or an extraterrestrial coming to earth and not being able to communicate. Or Neo sitting on a park bench, watching people glide through life.
So how do we combat this disconnect created between us and those who remain blissfully unaware of the oppression facing folks day in and day out? We must speak up. We must speak out. We must work to awaken the minds of those around us to the idea that you can make your reality whatever you want it to be. Because the Matrix cannot tell you who you are.
TEMET NOSCE. KNOW THYSELF.