image credit: Warner Bros.

The Matrix (1999) *****

The romance between Neo and Trinity makes the most sense to me if you don’t think of them as individuals. The two of them are sort of aspects of the same person.

Neo is the trans egg yet to crack. Trinity is his motivation to leave the Matrix, the love of his life, his soulmate, the reflection of his innermost truth: Trinity is the woman Neo must become.

Ask you local trans friend about aesthetic crushes. That’s where you think you’re in love with someone, but then you realize you just wish you looked exactly like them. You can spend a long time thinking you’re actually in love with a representation of your gender. It’s a heady, passionate affair, since there isn’t a real person on the other side, but the mental ideal of your authentic self.

She was almost The One. You could think of The One as being the whole self, the full identity encompassing Neo/Trinity/the transition/their real form. She was almost The One. Trinity really thought this was going to turn out for her, that she would get this authentic life where she starts out complete. The One wasn’t born into Trinity; The One was born into Neo. By following Trinity – the feminine ideal of Neo’s perfect aesthetic – down the rabbit hole, out of society, into a messier and more true place, Neo finally unites with The One. He is exactly who he is, and who he was always meant to be.

The Matrix isn’t just a trans narrative; it’s a story of true trans liberation inside self, regardless of what the system has done to you.


When I was a kid, mostly I just loved the action scenes.

You absolutely cannot beat the aesthetic of The Matrix. It landed solidly on my childhood when I’d already been frothing over Boomer Shooters for years. My siblings and I wanted trench coats, but I’m pretty sure we made do with those long cardigans popular in Y2K. We rehearsed the entire lobby gun sequence to the point we could reenact it without looking at the screen. My mom didn’t even let us have toy guns! We got scowled at for making gun shapes with our hands. We probably used books to shoot at each other or something.

Did you try to emulate Bullet Time too? The thing where the action slows and the camera swings around the actor? We did it by standing on one leg and hopping in a stupid little circle.

Morpheus and Neo’s training fight on the tatami was another favorite. As an extremely soft-bodied nerd whose mobility training was sitting in a computer chair, I still somehow taught myself to kick at sister head height. I don’t think I actually kicked my sister in the head. But I was ready for it.

They changed our goddamn lives, these action scenes. I had never seen anything so cool in my life.


I just can’t get over what an excellent metaphor red pill/blue pill is. I think about it all the time.

You are either complicit in the system and happy to live in its simulation of life, or you are on the other side of it and everything looks completely different.

When you blue pill, you choose to care about all the stuff inside the Matrix. Imagine living in the Matrix and you care about the presidential election. It doesn’t actually change anything fundamentally about the simulation, but it’s thorough enough that you can die without realizing that your actions changed nothing about the way the machines used you.

With the red pill, things like the USA president inside the Matrix don’t matter as much to you. You just want the machines to stop. Maybe you pity the people who have chosen to stay in the Matrix. Most of the people inside the Matrix don’t even know or care you exist. But you have a chance at something sloppy and real without any guarantees of safety and at least the machine isn’t eating you passively.

It’s hard to argue life is better outside the Matrix. It’s kinda not. But there’s plenty of people there, whether they wanted to be there or not, and you can’t really go back once you’ve gotten out. (Plus, once you care about the folks on the outside – actually care about them – you don’t want to leave them behind.)

It’s easy to imagine the Wachowski Sisters feeling themselves transitioning from blue to red pill; raised and regarded as white guys where that’s the hot demographic, only to start living as trans feminine – one of the most marginalized identities in America – would radically change everything about the world they knew. Everything about the lives they live must have changed transitioning that way.

I’m not trans. I can’t point to as obvious a moment where I started popping red pills. I’ve kinda microdosed my whole life, little by little, until a very blue (da ba dee) world has become very estrogen dominant. Uh, red. I said red. The two biggest turning points for me were the 2016 presidential election and the 2020 pandemic; only recently have I found myself incapable of squirming my way back into the simulation. So I think about red pills and blue pills a lot. There’s just whole swaths of humanity I don’t know how to interface with anymore.

But I remember being the other way, rather vividly. I even spent most of my adulthood there. I remember going to an anarchist meet-up and feeling like they were speaking a completely different language. They didn’t think any of the issues I cared about were issues. They were so polite to me, but seemed to feel bad for me, and didn’t trust me. I remember being *so confused*.

Now that I’m also starting to read machine code, it’s also easy to see why blue lumpen would be incredibly suspicious or dismissive of the rest. A lot of fringe stuff doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The blue/red pill metaphor has already been famously coopted by men’s rights. It’s hard to communicate a difference in philosophies that serve the system versus subvert it, particularly when you still believe the system well enough to stay in the blue. And as Cypher showed us, there are plenty of people who know what the machines are up to and totally fine with it, which further obfuscates any social proof element.

Whatever their strengths or flaws as filmmakers, The Wachowski Sisters truly caught something big in the net of their metaphor. The exact details of The Matrix, from its cyberpunk aesthetic to the awesome fight scenes, are extremely anachronistic, but the overarching story is a more timeless one about haves and have-nots, rulers and exploited, systematic versus disenfranchised. I wonder at other places in history where someone falling between castes might relate to Neo’s experience. Privilege lost in order to gain authenticity. Realizing how many lies you’ve believed in. I don’t think this is a modern experience, although the ubiquity of state control and media reach might make the transition more jarring than ever.

(image credit: Warner Bros.)

Leave a Reply