Rose McGowan, And Some Feminists, Need To Rethink Their Attitude About Trans People
It sucks that Caitlyn Jenner has become a lightning rod for trans issues. It sucks for the trans community, because most of us aren’t wealthy white Olympians. It also sucks for Caitlyn Jenner, because she’s under tremendous public scrutiny while she goes through her transition.
The latest faux-pas she’s committed is that she told Buzzfeed that “the hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” Rose McGowan has responded to this with a scathing, since-deleted Facebook post (truly the church doors of our time), saying:
“You want to be a woman and stand with us – well learn us. We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you.
You’re a woman now? Well f**king learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.
Being a woman comes with a lot of baggage. The weight of unequal history. You’d do well to learn it. You’d do well to wake up.
Woman of the year? Not by a long f**king shot.”
McGowan added on that she was happy “for what she’s doing visibility wise for the trans community.” Oh, thanks, Rose McGowan. That totally makes up for the fact that you fed into the narrative that says that trans people aren’t who they say they are until they physically transition, that you cast doubt on Jenner’s gender pre-transition, and that you didn’t acknowledge that “male privilege” is a tricky thing to claim someone has when they’re trans.
Then there’s this set of memes that’s getting passed around by some of my gay and feminist friends on Facebook, juxtaposing Jenner’s quote with pictures of women who have been assaulted, stalked, raped, and who have given birth:
Never mind the fact that intersectional feminists and queer people are sharing a meme from Stop Trans Chauvinism, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist blog. Hoo boy, the fault lines in supposedly progressive communities are starting to rip wide open over this whole Caitlyn Jenner thing, aren’t they?
The assumption here seems to be that every woman’s experience must be that of, say, someone like Rose McGowan, a cis woman who declares feminist politics. The problem is that Caitlyn Jenner isn’t just a woman “now,” she’s always been a woman, but she was conditioned to present male for all but the last few months of her life. Deciding what to wear might be, for her, a genuine struggle.
I know it’s been hard for me: I’ve been called “fella” and “sir” only once each since I started to move toward presenting androgynous, and each time it felt like a triumph. Getting dressed every day is a challenge. I feel ridiculous in makeup and naked without it. I exert actual mental energy thinking about whether or not I can paint my nails anymore, and if I do, what colors I’m limited to. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep wearing my favorite leggings in the entire universe, because every time I do, people assume I’m a woman. How can I strategically hide my hips? How can I lose my body fat and gain muscle? How do men walk? How do men tie their scarves during the winter? What pomade should I use? How often should I shave? How much jewelry can I wear? Do men’s loafers make my feet look like clown feet? Do I need to buy more slacks? What if I’m getting to the end of my twenties and my boobs are starting to be affected by weight loss and aging, and I kind of need to wear a bra, but I don’t want my bra to make my boobs look, like, full and stick-out-y?
So, yeah, while for cis women, getting dressed is just a perfunctory part of the day, getting dressed as a trans woman is a whole other ball game. And that’s on top of the fact that as anti-gay hate crimes are decreasing, anti-trans hate crimes are increasing. That’s on top of having people like Rose McGowan and a whole bunch of folks who would like to call themselves intersectional feminists saying that if you’re a trans woman, you haven’t always been a woman, and you only started conditionally qualifying as a woman to them once you publicly started your transition. That’s on top of HERO getting voted down because of a large-scale smear campaign against the trans community that claimed that trans women were really just cis male perverts looking to assault young girls.
Trans people aren’t infallible, obviously, but when cis women start attacking trans women on the basis of their gender identity, it’s easy to get into the dicey territory of denying trans women’s identities in toto. My suggestion is that if a trans person says something about gender that seems off to you, as a cis person, consider the possibility that it’s coming from an experience that is vastly different than your own, and equally valid, before telling them that they’ve got something to prove about their gender identity.
Image via Getty
Send me a line at [email protected].