Last night before her appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, outspoken actress Rose McGowan held an event at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Union Square, New York City to promote her new memoir, Brave. During the event, she got into an argument with a female transgender activist who mentioned Rose McGowan transgender comments McGowan made on a July 2017 episode of RuPaul’s What’s the Tee? stating that trans women don’t really understand what it’s like to grow up as women.
The controversial Rose McGowan transgender comment on What’s the Tee? was:
I talk to my trans friends … and I say … “Yu’ve never asked me what it’s like to be a woman. You’ve never once asked me what it was like to grow up as a woman, what’s it like to get a period, what’s it like when you grow breasts and people are suddenly screaming at you on the streets … because they assume, because they felt like a woman on the inside. That’s not developing as a woman. That’s not growing as a woman. That’s not living in this world as a woman….
McGowan’s critics labelled her a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF), basically a term for a woman who doesn’t consider trans women as “real women.”
McGowan has become known for speaking about her alleged rape at the hands of skeezy Hollywood producer Michael Weinstein, making her a visible and vocal embodiment of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements which have raised awareness about sexual harassment and abuse suffered by women across America.
Her new memoir Brave recounts her experiences. Mid-way through the question-and-answer segment of McGowan’s bookstore event, a trans woman stood up and said:
I have a suggestion. Talk about what you said on RuPaul. Trans women are dying and you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often. There was a trans woman killed here a few blocks [away]. I have been followed home –.
“Hold on,” McGowan said, “So am I. We are the same. My point was, we are the same. There’s an entire show called ID channel, a network, dedicated to women getting abused, murdered, sexualized, violated and you’re a part of that, too, sister. It’s the same.”
The trans woman then asked, “You do nothing for them. Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?”
“What have you done for women?” McGowan asked back.
At this point, a security guard escorted the trans woman out while the trans woman repeatedly shouted, “White cis feminism!”
Here is a video of the Rose McGowan transgender activist confrontation:
McGowan, visibly upset began to speak at length, telling the remaining audience:
Don’t label me, sister Don’t put your labels on me. Don’t you fucking do that. Do not put your labels on me. I don’t come from your planet. Leave me alone. I do not subscribe to your rules. I do not subscribe to your language. You will not put labels on me or anybody. Step the fuck back. What I do for the fucking world and you should be fucking grateful. Shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done? I know what I’ve done, Goddammit.
And you can label this thing as a breakdown. That, motherfuckers, is a breakdown. Maybe not for me, but for you. I might have information you want. I might know shit that you don’t. So fucking shut up. Please systemically. For once. In the world. You know what I’m talking about. Just tell the god damned truth. Stop boxing everybody into shit. I didn’t agree to your cis fucking world. Ok? Fuck off.
Trans women are women and what I’ve been trying to say is that it’s the same. The stats are not that dissimilar. When you break it down, it is a much smaller population. There’s not a network here devoted to your fucking death. There’s not advertisers advertising tampons with a camera lovingly going up a girl’s body as she’s being lovingly raped and strangled. Piss off. And until you can collect that fucking check, back up. My name is Rose McGowan and I am obviously fucking brave.
Here is video of Rose McGowan’s appearance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert later that same day:
It’s understandable why some trans women are upset with McGowan. Her comments on RuPaul’s podcast drew a clear distinction between cisgender women and trans women, holding up her own cisgender female experience as more representative of all women and as a model for trans women to learn from, which is condescending and presumptuous.
The Rose McGowan transgender comments at the Barnes and Noble bookstore aren’t much better because she has basically stated that there’s virtually no difference between the lived experiences of trans woman and cisgender women.
The truth is, it’s unrealistic to expect a cis woman to completely understand the plight of trans women and vice-versa. This latest Rose McGowan transgender episode shows that if McGowan wants to proclaim herself as a representative for all woman — and if trans women want to hold McGowan as a reliable ally — McGowan and trans activists need to sit and discuss the ways cis and trans women are similar, the stark differences between their lived experiences and the other ways she can advocate for trans women specifically while also empowering all women to speak their truth.