Trans-identified male verbally attacks Rose McGowan at Barnes & Noble talk

Trans activists successfully derail Rose McGowan’s efforts to speak out against sexual assault with accusations of “transphobia.”

 

On Wednesday night at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, Rose McGowan was scheduled to read passages from her new memoir, “Brave,” and answer questions about her experiences recovering from and speaking out about sexual assault. In the midst of her discussion of grief and recovery, a trans-identified male in the audience launched into a verbal attack. Despite McGowan’s efforts to respond politely, saying, “we are the same, sister,” the man, identified as Andi Dier, continued screaming at the activist, asking, “What have you done for transwomen?!” McGowan responded pointedly: “What have you done for women?” As Dier attempted to blame “cis white women” for a supposed “genocide,” saying, “this is the AIDS crisis all over again,” McGowan grew angry:

“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, God dammit… I didn’t agree to your cis fucking world.”

This tirade was apparently launched in part due to comments McGowan made on RuPaul’s podcast What’s the Tee? in July 2017. During that conversation, McGowan discussed the male gaze, and the way women internalized it, pointing out that trans-identified males experience life differently than those of us who have grown up female. She said her trans friends never asked her what it was like to be a woman, to grow up as a woman, to get a period, to grow breasts “and all of a sudden people are screaming at you on the streets.” Essentially, she challenged the notion that “feeling like a woman” literally meant a male was the same as a female:

“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, and a lot of the stuff I hear trans complaining about, yeah, welcome to the world. This is our world. Really? This is how you’re being treated? Ok. Me too.”

Despite the fact McGowan has gone out of her way to say that men and trans-identified people are also subjected to rape and other forms of male violence, and despite that she refers to trans-identified males as “women,” McGowan has still been smeared as “transphobic,” accused of “harming transwomen” for her comments on RuPaul’s podcast and response to Dier.

Today, Them published an interview by trans activist Katelyn Burns with Dier. Burns and Dier vilify McGowan throughout the interview, and paint the Barnes and Noble audience as “privileged,” comparing their support of McGowan (and lack of support for Dier), a victim of sexual abuse, to “ignor[ing] a fucking genocide.”

Not only did Dier proudly reveal that he had planned the attack, but claimed McGowan no longer had to fear male violence, saying:

“The only difference between Rose and I getting harassed on the street is that where her experience can end in sexual assault, mine has a likely chance to end in sexual assault followed by murder…

… She doesn’t have to worry about getting followed home [any]more with her security detail and privilege, while my trip to Barnes & Noble could have been my last one.”

The reality, of course, is that while, for example, in 2015 there were 23 recorded murders of trans-identified males in in US, over 1600 women were killed by men the same year. Three or more women are murdered every day in the US by their boyfriends or husbands. To claim McGowan is not in danger despite all that she has been through and continues to go through demonstrates not only a complete lack of empathy, but wilful blindness. What we should have learned from #MeToo is that all women are vulnerable sexual harassment, sexual assault, and male violence, regardless of their “privilege.” No matter how wealthy, famous, or white a woman, is, she is still likely to be victimized by men.

What we also know is that trans-identified males are no less likely than any other man to be perpetrators of violence. Indeed, trans activists have targeted, threatened, and even assaulted women themselves. Precisely zero feminists have engaged similarly towards trans activists, despite Dier’s false claims that he fears an imagined “an army of TERFs” will “target” him. For a publication to host two male voices trying to diminish the reality of male violence against women and trash a victim is grotesque.

Exacerbating the disturbing and hypocritical nature of Dier’s attack, since the news has circulated on social media, a number of women have come out online, accusing him of sexual assaulting them as girls.

Rather than condemning this man’s behaviour, McGowan’s response has been painted as “a meltdown” online, an age-old tactic used to dismiss women as “over-emotional” and “crazy.” McGowan, who has suffered a great deal of trauma in her life and is likely exhausted from being in the spotlight, smeared and discredited at every turn, was right to be angry and this attempt to derail her talk. It is Dier who should be condemned, not McGowan, who deserves our support and solidarity.

But apparently, unless we are willing to pretend our experiences as females are both not real and no different than those of men’s, we don’t deserve respect, and our attempts to speak out should be shut down.

As a result of the attacks on McGowan, Seattle Arts & Lectures announced they were cancelling her scheduled appearance on February 20th. On Twitter, McGowan said she planned to cancel all upcoming appearances, due to the attack and lack of support.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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