Actress and activist Rose McGowan, one of the first women to accuse film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and one of the leading voices against sexual abuse, had a heated exchange with a transgender audience member at an event in New York City Wednesday.
McGowan was promoting her memoir Brave at a Barnes & Noble store. While she was answering questions submitted in writing by the audience, a woman stood up and confronted her about a remark McGowan had made during an episode of RuPaul's What's the Tee? podcast last July, Variety reports.
On that episode, she said of transgender women, "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." The comment led critics on social media to call her a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERF.
"I have a suggestion," the audience member said. "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. So am I," McGowan responded. "We are the same. My point was, we are the same." The other woman was not mollified, coming back with "Trans women are in men's prisons. And what have you done for them?" McGowan shot back, "What have you done for women?" The audience member was eventually escorted by Barnes & Noble security personnel as she chanted "White cis feminism."
McGowan then "launched into a passionate tirade," as Variety put it. "Don't label me, sister," she said. "Don't put your labels on me. ... I'm mad that you put shit on me because I have a fucking vagina and I'm white or I'm black or I'm yellow or I'm purple."
"I didn't agree to your cis fucking world," she added, then said, "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 [a reference to the Investigation Discovery channel, devoted to true-crime shows]. There's not advertisers advertising tampons with a camera lovingly going up a girl's body as she's being lovingly raped and strangled."
McGowan's Barnes & Noble appearance, besides being chronicled by Variety, was caught on video by an attendee who posted it to Instagram. The actress left B&N for an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where she talked with the host about a wide range of topics, including what she called a "gaslighting" attempt by Weinstein, who released a statement Tuesday denying he assaulted her in 1997, as she has said.
McGowan, whose activism is the subject of the new docu-series Citizen Rose, also spoke to Colbert about growing up in a religious cult and meandered into numerous other subjects, such as the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, how uncomfortable men are in suits, and how generally crazy the world is. Some media outlets have described the interview as "bizarre," but McGowan objected in a series of tweets:
Watch the Instagram video and the Colbert interview below.