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  • Writer's picturePenny Sterling

Rose, Caitlyn, and the Call-Out Culture

I'm white and trans and I came out approximately the same time as Caitlyn Jenner, and we're only 10 years apart in age, which is a significantly smaller period of time when you get to be this old. And that's where the similarities end, because Caitlyn Jenner inhabits and has inhabited a world that I have never even come close to: the world of the wealthy, famous whites, the privileged among privileged (second only to the superwealthy UNfamous whites who live in heavily guarded enclaves in extraordinarily beautiful places around the world.) Her place in the world is important to recognize, because it meant that she got to control her acceptance and revelation of her womanhood in a way that no other transwoman has ever done, and I doubt will ever be able to do again. She had enough money and business acumen to MONETIZE her transition. She FUCKING MADE MONEY OFF OF IT. She got to get all the feminizing surgeries done (because she could afford to do so), and carefully orchestrated thoughts and rumors because she was appearing regularly on a TV show and built interest and had The Big Reveal and all the things that make a great storyline for serial television, capped off by presenting herself as a pinup model on the cover of Vanity Fair after being photographed by the best portrait photographer maybe of all time, Annie Leibovitz. Even after she has transitioned, she is still the person who managed to take a single event that happened 40 years ago and turned it into a million-dollar business focused primarily on self-promotion. She exists in a world no other transwoman has ever been in. She's not transgender. She's transJenner. Rose McGowan is also from the world of the wealthy, famous whites. but her path is much different. She grew up in the enclave of the Children of God, a religious cult that encourages incest and sex with children. She went from that to an acting career in Hollywood, where her first jobs started when she was 17 years old. She made money in a world where it was important to have talent, but it was more important to be skinny and attractive and young. And where part of the work you had to do involved more sexual assault.

And yes, she made most of her films in the less mainstream "indie" circuit, but that was the world of Harvey Weinstein. And now this woman who has been assaulted her whole life is speaking out and trying to be a force of change in her world. It's the world of movies and entertainment and its bizarro offshoot, the world of celebrity gossip, and we only see a very small part of it. So when Caitlyn Jenner got a Woman of the Year award and said something like "the hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear," I don't think Rose McGowan was attacking transgender women. I think she was attacking this one SPECIFIC transJenner woman, who managed to sidestep all of the issues of being underprivileged, assaulted, mocked, attacked, legislated against and every other thing that women (and the huge subset of transwomen who have had to battle all of that and be even a bigger target themselves because they have rejected the privilege of being a man, which shows it for the hollowness it really is, and that will just not do). And it feels wrong to me that so many people seem to look at Rose and pass judgement on her because all they see is the remnants of the carefully-groomed actress that the celebrity world presented of her (just like it did all the other skinny white actresses who manage to keep their looks) and not the fierce fighter who is doing everything she can to make things better for the underprivileged. I don't think she's transphobic. I think that is a very shallow view of who she is and what she's trying to do.

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