My Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Transvestite’ Article Triggers a Social Media Meltdown

MELTDOWNTHE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — Admittedly, not every trans person found Gwyneth Paltrow’s politically incorrect usage of the word “transvestite” worthy of my devoting an entire article to it, but a surprising meltdown that followed the reposting of that article on a transgender support site had little to do with Paltrow or her usage of the word.

(I wrote this for The Huffington Post. You can also read the entire article at their site: Courtney O’Donnell: My Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Transvestite’ Article Triggers a Social Media Meltdown. )

First, a relevant passage from the article in question, “Gwyneth Paltrow says she ‘wears more make-up than a transvestite’,” published on The Guerrilla Angel Report:

When asked in [a USA Today] interview how it was she looked so fresh after spending the previous night ‘partying’, Gwyneth Paltrow replied: “Are you crazy? I’m like RuPaul! I have so much makeup on. Foundation! Last night, I was literally a transvestite.”

My article was met with a lukewarm response on The Guerrilla Angel Report, with many readers arguing that Paltrow probably did not intend to offend anyone. I argued that the mocking of trans people by celebrities is always over the line, because the violence that trans people face is often triggered by such behavior, and that violence is very real. We had a relatively civil discussion of an important but not critical matter, I thought.

Later, I was stunned when I visited a large transgender support site that had reposted my article. Hundreds of trans people were leaving comments attacking transvestites, cross dressers, drag queens and other fringe members of the trans community simply because they don’t want to be associated with them. This massive disowning of other members of our gender-diverse group boggled my mind.

The administrator of the site eventually had to yank my article when she found herself unable to keep up with the deletion of transphobic comments by those within our own community. She left this message in its place:

This [site] is a safe haven for, transgender (trans*) people, cross-dressing people, people who consider themselves transvestite, transsexual people, intersex people, gender queer people, gender variant people, androgynous people, bi-gender people, drag performers and any other identity/person that may suffer from transphobia.

The meltdown was an eye opener. It turns out that the trans umbrella is larger than some of us want it to be. We have a bit of education to do in our own backyard. That old “hang together or hang separately” adage is most apt here.

For those of you who still harbor ill feelings toward the inclusion in the trans community of everyone listed in the above quotation, let me give you a reality check: A person attempting to engage in violence against a trans person does not consider those differences. To them, we’re all the same: “a man in a dress.”


There are over 200 comments on The Huffington Post site: Courtney O’Donnell: My Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Transvestite’ Article Triggers a Social Media Meltdown.

My original article on Gwyneth Paltrow posted here in The Guerrilla Angel Report:



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Categories: Everything else, Transgender, Transsexual, Trans, Transphobia, exploitation, dehumanizing, violence, hate

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24 replies

  1. I understand these negative comments. It comes down to a fundamental difference between someone like myself and a cross dresser, transvestite, gender queer etc. I am a female who was born with an incorrect body. They are men who wear female clothing and almost always there presentation has a strong sexual component. I was forcibly reminded of this recently. I never associate with such people but made the mistake of befriending one. I was sexually assaulted, touched in a place and manner I do not permit, especially from a penis person. This was not the first time and my experience is not rare. They frighten me and every transsexual female I know feels the same.

    So Lexy, the problem is that these folk are nothing like me. While I wish them no harm, it is offensive to force an association or suggest a connection that does not exist. At best, they are harmless men with a fetish that is out of control, at worst they are dangerous predators.

    Many of us, an increasing number, are tired of the lack of safe spaces for trans women. These people have invaded our lives and threaten our safety and security. They are often not safe and it is reasonable for those who are transsexual to join together as our needs are the same and VERY different from the rest.

    Please note I do not direct these comments at trans men. In my experience there presentation never has the overly aggressive and frightening sexual component exhibited by other sorts of so-called, non transsexual trans females.

    I do not consider anything I said here hateful, hate is not a part if who I am.

    • Hello,
      I just read the comment made by Amber. And I will reply to it while replying also to the main article.

      First observation. We do not feel at all in this together! The transgender community is very diverse and the differences within are quite distinct. I will not revue all the “differences” but you know that the experience of life you have as an intersex person or a trans person might, socially speaking, allow for both to be placed under the Great “T” Umbrella while never removing that each person does feel and is able to realize that our lives are quite different. And added cultural, economic and geographical differences will amplify this even more.
      We have created ( as social construct) the T- community as a means to be able to fight for our individual right to exist and to live. Not merely survive.
      I believe for my part that the people within this community. (Which to me is more of a social-political concept than a reality in which I would find a place) who are the most eager to fight for their rights aren’t fighting for the “neighbor” ‘s right!
      Trans people appear as a very small and limited community but if we are to include all people that the activists suggest we include. And this with legitimate arguments. Then, we are indeed in great number. However, this fact is only important while comparing the T-community to the rest of the world. Still! We are not just the T-community. We have been associated with LGB in order to fight for our rights.
      Yet, those who cares a bit about LGBT issues will observe that it is also a reality that LGB at times, leave the “T” behind when talks at the executive political level happen. Recently in England for instance! But this is not a surprise. While some feminist organizations do the same isn’t it? Can you now imagine what I will write about this? Once written, I am quite certain that you will agree with this!
      Within each constructed communities based upon militant action in order to gain equal right and care also for everyone’s specificity, the individuals that composes that communities are so diverse that many do not even experience the way of life of another. Nothing preclude in the LGBT, that a gay person has any idea what a trans person goes through. I will not use the word trans-phobia to describe the behavior of certain even though many might “simplify” with it. But misunderstanding is clearly there.
      Now, if you know that, you know also with experience that LGB people are not more aware of the differences within the T- Community than most hetero people. And will also see us like :” all the same: “a man in a dress.”
      Do NOT refute this! For this point is a experience that I have lived in many instances. I have been victim of violence, physical and psychological from within the gay community and even people wanting my out of my work while working in a LGBT environment.
      I have found no more differences from the “straight” world.
      Which lead me to assume that ignorance, stupidity and meanness are common to ALL.
      Now, if this is so withing the LGBT community. It can be so within the T- Community as well. No, exception to the rule!
      And yes, I must admit that there where three instances when a cross-dressing “friend” did try to get sexual with me while I only thought I was going out to have fun with another “girl”.
      I did respect “her” for who she was even though, I knew that “her” existed only while out to a club for a few hours or just an evening in a private home. I was okay with that! However, this was just what it was! A cross-dressing experience done for whatever needs this person had.
      And no matter that, this person would stay after all an hetero male with wife and family.
      Do not go on precluding that cross-dressers are marginal low income street life weak slightly mentally ill people…as I have observed many do consider them. Make-up cost a lot, clothes too! Most are alright in their lives!
      At the end of the evening I made the mistake to go along and accept without fear from “her” to stay overnight. This was a mistake. Because, once back home, “she” did remove all!
      I am not talking about being naked. I am talking about being a HE. There was now a guy there with me in sweat clothes who decided that it was time for some good ol’ male fun with a female. This was the first time I had to deal with a situation like that and it was quite distressing because I made the mistake to forget that “she” was a MALE!
      Having to escape in the middle of the night in the hills with no urban life nearby to get help from. I walked for hours, frightened because I was in club clothes in addition. (California climate helping, thank goodness!)
      It is no fun to be abused in any sort of way after giving your trust that a person who should respect my integrity for I respected “her”.
      Why telling this? Throwing oil on the fire? Not for one bit, do I wish to vent and create a hate filled pogrom against anyone. It is just that IT HAPPENED to me more than once and indeed, other transsexual women too.
      I learned then that within the T-Community, there are people I will no longer associate with. Not because I just despise them but because my self-preservation guides me not to be part of this. These problems did not arise any longer. As well as no longer going to gay bars without friends. Frankly, I do find it sad but that’s a reality! Like a regular woman won’t go alone some places too. Sad world but …REALITY!
      Being bundled into one community for the sake of fighting for our rights, I have realized that we are all in it for OUR OWN SAKE and that there is little to no cross-dressers ready to be on the front lines to address social and political issues for us. And why? Is that wrong? No because, there is little to no need for them to fight! Except to secure their rights to cross-dress and move around without prejudice. But those are civil (human) rights that it is relevant any citizen.
      The thing is, we do allow ourselves to welcome “as a girl” a person who enjoys to “look like a woman”. This come from a good intention. And some of us have experienced that cross-dressers can be quite macho when the dress is in the closet but sometimes even when dressed.
      I personally have evolved away from the “hot” places of “trans-life” to evolve again where I was before. A world where I am not always there as a representative of the T-Community and allow in my life the opportunity to be the creative artist that I am. My gender being left on the side, is not of particular pertinence or importance neither for me or the others at all times. I am transgender for social-political reasons, not in my personal experience. I can only define me based on the origins of my existence. Being “in between” biologically is the first reality. I am not at all certain that anyone who is “Not” does fully understand and I don’t expect them to either. I choose my friends carefully like anybody should! They usually know and also realize that my existence as a Trangender person is really specific to my own and that there are very different lifestyles within the community. Still, I will promote the respect of every human to express themselves. Therefore , I do not go on bashing against cross-dressers in my daily life.
      Like I will not try to say that I understand what a transvestite feels about being so.
      I just know that being linked under the same umbrella can bring on some good in regard to the fight for our rights. The fight for the quality of our lives. There is good but there is bad. That’s human nature. Nobody said that the T-community was made of angels and that everybody had to be beautiful and great. We have the right as a community and as well not being associated in our personal lives.
      I can understand that certain people would like to dissociate themselves from cross-dressers because, they are conspicuous, as well as drag-queens.
      Because as lexie writes:  A person attempting to engage in violence against a trans person does not consider those differences. To them, we’re all the same: “a man in a dress.”
      And I have to add that trans-phobic people who commit crimes against transgender people aren’t only the one who go on beating up a transvestite at night thinking that sort of thing!
      The attacks against trans people are definitely happening on many different levels and do include the differences. Brandon Teena for instance was no transvestite but was murdered by people he knew.
      Discrimination against intersex people aren’t much related to the disgust for “ man in a dress”. But the trouble many feels with people who aren’t one or the other biological sex.
      But I do understand that some transgender people who tries to live a healthy life have to be considered as such.
      I resent that the fight we lead as transgender as to take these extremists , those haters into consideration.
      That our fight would be resumed at making people accept that we are not “ men in dresses” like this is the most important aspect of our lives. Like the medical problems we have to face aren’t important elements to give out attention to, as well as other issues that have nothing to do with that “ man in a dress” issue.
      It is clear to me that anybody will have a hard time fighting for the right of cross-dressers and avoiding the cliché that they are men in dresses. Since they are men in dresses. Fine! They are! So what? They are the exception to the rest!
      HOWEVER,as an activist, you WILL HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEM TOO as a member of the T-community because haters do “engage in violence against a trans person does not consider those differences. To them, we’re all the same: “a man in a dress.”

      And to conclude.
      You don’t have to reject others in order to not associate with them in your daily-life.
      But including them in the fight might reveal to be a good thing for you.
      Because, protecting a “man in dress” will help protecting a trans woman who is transitioning too, or a trans- woman who, no matter the clothes and make-up, will always “stand-out” or an intersex person who does not present like one or the other in a particular fashion.
      Thought that I was gonna write a short comment. I hope this will help a bit in a good way! This is just my reflection.

  2. I consider myself to be bigendered and comfortably spend significant time in both genders. I guess I HAVE to add that this is my core identity and not some sexual or fetish issue. With that said, I testify before the legislature in support of trans issues, write letters arguing for trans rights, and give freely to trans charities.

    I find it funny (sad) the attitude I get on occasion from some transsexuals, mostly online, that if you aren’t a post-op TS or at least on that path, you don’t count. The old “trannier than thou” attitude!

    I always wonder what, if anything, those people do for anyone but themselves???

  3. Lexie – I don’t understand that rap on our knuckles “For those of you who still harbor ill feelings toward the inclusion in the trans community of everyone listed in the above quotation, let me give you a reality check: A person attempting to engage in violence against a trans person does not consider those differences. To them, we’re all the same: “a man in a dress.”

    If the violence originates from one of those listed, as illustrated by the previous posters, then hell no, they shouldn’t be included under my umbrella and I’m hurt by the suggestion: maybe I read that wrong?
    There are plenty of predatory men who do not see further than their kink for cross-dressing and haven’t the faintest idea what transitioning is about, nor are they interested. I’m glad this has come up because I’ve always had to take a deep breath and say “Okaaay” when it comes to cross-dressers and/or tranvestites. Yes, I know not all are like that, but you cannot deny that there is a good percentage of sexually motivated ‘men in dresses’ who associate with trans people for only one reason.
    I live in a student community in the UK, so I’m largely sheltered from the violence I read about elsewhere, but what I’ve read in forums elsewhere chimes exactly with the previous posts. I’ve made my notes, I’ve learnt from the misfortunes of others and I’ll act with due regard when I’m out in the real world.
    Thank you Amber and Marcia

  4. Lexie – I will keep this short. As you know I am a transsexual woman and I feel as Rodney King so famously stated “Why can’t we all just get along?” There is so much hate and intolerance in the World and as long as we are all stuck here on this little piece of Earth hurtling through space why can’t we respect the person who we live next to? I would hope that we can go beyond LGBT and go to the human race for unity. Of course there will always be the haters and people of prejudice out there but why is it necessary to join them in their way of seeing. I have faced my own set of hazards and dangers – Having been arrested and brutalized and all (or most) of the other dangers associated with transitioning and living life after but I will never descend to the level of our oppressors and I would hope that all of us would try to do the same in respecting the Golden Rule and trying to maintain our own self respect and dignity.

  5. Jane – You are welcome. Please take care to protect yourself and be a smart young lady. I have lived in the real world a very long time and there are many kind and decent people in it. Once, just once in a while, you run across someone who is not. When you are different, like we are, it attracts predators. You seem to know this already as you stated.

    Debbie – I dont claim to understand your life, I would prefer to die rather than live as you do. I do support the rights of anyone to do as they please and I will even try my best not to misgender you as you flip flop back and forth. But, you are not a female, you are something different. For a woman, a female, especially one like me that spells DANGER and so I would never associate with someone like you. So far as your lack of interest in sex – sorry, dont believe you period. If you have a penis and use it then you are a man and have no concept of a genuine female life.

    • Amber, there is a major flaw with your argument that pretty much invalidates it. Intersexed are sometimes neither male or female, or they are both. You don’t get to use “but” here — all the links in your argument must work for it to be valid. The fact of the matter is gender isn’t black and white. A person peeing out of a “penis” may be anything but a male.

      Further if one prefers to die than deal with things trans people face, perhaps you should stop right there and not comment further.

      • Lexie

        I dont beieve that intersexed people are both genders. No buts required. The intersex part has to do with chromosomes. But I dont deal much in the kind of logic which you talked about. It reduces people to an intellectual thing which is not at all how I am or how I feel. Im not arguing with you, trying to convince you, or care if you agree. Its just what it is. Nothing you say will change or overturn a lifetime of experience. But, you already know, many transseuxal ladies feel as I do, based on the premise of this post. I do appreciate your site as you are patient towards opposing viewpoints. Take care.

    • “If you have a penis and use it then you are a man and have no concept of a genuine female life.”

      i’m a transsexual woman, but this attitude misgenders me. i don’t feel a lot of kinship to men who cross dress, but i fear that in your effort to separate yourself from the ‘freaks’, you’re playing into some dangerous trans panic. i’m sorry for the things that have happened to you, but i also think that you’re using language in a way that is harmful to someone like me – someone who is also a transsexual but has no access to SRS and/or is not pursuing it.

      i know we have a deep disagreement which is not going to be resolved here, or maybe ever, but i would urge you to consider the effects of your words on some of your trans sisters.

      as lexie is saying, we’re all freaks to those who do us harm. disrespect to transvestites harms me whenever i’m perceived as one, which is beyond my control.

      • Taken in context I said if you have a penis and you use it (for sex) then you are a man. Not use it to pee. If you were a woman you would not use your male genitalia to have male sex with people. Women do not do that. Im not paniced, im not misgendering anyone, nor am I harming you. Its not like I said such a thing in public to you specifically or outed you. I dont do things like that. As for the misgendering, no. if you use your male genitalia to have sex then you are a man. I do consider those with no access to SRS, I had none for years, but I certainly didnt have male sex while I was saving for my surgery. If you dont want SRS dont get it. But a non-op transsexual is an oxymoron. I dont want you harmed, but in real life I would not associate with you and if I had to, I would treat you with the same caution I treat men, perhaps more so depending on your precise situation which you obscure for some reason.

      • Thw other point though is beyond debate. You cannot have or appreciate a genuinely female life if you have not been corrected. I have lived both ways and you have not so in fact you have no idea or opinion on this.

        • lolz, whatever, self appointed arbiter of true transsexuality. enjoy your isolation and increasing irrelevance. if you met me you would treat me like a woman just like everyone else because i wouldn’t be showing you my junk.

          • If I knew what you were I would not meet you or speak to you. I would not even be in the same room with you/ I have many male and female friends but none of them would care to know you, if they knew the truth of you.

          • That’s OK kiddo! I would be happy to meet you skysquids.

            BTW, feeling like you have the right (male privilege) to define other people and claim who is “in” and who is “out” is an extremely MALE characteristic in my opinion.

            • Of course you would Debbie. BTW, it ia not privilege to observe peope behaviour and come to opions as to whether they are like you or have anything in common with you. As a trans female I benefit little from any kind of privilege. You on the other hand who happily keeps their male genitalia intact are far more prvileged than I. Also this idea about inherently male characteristics is not one educated people subscribe to im this time.

              • Wow Amber, you just might be the all around most nasty, rude, stuck up and opinionated person I have ever come across. I have fought my entire life just to be given the same level of respect and the same opportunities as anyone else. I found it hard enough to get people to treat you with the same respect, they expect, whether you are the same sex or not. Whether it is both physically and from within or not. You however are that type of person I meet now and again that have little or no respect or regard for anyone but yourself. I feel bad for you because it seems like a sad and lonely way to live.

  6. Gender elitism and policing is a very real thing in the trans* community and combatting it is very very hard. You really wouldn’t think you would have to preach tolerance to the choir but you really do.

    In part I feel this is fuelled by anger at those felt to be perpetuating the fetishistic cross dresser stereotype. There is a common feeling that it makes a mockery of others in the trans* community and taints interactions for them helping to legitimise discrimination.

    if you’re a fetish you’re not a person, and being seen as a person is sometimes the hardest battle, especially within our own damn community!


    The bottom line is there is more to gender identity than any individuals experience and no one gets to pass judgement on anyone elses gender identity.

  7. “A person engaged in violence against a trans person does not consider those differences. To them, we’re all the same: ‘A man in a dress.'”
    I understand the point you’re making, and I’m aware of the statistics – but this invisiblises the vast numbers of trans men and so on who also experience violence from transphobes. This doesn’t just happen to trans people who present as female.
    I still get surprised by the levels of bigotry I encounter in the trans* community – I used to be very naive and assumed that anyone who was trans* would automatically be open-minded, but it’s since become more obvious that trans* people are of course just people, and embody the same percentage of racism, homophobia and so on that you will find in any randomly selected group of people. Plus a lot of us are scared, and that tends to make people go rigid rather than flexible. I’ve experienced a lot of marginalising and dismissal at the hands of the local heterofemme Transmatriarchy because I present as a trans hippy dyke. But I think they’re largely just forming their wagons into a circle.

    • I think this is s fair comment. Many have worked very hard to pass. This is not some trivial matter and while safety is an issue it also relates to comfort level. Those of us who have this priviege have worked very hard to achieve it and do not want to risk the loss of everything we have worked for by openly associating with those who do not.

      Trinity – Someone with a fetish is a person. But they are so different from me that I refuse to associate with them as the average cis person of often makes the mistake of thinking i am like them. This offends me, my life is that of an average cis female and that is how I wish to be perceived. Also, and I am being honest here, the fetish types frighten me, they are generally aggressive types who remain male by attitude, sexuality and anatomy. I have been asaultes by such types before and so now I give them a very wide berth. Its not worth the risk.

      I dont think its unfair for transsexual females to hav safe spaces wherw they can interact without the interference of these types.

  8. Further lexie I never said that someone who pees out of a penis is not trans or even transsexual. I did say that if someomne has a penis and they use it to express there sexuality, then they are men. Women such as myself are sometimes born with a penis, we do need to pee and we are not always corrected. But having male sex when you are female, that tells you something. You can be female and have a penis but having correct genitalia is profound and not being corrected absolutely prevents someone from experiencing life from a female point of view.

  9. Lexie,

    Much love to you. . .I’m not saying a word, not one word! =D

    (Thanks for your GREAT blog BTW!)


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