How to celebrate the Fourth of July in 2022? A few celebrities apparently felt the holiday weekend was as good a time as any to broadcast their transphobic views.
Bette Midler, who’s starring in this fall’s reboot of Hocus Pocus, took to Twitter on Monday. What started as an attempt to condemn the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade soon devolved into a troubling diatribe about trans-inclusive language. “WOMEN OF THE WORLD!” she wrote. “We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even our name! They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!”
Midler’s post prompted immediate backlash, with many commenters pointing out what should be obvious by now: There are women who don’t give birth, menstruate, or have vaginas, and there are also men and nonbinary people who do these things. Actor Mae Martin, who is nonbinary, wrote on their Instagram stories, “Nobody is denying the power and magic of cis women,” pointing out that “the use of inclusive language when talking about abortion rights means that I — with all my shared experience and shared threat of pregnancy as I also sleep with cis men — can participate and be acknowledged in the conversation and fight alongside women.”
On Tuesday, Midler tried to defend her position by reposting a decidedly transphobic op-ed written by New York Times columnist Pamela Paul that likened practices aimed at accommodating and acknowledging trans and nonbinary people to the conservative attack on women’s rights. “My tweet about women was a response to this fascinating and well-written piece in the NYT on July 3rd,” Midler wrote. “There was no intention of anything exclusionary or transphobic in what I said; it wasn’t about that. It was about the same old shit women - ALL WOMEN - have been putting up with since the cavemen. Even then, men got top billing.” (Another one of Midler’s tweets — ostensibly protesting the Supreme Court’s decision — was condemned as racist and Islamophobic.)
Meanwhile, singer Macy Gray was busy defending her own anti-trans comments. During a Monday appearance on Piers Morgan’s show Uncensored, she told Morgan that she agrees with his view that trans women athletes shouldn’t be able to compete alongside cisgender women. While she defined a woman as “a human being with boobs and a vagine,” she also later confessed, “Everybody’s going to hate me, but as a woman, just because you go change your parts doesn’t make you a woman. Sorry.” She continued: “If you want me to call you a ‘her,’ I will, because that’s what you want. But that doesn’t make you a woman just because I call you a ‘her’ and just because you got surgery.” Gray also argued that “being a little girl is a whole epic book … and you can’t have that because you want to be a woman.”
Both Midler’s and Gray’s arguments are resonant of the same TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) ideology that children’s book author J.K. Rowling has been pushing over the past few years, which is built on the belief that trans women shouldn’t be considered “real” women because of their biological sex. (That belief also goes hand-in-hand with a TERF conspiracy that trans women are somehow robbing cisgender women of their rights.) Rowling has repeatedly insisted, among other ill-informed claims, that all people who menstruate are women.
The resemblance was not lost on Morgan, who has his own lengthy history of anti-trans views. During the episode, he told Gray she might get “attacked” like Rowling for her comments, to which Gray responded, “But it’s the truth. I don’t think you should be called transphobic just because you don’t agree.” Rowling was also quick to announce her support following Gray’s comments, claiming on Twitter Tuesday morning that she plans to buy Gray’s “entire back catalog.”
Gray subsequently defended her comments in a statement to Rolling Stone, where she claimed to have “nothing but love for the LGBTQ+ and transgender community.” “My statement on Piers Morgan was grossly misunderstood,” she wrote. “I don’t hate anyone. I respect everyone’s right to feel comfortable in their bodies and live their own truth.”