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.
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."
Follow Courtney O'Donnell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lexiecannes