Bette Midler, Macy Gray hit back on inclusive phrasing: Why it's deemed transphobic

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The Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade has ignited heavier discussions around women's bodies, but they affect a wider range of people than just cisgender women.

Bette Midler voiced her displeasure with language that includes all people who can get pregnant rather than simplifying the definition to women.

Her comments fall in line with that of Macy Gray and J.K. Rowling, who have been accused of being transphobic by suggesting women other than cisgender do not belong to the same classification.

While Midler, Gray and Rowling have all voiced support for the women's rights movement, it has not been intersectional.

Both Midler and Gray have clarified their stances following backlash, saying they support transgender people. Here's everything they have said and why it was deemed transphobic.

Bette Midler decried inclusive language when discussing pregnancy and abortion rights.
Bette Midler decried inclusive language when discussing pregnancy and abortion rights.

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Bette Midler said trans-inclusive language will 'erase' women

"WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name! They don’t call us 'women' anymore; they call us 'birthing people' or 'menstruators,' and even 'people with vaginas'!" Midler tweeted Monday.

The "Hocus Pocus" star added: "Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!"

Midler enforced the "rigid binary," according to critics.

"Don’t fall for the anti-trans panic fake nonsense. No one is erasing women," Irish drag queen and gay rights activist Panti Bliss responded. "In a few small healthcare cases where appropriate they are using trans inclusive language. That’s all."

"Bad Feminist" author Roxane Gay added: "No one is trying to erase women with inclusive language about people who need abortion care. No one is calling you anything but what you prefer. You should extend that courtesy in return."

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On Tuesday, Midler clarified that her comments were in response to a New York Times op-ed that suggests both right and left politics are discounting women. "In a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist," columnist Pamela Paul writes. "Some might even call this kind of thing erasure."

Midler defended her post. "There was no intention of anything exclusionary or transphobic in what I said;  it wasn’t about that," she tweeted. "It was about the same old (expletive) women – ALL WOMEN – have been putting up with since the cavemen. Even then, men got top billing."

Midler also stated that she has "love for any marginalized people" and has "fought for marginalized people for as long as I can remember."

"I’m all in on trying to save Democracy for ALL PEOPLE," she added.

They gave birth and love their children.: And they want to remind you 'not all pregnant people are women.'

Macy Gray told Piers Morgan gender-affirming surgery 'doesn't make you a woman'

Gray and Piers Morgan entered a discussion about trans women competing in women's sports on his show "Uncensored" Monday. "I will say this and everyone's gonna hate me, but as a woman, just because you go change your parts, doesn't make you a woman, sorry," the "I Try" singer voiced. "I know that for a fact."

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."

Gray voiced that the "unique experience" she had as a little girl shaped her womanhood, a belief she feels is necessary to call someone a woman.

In a tweet, she said "there is no bigger admirer of (the) LGBT community" than her. "It takes real balls to be honest about who you are."

" 'Woman' is a title that you earn and become. just like 'man,' " Gray continued. "There are plenty of females who aren't women yet and every girl gets that."

In a statement to USA TODA, the singer said she has "nothing but love for the LGBTQ+ and transgender community and have been a supporter since day one."

"My statement on Piers Morgan was grossly misunderstood," she added. "I don't hate anyone. I respect everyone's right to feel comfortable in their bodies and live their own truth."

Rowling, who has also faced controversy for trans-exclusionary language when discussing women's rights, supported Gray on Twitter. "Today feels like a good day to ensure I've bought @MacyGraysLife's entire back catalog," the "Harry Potter" author wrote.

Macy Gray says gender-affirming surgery does not make someone a woman.
Macy Gray says gender-affirming surgery does not make someone a woman.

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Why Bette Midler and Macy Gray's comments are deemed transphobic

Laws have only recently started to include gender-neutral language, Trystan Reese, an educator and consultant who trains medical professionals on LGBTQ inclusion, told USA TODAY in May 2021.

Several state bills enacted in 2019 use gender-neutral language. And the pandemic has spurred some states to take a critical look at health-care-related laws and update terminology, Reese said.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, did not use gender-neutral language, but it did prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, which the Obama administration interpreted broadly. In April 2021, the Biden administration announced it would reverse Trump-era policy and protect transgender people against sex discrimination in health care once again.

Inclusive language, especially in healthcare, is what allows people outside of cisgender women to get the proper treatment they need — including during pregnancy and abortion. Both Midler and Gray's narrower definition of women and who should benefit from women's rights is transphobic due to the real consequences it has on a person's ability to survive.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, says "recent anti-transgender rhetoric" from public figures such as Midler and Gray is "contributing to the dangerous and completely inaccurate narrative that trans people are somehow threatening the overall rights of cisgender women."

"Women and trans people are in a common fight for bodily autonomy and the right to privacy," said Ellis in a statement to USA TODAY. "Cisgender women, trans people and nonbinary people must stand together against those who seek to divide us."

"Wonderwoman" star Lynda Carter similarly voiced Tuesday, "I cannot think of anything that helps women’s rights less than pinning the blame on trans women. They face so much violence and scrutiny as is."

"Leave them alone and focus on the real war on women. It’s happening in the courts and legislatures around this country," she added.

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What is a TERF?

Rowling, Midler and Gray have been labeled TERFs because of their comments distinguishing who belongs to womanhood.

TERF is an acronym that stands for trans exclusionary radical feminists. The term describes feminists who are transphobic.

While some people who are called a TERF say the word is derogatory, LGBTQ advocates say those who hold such views deny transgender people their full humanity and go against what the medical community today has accepted as scientific fact around gender and sex.

TERF views "deny the validity of transgender people and transgender identities," Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, told USA TODAY.

McBride noted that these views are not only rejected among most feminists in the U.S. and supporters of LGBTQ rights but also the mainstream medical community.

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Contributing: Ryan W. Miller, Hannah Yasharoff, Grace Hauck

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bette Midler, Macy Gray being called TERFs, transphobic. Here's why.