Open Letter: 200+ Trans Women and Transfeminine People Stand Against Calpernia Addams and Andrea James

We, the undersigned trans women and trans-feminine individuals, are appalled at recent attacks on trans woman journalist Parker Marie Molloy published by Calpernia Addams and Andrea James on the Huffington Post and Boing Boing. Addams’ and James’ hit pieces exhibit a pervasive hostility to young, queer trans women, and indeed any trans woman who is uncomfortable with the use of transmisogynist slurs by cisgender drag queens like RuPaul. They display homophobia, transphobia, ignorance, dishonesty, and hatred throughout.

We believe that these pieces should not have been published, and that they are not representative of the views of trans women as a community. Calpernia Addams and Andrea James do not speak for us.

1. Absence of good-faith arguments

 James variously describes trans women who take issue with RuPaul as “hecklers”, “shut-ins” who “spend their waking lives online”, “victim cultists”, “self-haters” engaging in “attention-seeking behavior”, “elitists”, “the language police”, “finger-wagging schoolmarms”, “fucking stay-at-home transactivists”, and “trans separatists” with “internalized transphobia” who “transition from male to female with the zeal of a religious convert.” Unlike James, we do not believe that objecting to transmisogynist slurs makes someone any of these things. We also find it doubtful that James genuinely seeks to “resolve this dispute like professional journalists”, as her column exhibits very little sense of professionalism at all. If, as James says, “experienced activists seek to build bridges and establish empathy”, we are skeptical of her experience.

 2. Misleading personal attacks

 Addams and James have chosen to focus on an individual trans woman and personally attack her at length. In doing so, they give the impression that opposing the use of transmisogynist slurs by cisgender drag performers is an isolated and marginal position held by, as Addams puts it, “nutty trans hacktivists”. In reality, the conduct of RuPaul and others has been widely criticized by vast swathes of trans women. This is not a new critique that has only arisen due to a lack of experience among young queer trans women. It is a long-standing and well-supported objection, one which has been articulated by trans women of all ages and sexualities. Addams and James ignore this in favor of needlessly inflammatory rhetoric, a regressive defense of gay and lesbian transphobia, and unmitigated contempt for the gender and sexuality of queer trans women. Their columns do not contribute to this discussion in any meaningful way.

3. Traditionalism and ageism

We reject Addams’ portrayal of young trans women like Molloy as “newcomer[s] to transition and lesbian/trans issues”, a description which suggests young trans women are less informed, less competent, and less qualified to argue their viewpoints on these topics. To the contrary, young trans women can offer a fresh and contemporary perspective to balance the traditional and stagnant views of those like Addams and James. Whatever decades of experience with trans issues that Addams and James have had, it has not served them well in these recent columns.

 4. Misgendering and accusations of “privilege”

 We find it completely unacceptable that Addams would accuse queer trans women of being “conditioned to bully and take by a lifetime of white, heterosexual, male privilege”, using “the gains and habits of this privilege”, and having “lingering ‘cis-het privilege.’” It is baffling and incomprehensible to imply that an out queer trans woman is somehow capable of wielding heterosexual, cisgender, male privilege to her advantage. This isn’t a new tactic – it is commonly used by transphobes to misgender trans women and dismiss anything we say as coming from a place of supposed “maleness”. Here, Addams has done exactly that. This is not a meaningful argument; it is only more of the same classic transmisogyny.

 5. False hierarchies of trans women

We oppose Addams’ and James’ oversimplification of queer trans women’s sexualities, unique personal histories, intersectional experiences, and self-understandings. Addams describes her own “feminine and soft nature” and experiences of being “rejected from participating in heteronormative culture”, while claiming that queer trans women “presumably lived most of their lives with the tacit approval and support of a society that viewed them as heterosexual, white men”. Her presumption is unwarranted, as is James’ description of these women as “newly-minted queers”.

If a trans woman is attracted to women, this does not mean that she always lacked a “feminine and soft nature” (whatever Addams thinks this means), that her sexuality was never called into question by others, that she was not “a participant in LGBT culture”, or that she was never attracted to men. Many queer trans women who are attracted to women share these experiences – their queerness is not “newly-minted” by any stretch of the imagination. Addams’ and James’ false dichotomy uncomfortably echoes the long history of straight trans women being judged as more legitimate in their womanhood and more “feminine” than queer trans women. This constitutes the same kind of implicit misgendering as Addams’ claim that queer trans women possess “lingering” privilege, while Addams herself supposedly does not.

 6. Hypocrisy and feigned offense

While any use of “drag queen” to deny or delegitimize a trans woman’s gender is obviously unacceptable, we decry James’ hypocrisy in taking offense to the accurate description of Addams’ history as a drag performer. James herself notes that trans women have a history of “working alongside drag performers”, and that there “was no separation of drag and trans” in “pre-Stonewall Manhattan LGBT social life”, but then claims that “drag queen” is a “transphobic slur” when referring to Addams’ involvement in drag performance. This is, at a minimum, inconsistent. It is absurd that James would denounce this accurate statement of fact as “transphobic”, while she and Addams promote false generalizations about queer trans women and implicitly misgender them with accusations of “male privilege”. We particularly note the hypocrisy of Addams’ call to defend “trans people who choose to… associate with gay and lesbian people”, given her own hostility toward queer trans women.

 7. Siding with mainstream prejudice

Contrary to James, we do not accept that drag performance is itself a valid excuse for cisgender people to use transmisogynist slurs. James believes that “taboos around language” – language such as “shemale” – are “practically begging drag queens and kings to violate these taboos”, and that drag is an “art form with countercultural subversion at its heart”. Such a rationale is nonsensical. When a word becomes so closely associated with open hostility toward a marginalized group that it is widely considered a slur by the group it targets, this is not itself a justification to continue using this word. It is rather obviously a compelling reason not to use it.

Cis people using transmisogynist slurs are not violating a taboo when the use of such slurs is already broadly accepted among cis people. Most of society does not consider it taboo to refer to trans women in these terms – there is no taboo to break. Repeating a one-word distillation of a culture’s hostility to trans women is neither countercultural nor subversive. It is mainstream. In light of this, James’ commitment to “siding with offensive artists” is hardly a laudable choice.

 8. Disingenuous conflation of “transgender” with drag

We reject James’ classification of RuPaul as transgender, as well as any implication that cisgender male drag queens are therefore entitled to use transmisogynist slurs. Cisgender male drag queens are assigned male at birth, and they neither consider themselves to be women nor live as women in their everyday lives. Unlike trans women, they are not the ones who regularly face the consequences of widespread transphobia and transmisogyny, and they are not confronted with the fallout of normalizing transmisogynist slurs. Likewise, Addams’ statement that she “hate[s] the term ‘cisgender’” shows a lack of understanding of the importance of this distinction.

9. Hiding behind “homophobia” to defend transphobia

We further reject Addams’ argument that trans women’s criticism of the use of transmisogynist slurs by cisgender drag performers is a form of “homophobia” or “hatred or derision for gay and lesbian culture”. Trans women’s objections to transphobia do not become any less legitimate when that transphobia comes from “gay and lesbian culture”. This transphobia is no more excusable – it is equally deserving of scrutiny. While Addams recognizes that “being trans is not a free pass to be transphobic or homophobic”, she appears to believe that being gay or lesbian is indeed a free pass to be transphobic. We do not share this belief.

10. Elitism and exclusion of queer trans women from queer culture

Addams attacks trans women who object to RuPaul’s slurs as “hate-filled, angry and inexperienced folks” who “hop the fence at this late stage and try to dictate our culture rather than learn and build and participate in it”. We believe that trans women have every reason to be angry at the mass media legitimization of transmisogynist slurs by cisgender men, and we question the value of learning from this culture or participating in it, let alone building upon it. It is no point of pride to tolerate a transphobic culture. Accusing young queer trans women of trying to “dictate our culture” implies that they have less of a claim to gay and lesbian culture than Addams, and lazily dismisses legitimate objections to the harms of this culture and the attitudes it has normalized.

Our aims

We ask that Calpernia Addams and Andrea James refrain from publishing further columns exhibiting this variety of homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, misgendering, ageism, and unwarranted hostility toward other trans women. We further ask that Huffington Post, Boing Boing, and other outlets refuse to give a platform to any columns endorsing such prejudice, whether by Addams and James or by others. As Addams notes, “you choose your community’s voices and heroes.” We reject Calpernia Addams and Andrea James as voices of our community.


  1. Lauren McNamara, defense witness, United States v. Manning
  2. Amelia June Gapin, software engineer
  3. Thorin Sorensen, activist and writer
  4. Katherine Prevost, software developer, Carnegie Mellon University
  5. Anne Cognito, activist and author
  6. Kat Haché
  7. Andrea Borquez Brito, law school graduate
  8. Sarah Brown, politician and trans woman
  9. Kristina Foster
  10. Teri Dawn Wright, student, activist
  11. Lauren Voswinkel, software developer
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  13. Dr. Mirah Gary, physicist
  14. Vivian Doug, public speaker and systems analyst
  15. Breanna Clayton, web content strategist
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  18. Jessica Reardon Smith
  19. Kimberly Horne, software developer
  20. Josephine Doggett, artist
  21. Dr. Aoife Emily Hart, lecturer
  22. April Daniels, writer
  23. Morgan Smith, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies student and activist
  24. Sabine, activist
  25. Chelsea Tera Boyhan, field support engineer
  26. Fallon Fox, Mixed Martial Arts fighter
  27. Sophia Banks
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  29. Josefina Vineyard, graphic designer
  30. Rebecca Hargate, software developer, University student
  31. Schell Carpenter, Vice President of Engineering
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  33. Carol Holly, Scientist and Global Business Development Manager
  34. Erika Sorensen, software developer
  35. Laurelai Bailey, journalist for
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  37. Adele Sheffield, social media manager, web editor
  38. Winter Hardin, student
  39. Skye Arixe
  40. Melissa Savage, activist
  41. Dana Lane Taylor,, University of Pennsylvania
  42. Rhianne Stevens, lecturer, activist and Transgender Support Group Officer
  43. Willow Dobmeier
  44. Katie Anderson, software engineer
  45. Chelsea Richards, emergency medical responder
  46. Emily Prince, Esq.
  47. Morgan Rose, artist
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  50. Kathryn Anna Fortunato, IT systems administrator and activist
  51. Rebecca Putman
  52. Ellie Green, artist
  53. Coda Gardner
  54. Jayska Teag
  55. Eleven, filmmaker and writer
  56. Alisha G, information technology
  57. Greta Gustava Martela, software engineer and TGSF board member
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  59. Annetta Gaiman, trans feminist
  60. Diane Tejera Monaco, scientist and educator
  61. Alex Ray, web admin
  62. Claire Siegely
  63. Ally Clarke
  64. Aria Smith
  65. Devi Smith
  66. Bethany Turner, market researcher and webcomic author/artist
  67. Cristan Williams, Senior Editor for the TransAdvocate
  68. Madison Turner, singer/songwriter
  69. Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapor, author and activist
  70. Amy A. Dobrowolsky, trans feminist geographer
  71. Autumn Sandeen, Editor for The TransAdvocate
  72. Christina Ann-Marie DiEdoardo, Esq., criminal defense attorney
  73. Melissa Jensen, sex worker
  74. Octavia Reising
  75. Naomi Ceder, IT director, Pythonista, advocate
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  78. Kelli Anne Busey, contributor TransAdvocate, blogger planetransgender, activist
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  81. Amber Dawn Redman, International Media / Commercial Aviation / Communications / Equality Journalist
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  85. Amélie Erin Koran, Executive Office of the President of the United States (Detailee) & President of U.S. Department of the Interior GLOBE
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  95. Kaitlyn Richardson, system administrator
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  100. Freja Falson, student, writer, and trans feminist
  101. Shadi Petosky, creative director
  102. Jennifer Kitney, student chef
  103. Megan Danielle Turcotte, software developer
  104. Annie Mei Shen
  105. Lauren Moffatt PhD, Professor of Physics
  106. Rani Baker,, noise musician/freelance artist
  107. Amy Wilhelm, trans activist, network engineer
  108. Amoreena Crees, interior design
  109. Zoey Marie Bedenbaugh, student, writer
  110. Dominica Deal
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  114. Katherine Cutting
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  116. Drew Stroud, web and game developer
  117. Amara Sugalski, geneticist
  118. A.J. Hunter, activist and writer
  119. Rhea Vichot, graduate student
  120. Trinity Pixie, blogger
  121. The Right Honourable Max, Lairde Harmony
  122. Dr. Myriam J. Johnson, physicist
  123. Charley Matz, trans lesbian artist
  124. Jess Rowbottom, IT consultant
  125. Zoė Alexandra Adams, physics student and trans woman
  126. Frida Viñas, Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya architecture student
  127. Sabrina Kane, Elections Project Officer
  128. Maria Ramnehill, transfeminist
  129. Addie C.
  130. Rebecca Turner, software engineer
  131. Colin Sandel, indie games developer
  132. Anathema Jane McKenna, journalist and poet
  133. Stephanie Springflower, self-employed bookkeeper
  134. Michelle Emily Cloud, student, poet & lyricist, musician
  135. Julie Rei Goldstein, Actress / Voice Over Artist
  136. Samantha Llywela Thornton, photo technician, student
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  138. Erin Susan Jennings, trans liberation activist
  139. Jessica Ferguson, Sr. Information Security Manager
  140. Alison Chan, advanced networks researcher, uni student, LGBT student leader
  141. Jessica Fay Speed, artist/postwoman
  142. Henry-Katherine H., student
  143. D.J. Freedman, MSW, queer social worker
  144. Michelle Spicer, BA, Writer/Activist
  145. Jennifer Lavender Winn, seamstress
  146. Alyssa C. Smith, student, activist
  147. Alice T., comedian
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  149. Jenna Stewart, student
  150. Jennifer Caitlín Eller, English teacher and writer
  151. Sarah Spohn, system administrator
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  153. Alexie Scanlon, activist 
  154. Christina Kahrl, sportswriter and activist
  155. Amy Rebecca Boyer, Software Architect
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  158. Emily Joh Miller, student/writer/musician
  159. Chloe Skedgell, web developer
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  164. Laine DeLaney, transwoman, author, columnist, activist, and community organizer
  165. Maddy Love, podcaster and clinical laboratorian
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  257. Sena Riley, blogger/programmer
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  259. Christina Williams, IT manager and newbie trans advocate
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  261. Miranda Rae Lunabel, barista and musician
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  263. Chelsea Allens, Artist/Student
  264. Drew Deveaux, queer porn star, feminist, sex educator
  265. Julie Danielle Barnett
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  267. Isabelle Jones, law student
  268. Gwen Carlson, student and activist
  269. Lisa Severn, IT Architect
  270. Helen C. Walther, Chat Administrator, Susan’s Place Transgender Resources, Executive Director, Southern Tier Trans Network
  271. Jody Toomey, sci-fi author and musician
  272. Eleanor Amaranth Lockhart, university lecturer and researcher
  273. Cristin Meravi, student
  274. Alys Elbe, student
  275. Erin Dean, queer trans* woman of color and radical intersectional activist, blogger at Glitter of Revolt
  276. Ellie Morris
  277. Crystal Frasier, author
  278. MC Tanuki, musician
  279. Eva Allan, Revolutionary socialist and Trade Union Activist
  280. Elizabeth Izatt, software engineer
  281. Bitmap Madelyn Prager
  282. Veronikka Edmunds, Waste Management Consultant
  283. JoVan Wilson, Healthcare CommunicatorNatalie Russell, civil engineer
  284. Ellie Howard
  285. Eleanor Robyn Carson II, author, photographer, video game reviewer
  286. Tylyn S. Anson, filmmaker and MFA student
  287. Alex Richards Childs, student of Metallurgical Engineering
  288. Bobbie Jo Conner, maintenance worker
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  294. Kori Evans, student
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  296. Amanda Melody Barna, student and pizza delivery driver
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  300. Robyn A. Montgomery, student
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