Scott Galloway is hanging up his wigs and putting away his fake eyelashes. The provocative author, podcaster, and NYU professor of marketing said he would stop appearing in drag after he was confronted by the father of a transgender child during the Q&A session following his “Provocative Predictions” keynote speech at the SXSW conference in Austin on March 11.
“I’m wondering, as a father of a transgender child, if you would consider retiring your crass . . . transphobic presentations?” asked attendee Christopher Haines, according to audio from the event obtained by Fast Company.
Galloway, who cohosts Vox’s Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher and has gained notoriety for his unconventional, showman-like commentary on business, economics, politics and tech, has appeared wearing wigs, lipstick, and dresses atop his usual full beard in videos on his YouTube channel and on CNN+.
“And you find those offensive?” Galloway responded.
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) January 28, 2022
Haines said that Galloway’s performances put his child at risk, explaining that they rely on stereotypes and provide justification for the bullying of trans and gender nonconforming kids.
“You have a voice and an impact, and I’m telling you, I appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent perspective on everything,” Haines continued. “But when I see that, I think about my child being bullied. And I would ask you, will you please consider how that affects all of our kids. Especially in Texas now where they’re trying to make it illegal to provide healthcare to [our children],” he concluded, referring to Governor Greg Abbott’s recent declaration that providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youths constitutes child abuse under Texas law.
Galloway said that despite not intending to be hurtful, he understood that his intentions were not the point. “Regardless of what I think I’m doing . . . I recognize my privilege may make me ignorant to the impact that you’ve just outlined,” he said. “I mean this sincerely: I had not thought of that. I thought as a quote-unquote cisgender heterosexual male that I might actually be helping when I did that. So, let me cut to the chase: I believe that you are sincere. I will stop.”
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) March 7, 2022
When Fast Company reached Galloway for comment on Tuesday evening, he still seemed to be processing the interaction.
“I was rattled. I wasn’t expecting it,” he says. “As somebody who thinks of themselves as an ally for dads and wants to be a warrior for the disenfranchised, quite frankly it’s like a spear through your heart for anybody to intimate that you’re not only not helping, but that you’re hurting.”
Galloway resists characterizing what he’s done as drag, comparing it instead to Saturday Night Live-style impersonations. Before the SXSW talk, he says he thought he was helping to normalize male-bodied people wearing women’s clothing.
“I’m not sure I immediately made the connection between dressing in women’s clothing and, in any way, harming transgender children. I want to just acknowledge that I didn’t make that connection, and nor am I entirely sure I do now,” he says. And while the vast majority of the people he spoke to after the talk were supportive, there were a few who were disappointed that he’d bowed to what they considered “is overreach on the woke side of this issue.”
But Galloway says he saw no point in doubling down.
“I’m old enough to learn and evolve, and I know that there are a lot of dimensions of these issues that I can never fully understand,” he says. “I can be effective without dressing up in women’s clothing. I’m not a comedian. I’m an academic trying to make a point and trying to help people develop economic security for themselves and their families. And if a father of a transgender child feels that my activities are possibly hurting transgender children, I am willing to take him at his word and change my behavior.”