Why Trans Singer Plastic Martyr Is Speaking Out: 'I'm Not for Cancel Culture, I'm for Educating'

"This wasn't designed to cancel her," Plastic Martyr exclusively tells PEOPLE about speaking out about an alleged incident involving Glee's Lea Michele

Plastic Martyr
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Transgender actress and singer Plastic Martyr is opening up about an experience she says she had with Lea Michele ten years ago.

Amid allegations of Michele’s past behavior towards former Glee costar Samantha Ware, Plastic Martyr tweeted about her own experience feeling mocked by the Glee actress in the bathroom at the Emmy Awards quickly caught fire online. (Michele issued a lengthy apology in regards to the initial accusation made by Ware, saying, “Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused.")

Plastic Martyr Lea Michele
Plastic Martyr // Lea Michele. Lilly Lawrence/WireImage; Gary Gershoff/Getty

"She's a very unpleasant person," Plastic Martyr, the first transgender female to have a single with Capital Records, wrote on Twitter this week in response to Ware's claims that Michele made "traumatic microaggressions" towards her.

"Years ago we were at the Emmys and she happened to be there. I was still in the process of my transition and wasn't 100% as 'passable' then. I was in the bathroom and started washing my hands and then said excuse me to her when trying to reach the soap and she goes 'Excuse me?! EXCUSE ME???? Excuse you ... you realize you're in the WOMEN'S bathroom.' I remember going from feeling so beautiful that day to walking out of that bathroom feeling so self-conscious and embarrassed."

A source close to Michele says the actress doesn't recall the encounter but is devastated to hear the claims.

"Lea has absolutely no recollection of that ever happening and was greatly upset to hear of this and she would never have intentionally singled her out," the source says. "She has been a huge friend of the LGBT community starting from when she was on Broadway at age 8.”

Lea Michele
Lea Michele. Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

To show her support for the LGBTQ community in 2017, Michele contributed to a series called Love Letters published on Billboard.

"Pride is a strong word and one I don’t use lightly but there is no better word to represent and celebrate this incredible community of people," Michele wrote in 2017. "I send all my love to the LGBTQ community."

Speaking with PEOPLE, Plastic Martyr opened up about the encounter, how she moved past it, and how she hopes to use her platform to educate and shine a light on trans community struggles.

PEOPLE: You recently spoke out about an unpleasant encounter you allegedly had with Lea Michele. Why did you feel compelled to speak out now?

Plastic Martyr: This wasn’t designed to cancel [Lea]. I’m not for the cancel culture. I think it’s bullying. I’m for educating. I didn’t want to be the source of more pain for her. But at the same time, I don’t want my community to be in pain. To be honest, [my experience with her] was very minor compared to what I’ve experienced in my life. It wasn’t me trying to get a pity party. It was more like, I saw all these other people coming out about their stories and I was like, ‘This pisses me off.’ I’m so tired of the press stifling trans issues. We’re being silenced. I see all these people of color coming out saying she was horrible to them and I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m going to leave my comment too.’ I was regretting it at first because I didn’t want to contribute to more hate or negativity towards her. But I also feel like it was my duty to speak up for the trans community because this is something that goes on a lot in Hollywood and people don’t talk about it. I’m sick of it. It’s ruining my opportunities. It’s unfair.

PEOPLE: How did those remarks make you feel?

Plastic Martyr: I was young. I’m 30 now, so I was 20 then. I was really fragile and vulnerable. My mom had scored me passes to the Emmys and I was so excited because I had been working in the industry since I was 14 and I’ve been trying to break down boundaries. I felt like, here I am transgender. There was no Caitlyn Jenner, there was no Laverne Cox, there was nobody talking about trans. Here I am at the Emmys and I just felt like a million bucks. I came out of the bathroom just completely deflated, with the wind knocked out of my sails.

PEOPLE: What was your reaction?

Plastic Martyr: I was used to it and I was used to pushing it down and putting my head down. I didn’t have a backbone. I wish that it was me now and I probably would’ve educated her in front of everyone else. But I remember just being like, ‘Here’s a huge star and I don’t have any power. I can’t go up against this.’ There was no support then. It was a very uncomfortable era and it was one that I survived and it wasn’t easy. Me speaking out is mostly designed to save future trans people. I was lucky enough ot have a supportive mother – she was with me that day. That was the reason I was able to survive that. But not everybody is lucky enough to have that positive validation from somebody and that’s how they end up killing themselves. The world turns us into freaks, villainizes us, and makes us feel like there's something wrong with us. Without positive reinforcement, we are going to continue to die. It’s not okay.

PEOPLE: What has the reaction been since you decided to share your story?

Plastic Martyr: I’ve been getting a pretty supportive reaction which is shocking and very appreciated. There are people who are victim blaming who are trying gaslight and say that I’m lying to jump on a bandwagon and get fame. Like, Yes, it was my dream to be known for getting into a fight with Lea Michele in a bathroom. I get those negative comments. I either ignore them or I try to have a conversation with them. People ask how can you post that then say “please don’t send her hate. “I’m allowed to talk about an experience I had and have compassion for the person. You’re allowed to do both. I know who I was in my past. I’ve said horrible things that were insensitive – we all mistakes. But the point is, you grow from it, you learn from it, and it’s about who you are today. Today I don’t feel like she’s being a genuine person.

PEOPLE: Has Lea reached out? What would you say to her if you had the opportunity to speak to her?

Plastic Martyr: No. I don’t know if I would say anything. I’d want to listen to what she has to say. I’m done constantly trying to defend my rights. I want to hear what her opinion is now of me or people like me. I want to know how she feels about that experience which I’m sure she doesn’t even remember. And something that she doesn’t even remember can have a lasting impact on someone else. The power of words.

PEOPLE: How can we be better as a society and support the trans community?

Plastic Martyr: For trans Hollywood, start to humanize us, start to normalize us. The press is normalizing self-entitled selfish little brats and dehumanizing people who are really fighting for a cause. It doesn’t even have to be about a cause. There are so many talented, beautiful transgender people who are going unnoticed. For Hollywood, write about us more, cast us in more roles, allow us to play cisgender roles the same way cisgender actors have portrayed trans people. I’ve never been able to go out on a cisgender role and I don’t get cast as trans roles because they stereotype trans people. I’m too passable now because I’m female. They end up hiring a drag queen. We can’t play ourselves.

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