What TERFism Looks Like:
Now one of the things I find puzzling about it is that, when I look at the House of Lords debate on this legislation, those I agree with most are the radical right. Particularly the person I find that I agree with most, in here, and I’m not sure he will be pleased to find this, is Norman Tebbitt… Tebbitt also says that the savage mutilation of transgenderism, we would say if it was taking place in other cultures apart from the culture of Britain, was a harmful cultural practice, and how come we’re not recognising that in the British Isles.
– Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, TERF author, lecturer & academic, speaking at the Andrea Dworkin Commemorative Conference given at Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Justice
Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example.
– Mary Daly, PhD, TERF author, lecturer & academic from her book, Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism pp 70 – 71
TIP: In the same way anti-gay groups claim to be “Christian” (WBC), TERFs attempt to spread anti-trans animus by passing it off as a brand of feminism, usually “Radical Feminism” or so-called “Gender Critical Feminism.”
What Feminism Looks Like:
So now I want to be unequivocal in my words: I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine” and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.
– Gloria Steinem, feminist icon & activist
Work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity… Every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions.
– Andrea Dworkin, radical feminist pioneer & activist
Male dominant society has defined women as a discrete biological group forever. If this was going to produce liberation, we’d be free.… To me, women is a political group. I never had much occasion to say that, or work with it, until the last few years when there has been a lot of discussion about whether transwomen are women… I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman.
– Catharine MacKinnon, radical feminist pioneer & activist
The notion that truly revolutionary radical feminism is trans-inclusive is a no brainer. I honestly do not understand how or why a strain of radical feminism has emerged that favors a biology-based/sex-essentialist theory of ‘sex caste’ over the theory of ‘sex class’ as set forth in the work of Witting, Andrea, and MacKinnon. Can radical feminism be ‘reclaimed’ so that its trans-inclusivity—which is inherent—is made apparent? I hope so.
– John Stoltenberg, radical feminist & activist
Transphobia in the feminist community isn’t new and continues to be promoted by radical feminists such as Sheila Jeffreys, Germaine Greer, and Julie Bindel who pathologize transgenderism for a variety of reasons. They characterize being transgender in various ways: as an extremely kinky sexual practice or a mental illness such as body dysmorphic disorder. Sometimes the criticism is paternalistic in claiming that transgender people are merely exploited victims of the medical industry’s drive to make money with various surgical and hormonal procedures. The 1994 book Transexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male by Janice Raymond describes being transsexual as a medical invention manufactured to create profit. Another criticism is that transgender people reinforce gender roles or expression. For example, Germaine Greer once referred to transwomen as “ghastly parodies of women” with “too much eye-shadow.” Sometimes the attacks on transgender people reach conspiracy levels by those who see the phenomenon as an effort by men to turn themselves into women in order to infiltrate “women”-only spaces. Radical feminists Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen blend transphobia with “anti-civilization” environmentalism in Deep Green Resistance (DGR). Julie Labrouste, a contact of Radical Women, was repudiated by DGR, which had been urging her to join until she mentioned she was trans-female.
– Radical Women, 2nd wave feminist organization, formed in 1967
TIP: Like anti-gay groups, TERFs often assert that they don’t “hate” trans people.
TERF Position on Trans Healthcare
In the 1980s, TERFs substantively supported the effort to bring an end to trans health care access. One TERF operative wrote a government report which led the the revocation of public and private insurance converge of trans medical care. According to the State of California, such policies lead to the death of trans people.
TERF Position on Trans Equality
For decades, TERFs have sought to legislate trans people out of existence. Moreover, they work to oppose trans equality measures, infiltrate trans-inclusive feminist spaces, work with anti-gay groups to target trans kids and collaborate with anti-trans extremists who advocate bombing US targets.
TERF Position on Trans Restroom Access
Much like their far right-wing counterparts, TERFs do not support trans people using the restroom. In fact, the TERF community was the first to use this as a political issue way back in 1973.
TERF Position on Body Autonomy
Much like their extremist counterparts, TERFs generally do not recognize the transitioned status of trans people and instead assert that trans people are the sex they were assigned at birth.
IRL Violence Motivated by TERF Ideology
Sandy Stone, victim of attempted murder by TERF group:
Sandy Stone recounts the time when Olivia Records (a lesbian separatist, radical feminist women’s music collective) came under attack for being trans inclusive: “We were getting hate mail about me.… The death threats were directed at me, but there were violent consequences proposed for the Collective if they didn’t get rid of me.”
Olivia and Stone were informed that a TERF group named The Gorgons asserted that they would murder Stone if Olivia’s show came to Seattle. Stone said that the Olivia show was “probably the only women’s music tour that was ever done with serious muscle security.”
Making good on their threats, armed Gorgons came to the show but was disarmed by Olivia security. Stone said, “In fact, Gorgons did come and they did have guns taken away from them. I was terrified. During a break between a musical number someone shouted out ‘GORGONS!’ and I made it from my seat at the console to under the table the console was on at something like superluminal speed. I stayed under there until it was clear that I wasn’t about to be shot.
Cis radical feminist Robin Tyler beaten by TERFs, recounting attempted bashing of Beth Elliott:
“We defended Beth Eliot. Robin Morgan came up with this horrible speech and when Beth went on stage to play her guitar and sing, [TERFs] started threatening her. Patty [Harrison] and I jumped on stage and we got hit, because they came onto the stage to physically beat her.”
“A huge crowd of yelling people formed around us and I started crying at that point. It got so loud that Nomy Lamm, who was performing there as part of Sister Spit, came over and stood up for us… The crowd and me were walked over to a tent area. The way that it worked was that there was a queue of people who were going to get to say whatever they wanted to say. I remember, specifically, one woman looking right at me and telling me that I needed to leave the Land as soon as possible because she had a knife and didn’t know if she would be able to control herself if I was around her.”
Stonewall Riot veteran Sylvia Rivera, victim of beating organized by a TERF opinion leader:
“‘Jean O’Leary, a founder of Radicalesbians, decided that drag queens were insulting to women… I had been told I was going to speak at the rally… She told Vito Russo to kick my ass onstage… but I still got up and spoke my piece.’ Although Rivera was famously quoted as saying in response, ‘Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned,’ this incident precipitated yet another suicide attempt on her part. Jean O’Leary later reversed her position, and she and Sylvia ultimately remained respectful peers, but the events of that day in 1973 ultimately took something out of Sylvia Rivera. In the succeeding years, Sylvia Rivera’s participation in ‘the movement’ waned. Although she attended every Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (with the exception of two) until her death, Sylvia’s formal participation in organizations like the GLF and the GAA came to a halt.” – Susan Glisson (Ed), The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement, p 325
Cis & trans activists threatened at MichFest, inspiring the Camp Trans movement:
“Some people in the festival began harassing us and then around noon on Wednesday or Thursday, the festival security stopped by and told us that the trans women in our group would have to leave, ‘for their own safety.’
Tensions were definitely rising, we were told. We had scheduled to do some workshops and some folks were definitely hostile. We were told that, for our own safety, the trans women would need to leave the festival as soon as possible. It was a situation.
We decided that I would stay inside the festival to continue educating people and the other folks would set up camp across the street from the festival in protest.”
State of California documents trans deaths attributable to barriers in accessing trans health care:
“In this study, the strongest predictor associated with the risk of suicide was gender-based discrimination that included ‘problems getting health or medical services due to their gender identity or presentation…’ Notably, this gender-based discrimination was a more reliable predictor of suicide than depression, history of alcohol/drug abuse treatment, physical victimization, or sexual assault. These studies provide overwhelming evidence that removing discriminatory barriers to treatment results in significantly lower suicide rates.”
The TERF movement is particularly effective in their campaign against trans people and trans equality as they consistently couch their actions as political/feminist/lesbian/radical/womanist critiques of gender and are therefore welcomed in spaces that would normally reject the same rhetoric from right wing people and organizations. From consistently targeting trans healthcare to supporting reparative therapy for trans children, the TERF movement – while historically seen as both ridiculous and irrelevant – has managed to inflict more suffering upon the trans community than any other anti-trans equality movement in the history of the United States.
Misrepresentations of Radical Feminism
There’s a reason TERF opinion leaders like Sheila Jeffreys carefully edits out Andrea Dworkin’s thoughts about trans people when she, not infrequently, cites Dworkin in her many condemnations of trans people. We submit to you that she and other TERFs engage in this intellectual turpitude because to do otherwise would call into question their assertion that what they offer is a “Radical Feminist perspective” of the trans experience. TERFs enjoy a media climate which is all too happy to promote the falsehood that “Radical Feminism” has an issue with trans people. In the name of pioneering (trans-inclusive) Radical Feminists like Dworkin and MacKinnon, TERFs propagate their anti-trans animus in national news outlets, academic presses, peer-reviewed journals in addition to all forms of online media. Even so, TERFs can be found in numerous news outlets (ironically) complaining about not having a platform to spread their claims about both radical feminism and trans people.
Promoting Right-Wing Sex Essentialism
The sex essentialism found within TERF ideology is somewhat similar to the sex essentialism found in right-wing ideology. It is therefore not uncommon to find anti-gay propaganda mills and Tea Party politicians quoting TERFs and TERFs quoting anti-gay Tea Party propagandists. Just as anti-gay groups have token gay people, the TERF crew has token trans people. The TERF movement, much like other sex essentialist ideologies, encourages trans people to detransition.
We at TheTERFs.com can’t quietly watch the colonization of “radical feminism” by what amounts to an ideological anti-trans group without – at the very least – attempting to document TERF ideology, animus and misinformation. Moreover, we are tired of this movement of animus fraudulently wrapping itself in the good work of RadFems like Wittig, Dworkin, MacKinnon, Stoltenberg, and de Beauvoir to gain access to feminist, medical, legal and communal spaces.
But, I heard that “TERF is a slur!”
The “TERF is a slur” meme is a way for TERFs to simultaneously attack and dismiss critiques of their ideology and behavior. Recently, a cisgender feminist used the term TERF and was immediately attacked – not for the observations she actually made – but for daring to distinguish between radical feminists and TERFs. TERF opinion leader Elizabeth Hungerford’s 2013 CounterPunch article is often cited when making the “TERF is a slur” claim without acknowledging the fact that Hungerford herself actually identifies as a “TERF.” Hungerford wrote, “It’s just that I DO want to exclude some trans people from some situations, depending on the context… So yeah, I am a TERF. And I’m not ashamed. At all.”
While it is often asserted that TERF is a term coined by trans people as a slur, the term actually comes from the non-trans feminist community. In 2008 an online feminist community popularized “TERF” as a way of making a distinction between two types of feminism: trans exclusionary “radical feminism” and radical feminism itself. TheTERFs.com use this term in a manner consistent with its widely known context, as asserted by the progenitor of the term, cisgender feminist Viv Smythe: “It was not meant to be insulting. It was meant to be a deliberately technically neutral description of an activist grouping. We wanted a way to distinguish TERFs from other RadFems with whom we engaged who were trans*-positive/neutral, because we had several years of history of engaging productively/substantively with non-TERF RadFems.”