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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

Lesbian Avengers mobbed by TERFs, threatened with knife in front of MichFest audience:

“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.”

Effective

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.

TERF opinion leader Linda V. Shanko (AKA Gallus Mag, GenderTrender) promoting right-wing campaign to force trans people to use restrooms that correspond to their sex assigned at birth, irrespective of transitioned status.

Misrepresentations of Radical Feminism

TERFs promoting the “trans women are violent” meme at a 2015 Take Back the Night event.

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.

 

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Tea Party right-winger quoting TERFs to support their anti-trans bigotry
Alt-right media pundit promoting the TERF cause
Alt-right media pundit promoting the TERF cause
WBC rejecting criticism of TERFs
WBC rejecting criticism of TERFs
Ideological counterparts are anti-LGBT anti-feminist hate groups
Ideological counterparts are anti-LGBT anti-feminist hate groups

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.”

161 Responses

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  1. Nicola-M
    Nicola-M at | | Reply

    Thank you so much for this website.
    I have no interest in dealing with TERFs, as they are the nastiest pieces of crap I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.
    Sadly, they infest typical LGBT publications such as PinkNews, and it’s ironic that while they are happy to create stink about transwomen invading “their” spaces, they are quite happy to invade the Trans section of PinkNews.
    They are hateful hypocrites.

    Just had one refer to us as “unhinged” even though she’s a 40-something mum of 4, with a husband (who no doubt sleeps with one eye open) so I fail to see how she fits any facet of L, G or B and definitely not T. She has posted over 600 posts of pure unadulterated transphobic vitriolic bile, about a part of society that are so insignificant to her daily life that she probably doesn’t notice us in the loo next to her. Six hundred posts, and WE’RE the unhinged ones? sheesh

    In the UK thankfully we have overwhelming support from the masses compared to the dwindling few TERFs.
    However, we also have a legal system that’s quite happy to announce that Hate Crimes are top priority, but when it comes down to it the things us transfolk have to put up with are actually only Hate INCIDENTS that you log online so it can be recorded as a statistic, unlike actual Hate Crime which the police can act on.

    It’s high time Hate Incidents were upgraded to Hate Crimes.
    It’s high time that online Hate Speech that TERFs like to hit us with should be stamped down on.

    What I want to say most of all, as a transitioning transwoman, is to all other trans folk out there Don’t Give Up. Keep your head high and be proud of what you as an individual have achieved, and don’t let these TERF bast*rds grind you down.

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  2. radfemguy
    radfemguy at | | Reply

    -The radical feminism you people say is different then ‘terf’ is not possible as being radfem is connected with being a gender critical as being genderist and radfem are mutually exclusive. The radfem you talk about is just your libfem or intersecfem who’s more activist than the usual ones as radical with radfem implies ‘roots’ related to the second wave rather than being a hardcore liberal feminist.
    -How one can be called a feminist but ignores differences in the sex and instead try abolish gender altogether, make tons of others like ‘demisexual’, sapiosexual’, greysexual’ and so on?
    -But even by being a mere GC and criticizing gender is ‘hateful’ these days, yes just having a different opinion yet being polite is hate speech it seems. C’mon, you lgbtqa+ have also boycotted female only spaces, it’s not one side thing.
    -Is that hard to conceive that some people have preferences regarding sexes and females bodied may feel uncomfortable about male bodied people? Or screw that?
    -Although sex can be described by language, it’s not a social construct. I mean, anatomy like reproductive organs and hormones. Can we change it at will, with no consequences? If transwomen are women, what are they transiting from if they’re already females? Also, is the cup of coffee i’m drinking right now a social construct? Can i change it for a tea with the force of my mind? I mean, notion of coffee or tea can be defined by language either, the way we spell it or the information of such drinks.
    -Lastly, you didn’t show any murder but cases of violence of dubious fonts while mtf already killed women already in number of cases. Google is your friend.

    Now exclude it with the reasoning of hate speech since hating just applies to those who disagrees with you.

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  3. Castianira Hatten
    Castianira Hatten at | | Reply

    I’m at a mid-way point in my M2F transistion, but had a rude awakening about TERFS here in the UK. It seems to me the best way to shut them up (legally that is) would be to ask them howcome they are obsessing about trans? does this mean that in the UK they have finally gained equal pay for equal work for women? or equal opportunities? or stopped the increasing amount of women fired for getting pregnant?
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, be it on gender dysphoria, feminism, or religion. But the key is to not be in people who disagree’s face. Have your opinion, practice your religion, but don’t try to make everyone live as you want. Live and let live and respect your fellow human being. I admire some religions when they are practiced nicely, and wise points of view from feminists and lesbians, but not this vile hate and pseudo-science, dogma and threatening and exposing behaviour. That is a sign that despite some even holding an education that they have no real argument, just intelectual claptrap.
    What I see, looking at Pride disruptions, and one “suspicious” device exploded by the police, as well as a recent demo (regarding trans use of UK toilets) outside Congress House because a conference on gender identity was staged is a phenomena from the USA hitting the UK shores. In the UK it seems to be a an unholy alliance of TERFS, radical academic lesbians, and christian fundamentalists. The two former have got to be pretty stupid to not realise that once the latter get their way and outlaw gender transisition etc that they will set on them next. Sort of USSR being an ally in WW2 and the cold war after.
    I think it would be unwise for them to continue it in the UK, as basically its terrorism at the extreme end of what they might do or might have done, no matter how strong their lobby, or influence in Parliament.
    Research online seems to show organisations are already making the links between UK schools that teach fundamentalist values, interns and in one case an MP in parliament (but there seem to be more), and then several christian groups and right wing organisations. I say right wing, but really they are pseudo right wing…the popular and more well known ones.Other commentators seem to connect both sides to ant-semitism.
    To me that puts them in a precarious position.
    Reading Paris Lees online comments about TERF wars, I cannot agree, nor would I advocate a wall of love- hasn’t worked, won’t work. Some seem to think she thinks she represents all trans? She doesn’t me for sure.
    To think, my transistion has unleashed my inner self even more, and it likes peace and calm, it likes and craves peace and calm, and happy pursuits. Why is it I feel that despite laws etc, the world seems more of a threatening place for who I am than the one I grew up in. Full of people who want to inflict their idea of what the world should be on all.
    All I know is that I believe that there was a demo outside the clinic I attend. Lets hope they don’t do it on a day I go there. I know I could call the police, but they would do nothing despite at least 6 laws being possibly broken. I know if someone stands in my way thats “threatening behaviour”, “obstruction” , “harrasment” and “giving cause for concern”, let alone recording my image, which is a violation of my human rights and intellectual property violation if used without consent.
    In my opinion like should be met with like, do demos outside where these groups meet, and with the same vigour. Having a sense of humour, I think a court case would be hilarious. One group with protected characteristics under the equality act being taken to court for doing a demo against other protected groups in retaliation. If they ruled against the counter demo it would show the influence of the christian far right fundamentalists, and academic types and expose the whole issue of the police ignoring the law when they do their demos.
    Wouldn’t it nice to win the lottery and buy an island away from these people, be the happy bunny I like to be, listening to music, painting, etc. I bet they would buy a boat just to bug me!!!
    Just a thought.

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  4. Sarah Powell
    Sarah Powell at | | Reply

    @Sophie Jameson – http://theterfs.com/#comment-53325

    “Most children with gender dysphoria will not remain gender dysphoric after puberty”

    The whole point of transitioning is the reduction or elimination of gender dysphoria. Eliminating gender dysphoria is actually the best possible outcome of transitioning.

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  5. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf
    Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf at | | Reply

    The decline and isolation of the TERF and why womyn who identify as trans are also WBW (Womyn Born Womyn).

    Womyn who exclude other womyn are not feminist, they are patriarchal. Let me explain. A femyl who is misgendered at birth is still a femyl. What genitals she may have are irrelevant, for being femyl is not defined by a vagina.

    The hatred expressed by TERF philosophy is repulsive to most womyn, and rightly so, who refused to be categorized by sexual anatomy, reduced to being a walking vagina.

    The modern feminist understands that some males are born with a vagina. They were misgendered at birth as femyl. They are males.

    When we see humans in terms of sexual anatomy we deny the person. True feminism understands that all femyls, whether trans or cis, are a sisterhood.

    TERF is a verb that is hatred, and womyn innately love and are inclusive. That is why we can say that every womyn is beautiful.

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  6. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf
    Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf at | | Reply

    I am a feminist and defining a gender by “vagina” is patriarchal. Womyn self identify, and real feminism mean equity. Equity for all womyn. Trans womyn are WBW, and that is the really sad thing that some womyn don’t understand … they don’t understand that they are more than a walking vagina. Being femyl is holistic. It isn’t defined by body parts.

    My name is Chrisentiae and I am a womyn born womyn, I am also trans … and I am lesbian.

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  7. Virge B.
    Virge B. at | | Reply

    First of all, thank you for compiling these resources and being outspoken about this insidious cancer on feminism. How you found all of these documents, much less had the stomach to look at some of them, is a mystery. You deserve a tribute. Speaking of which: how do you cope with all the hateful and prejudiced comments on your site?

    Secondly, if I understand TERF rhetoric correctly, it says that everyone born with a penis should be treated as a potential rapist and that trans women are especially dangerous in that regard because they try to circumvent rules made to bar people with penises from the presence of people with vulvas. How any radical feminist could fail to see that this pernicious example of the origin fallacy is functionally synonymous with “anatomy is destiny,” I have no idea. Once I had a brief conversation about trans exclusion with a cis female friend, who suggested, “I think TERFs believe that trans women are like sex robots, and the patriarchy just loves them and wants to shove all cisgender women in a drawer.” Now, I’ve not read THE TRANSSEXUAL EMPIRE (though I have seen it in the wild), but what I’ve heard about it leaves me with the distinct impression that that was Janice Raymond’s exact hypothesis. Is the book worth reading, just to gain insight into the trans-exclusionary mentality?

    Thirdly, Andrea Dworkin is my favorite feminist author, and witnessing the abuse of her writings to support trans-exclusionary ideology is depressing. Having read WOMAN HATING, I am a loss to explain how her support for trans people could be any *more* overt. (Strangely, Julia Serano, who is otherwise a lucid and rigorous author on the subject of transfemininity, quoted that book out of context in a way that made it seem like another instance of cisgender feminists conflating trans people with people who internalize sex stereotypes.) Why *do* TERFs try to paint Dworkin as one of their own, other than intellectual dishonesty? Even Valerie Solanas didn’t advocate for the murder of trans women, despite her use of exploitative terms in describing them. (The introduction to the 2013 AK Press edition of THE SCUM MANIFESTO speculates that Solanas may have been transmasculine, which is certainly possible, though we’ll never know.)

    What writings on transgender theory and/or TERFs do you recommend?

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    1. Virge B.
      Virge B. at | | Reply

      *I am *at* a loss to explain, rather.

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  8. Charlotte Aiguier
    Charlotte Aiguier at | | Reply

    Thank you so much for this website, it is like water in the desert. I didn’t even know Dworkin and MacKinnon supported us. There are still so many lies out there, and the biggest one is that radical feminism means hating trans people. It should have always meant the opposite.

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  9. Maria C.
    Maria C. at | | Reply

    I am struggling with this. This whole conversation. I am a lesbian feminist, and I have several close trans friends, both transmen and transwomen. I have always been trans-inclusive. My general feeling is that there is a legitimate critique of the understanding and meaning of gender somewhere in trans-inclusive radical feminism that is being drowned out by the completely hostile, unreasonable and transphobic assertions of TERFs. Somewhere in between your representation of what you call “true,” trans-inclusive radical feminism and TERF ideology, lie questions that need to asked and answered. The problem is, (and I’ll speak for myself, although I think others may feel the same), it frequently feel impossible to ask these questions, out of fear that I will be accused of being a TERF. Out of fear that my limited, specific concerns will be lumped in with the extreme positions that you ascribe to TERFs – such as, that I don’t want transpeople to have equal rights and safety in society, and I wholeheartedly do. With that said, here are my thoughts..

    You quoted earlier in this thread a piece from Wittig:

    N]ot only is there no natural group “women” (we lesbians are living proof of it), but as individuals as well we question “woman,” which for us, as for Simone de Beauvoir, is only a myth. She said: “One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

    However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir.
    Colette Guillaumin has shown that before the socioeconomic reality of black slavery, the concept of race did not exist, at least not in its modern meaning, since it was applied to the lineage of families. However, now, race, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a “sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived.
    – – – – – –

    I agree that “woman” is created, and I agree that transwomen are women, by this definition. Like race, while there are biological characteristics traditionally ascribed to it, those characteristics are arbitrarily chosen, and only have the meanings that we give to them. In the case of “woman,” many of those meanings are invariably in relationship to “man,” and include and cannot be separated from notions of submission, inferiority, weakness, and subjugation. This is the need for radical feminism, I think. To continue to draw attention to how the construct of “women” exists in order to create a lower class of people, to be dominated by the class above them (“men”).

    However… there is another lived reality, in addition to “woman” that I will call “female.” It is the material experience of living with female genitalia. It is the reality encapsulated in the moment when desperate Chinese parents discard their newborn daughter in a dumpster because her genitalia are not acceptable. This newborn is not a “woman” yet, by de Beauvoir’s definition. But she is still female. And her female-ness, inextricably tied to her genitalia, is so socially significant, that it literally determines the value of her life.

    Femaleness also is comprised by the experience of growing up internalizing all the meanings that female genitalia is assigned in our society. Growing up feeling inherently vulnerable at the core of my being, because I am taught that the purpose of my vagina is that it is a vessel to be filled, as though it has no agency of its own, and therefore, no vehicle for empowerment. This sense, of vulnerability and powerlessness (literally, having an empty space, where “males” have instead an “actor”) cannot be unpackaged from femaleness, and cannot be unpackaged from genitalia.

    My local feminist bookstore decided to host an event called Viva La Vulva. The purpose of the event was to be a gallery opening for a photography series that captured women’s relationships to the vulva, an oft-ignored, but deeply intimate feature of female anatomy. Many women have complicated relationships with our vulvas, myself included, because of the vulva’s function. It is a delicate gateway, and some of us have experienced violation of those gateways.

    To summarize a complicated series of events, a local group of transwomen accused the bookstore of TERFism for not specifically inviting transwomen to participate as subjects of the photographs. The bookstore responded by asking this group if they had vulvas. The transwomen responded by saying that, yes, they experienced and referred to their genitalia as “vulva” or “vagina,” even if they were non-op. The bookstore responded by offering to include them in the event, even as photography subjects. No transwomen chose to participate.

    Secretly, however, among the staff and supporters of the bookstore, there arose an inside joke: “My vulva is not a construct.” We whispered it to each other, afraid to speak it aloud, for fear, again, of being accused of being TERFs.

    If you already anticipate what I’m going to say, I hope my phrasing does it justice. Why is it transphobic to exclude transwomen from this event? The lived experience of having a vulva, of growing up as a little girl with a vulva, with all the threat and actual harm that is tied to this physical, material piece of anatomy, is an experience that some “women” share, which transwomen (who still are “women”) do not share. Even when transwomen are post-op, I would argue that the conditioning of living one’s childhood and entire life with a vulva is an experience that cannot be approximated by adding this biological feature later in life. However, I am open to the idea that post-op transwomen would “belong” in the photographs for this event, as they represent a different perspective on the experience of having a vulva.

    In the same way that we understand that women of color – even knowing that race is a “myth” or a construct – have a shared, lived experience in common that makes it understandable and appropriate for them to organize in women-of-color-only spaces on occasion, why is it not appropriate for female women to do the same? A vulva is not an idea, just as brown skin is not an idea. These are literal, physical features that have ideas ATTACHED to them, but they are not replaceable with ideas themselves.

    Transwomen belong in the women’s movement. They belong in feminism, and they deserve equal rights and access to healthcare, and more. But I struggle with the idea that they always belong in women-only spaces, when those spaces have been previously designed to provide a safe space for female-bodied people, on the basis of the social meanings (including meanings of vulnerability and violence) that our BODIES literally have.

    2+
    1. Maria C.
      Maria C. at | | Reply

      I’ve been reading all I can, on this site and on TransAdvocate, since I posted this comment, and I’d like to clarify something. It seems a common TERF assertion is “sex not gender.” I am concerned my comments will be perceived as being in the same spirit as this assertion. They are not. I think that in most cases, for the purposes of most feminist organizing, we are obviously organizing around gender and its social meanings, and therefore transwomen 100% belong in those meetings and events. Transwomen are women, they share women’s status, and the meanings of being gendered as women. I’m just struggling with the specific incident I outlined above. In those rare cases when physical female anatomy is relevant, how can we be sensitive to the lived experience of having specific anatomy, while not being offensive to the trans community?

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  10. az
    az at | | Reply

    i don’t want to listen to John Stoltenberg, he’s a man, his opinion is irrelevant. I don’t like this site. It hasn’t changed any of my views.

    2+
    1. pink squirrel
      pink squirrel at | | Reply

      Re

      i don’t want to listen to John Stoltenberg, he’s a man, his opinion is irrelevant.

      just because he is male ?

      = az is a sexist bigot

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    2. Ashum
      Ashum at | | Reply

      He was a gay man who married Andrea Dworkin, Andrea Dworkin was also okay with transpeople funnily enough, Az.

      You pretty much ignored the rest of anything said and it just seems as if you aren’t changing your views because you like them and healthhy scepticism be damned.

      1+
  11. Cassie May White
    Cassie May White at | | Reply

    Thank you for this information wich reveals to me the chronology of TERFing. Now I understand that I met them decades ago.
    During the mid 1970’s I was a child in the living in lesbian seperatist community in the UK. It was an environment in wich I experienced frequent and severe critiscm; being told how to be a girl. The little boys were characterised as mini-men, mini-rapists, just little pricks. Emotional and physical abuse of both girls and boys was not uncommon. Throughout my life I have been sexually assaulted by females far more often than by males. I don’t hate the wymn for this, even though I have been injured, but I will assert now that the hate and the hurting must stop. We all deserve so much better.

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  12. Mel
    Mel at | | Reply

    This is how TERFs see people: (image in link contain drawn genitals with legs and is a question to people who see others by their assigned sex at birth)
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-pbhIUBCOg00/VoUmV7wQ0sI/AAAAAAAAGmU/TZnT_zAUmVk/s000-Ic42/this%252520is%252520how%252520terf%252520see%252520people.jpg

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  13. Aoife Assumpta Hart
    Aoife Assumpta Hart at | | Reply

    I’m out. I’m done. I apologize. I failed.

    It’s impossible to maintain an ontological autonomy as a Trans person and countenance gender abolitionist thinking that, by declaration of intent, sees our extermination as manifest destiny of objective.

    I resign.

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  14. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf
    Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf at | | Reply

    http://www.chrisentiae.com/how_to_treat_a_transgender_womyn.html

    How to treat a womyn …
    … males leave lesbian womyn alone …

    Guys … how to treat a womyn who identifies as transgender

    1. R E S P E C T … like the song. STOP watching porn dude, because womyn are NOT like that at all!

    2. If you introduce yourself politely and she replies with words to the effect, “I am a lesbian”, LEAVE! Go buy a dictionary if you have to, because unless you are femyl she is NOT interested. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf is a LESBIAN … womyn ONLY !!!

    3. My body is NONE of your fucking business! If she opens a conversation about herself, then and only then the topic may be respectfully discussed within HER limitations that she sets.

    4. NO. Learn what it means and do NOT harm womyn!

    5. Taking advantage of womyn due to their financial need makes you among the worst kind of human being. Just remember that next time you think you can buy womyn!

    6. If you are a medical professional claiming to help womyn, then do NOT tell womyn what to do and demand us to be sexually interrogated … you sick bastards – http://www.chrisentiae.com/transgender_medical_rights.html#goto5

    7. Gurl, yes being a TERF makes you patriarchal, you are the worst of what you claim to hate so stop it now! ALL womyn are beautiful and you do not decide who a womyn is – stop hating womyn! – http://theterfs.com/

    8. Dude do you really need to stare at my body like you are masturbating over me in your mind? You think we gurls don’t know this, and your creep factor just hit 10 out of 10, congratulations!

    9. I wear what I want and that is NOT a sexual invitation to you dude. I don’t know you. Stop being a psycho.

    10. If you aren’t a real man, then become one, because womyn who are hetro ONLY want real men. Real men NEVER harm womyn and protect ALL womyn. So do a PC check, Privilege Check because that is actually a very good thing, see South Park “Stunning And Brave”, because they did get a lot right before getting so totally stoned off their faces.

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  15. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf
    Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf at | | Reply

    Case 2. TERF Seven Sisters Festival mea culpa

    Australian Seven Sisters Festival, here in Melbourne my home, excluded womyn based on TERF philosophy. That promotes a narrowly defined definition of who a womyn is, a definition of their own making, which is in contradiction of the universal rights of all womyn and unlawful in Australia.

    The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News Department broke the story online, which resulted in widespread social media protests of revulsion at the TERF policies harming womyn who are typically already highly marginalised and vulnerable.

    TERF philosophy is womyn bullying other womyn, because they think they can and get away with it – Germaine Greer is a leader among this WHW (womyn hating womyn) movement.

    The initial reaction of Seven Sisters Festival was deleting hundreds of posts confirming the inalienable rights of all womyn, and many defending the rights of womyn were banned and silenced.

    This led to even more protests and Seven Sisters Festival then threatened legal action, and vilified those defending the rights of all womyn to be treated with dignity and affirmation.

    Posts were no longer being deleted at this stage, and the filth and vileness of TERF hatred was unleashed in full force. The hatred these womyn expressed for other womyn is nothing less that pathological.

    Other media outlets were joining the revolution for that is what it was. A lot of womyn and some men, this is really a fight womyn owned, were beacons of light that we should all aspire to.

    Legal action was mentioned and I initiated legal processes against Seven Sister Festival and posted the same at their forum.

    A few hours later, Seven Sisters Festival offered a mea culpa. It isn’t known what happened, but it is a safe bet to say the patients no longer ran the asylum, as they say. It would seem the TERFS running Seven Sisters Festival were turfed. – Yeah I know, but it is a nice play on words. Turf the TERF I say! (Turf is Australian slang for “turfed out”, to be thrown out).

    My response to Seven Sisters and their mea culpa is below:

    “Seven Sisters Festival welcomes all women, including: … women of transgender”

    Thank you.

    I will cease the legal action in play against Seven Sisters.

    I welcome Katie’s appointment. This is a positive development. I’ll be in touch.

    “extend an apology to the transgender”

    Love always forgive quickly … speaking for myself, I forgive you.

    It was a very hurtful experience but positive growth has resulted.

    I think MichFest have something to learn from your example … and it isn’t too late for them. I NEVER give up hope for that which is good.

    I do not know Kylee and her partner, however I am appreciative of the steps you have and are taking. I hope they choose to participate as that would be something positive.

    I don’t hold grudges, so for me, we are all good Seven Sisters.

    I want to commend those at Seven Sisters who have addressed these matters with wisdom and compassion. We all make mistakes and it is how we move from there that is important.

    Time to move on I think.

    *hugs*

    Chrisentiae xo

    QUOTE BELOW:

    Seven Sisters Festival has never had an official policy regarding the participation of transgender and intersex women. However, it has been the philosophy and intent of the festival, since its first year, to welcome all women. Transgender and intersex women have attended past festivals.

    Official policy is not represented in the published reply to Kylee which is cited by the media. Recent events have highlighted the significance of this omission and the necessity to address it. Therefore, the Seven Sisters team wish to issue its official policy regarding the participation of transgender and intersex women in the festival as follows:
    Seven Sisters Festival welcomes all women, including: women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), women of transgender, intersex and diverse sexualities, women of diverse abilities, and women of diverse religious backgrounds and belief. Our position is one of full participation in what is a large, public event. We recognise the diversity of our community and will be working within a framework of affirmative action and self-determination.

    We have employed a cultural, sexuality and gender advisor and we are consulting with various advocacy groups to ensure the festival is inclusive, welcoming, and safe for all.

    Your assistance is also welcome in this important journey.

    Suggestions can be forwarded to our ‘Cultural, sexuality and gender advisor’: katie@sevensistersfestival.com Our team, have contacted Kylee and her partner, seeking to apologise and we also wish to extend an apology to the transgender, intersex and seven sisters community for any duress and confusion we may have caused.

    You can now find this statement officially on our website http://www.sevensistersfestival.com

    At the time of writing, I am still banned by Seven Sisters Festival, from their online public forum. I have made contact with the hope of this ban being lifted, given we are no longer foes, but allies.

    0
  16. Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf
    Chrisentiae Saint-Piaf at | | Reply

    Case 2. TERF Seven Sisters Festival mea culpa

    Australia Seven Sisters Festival excluded womyn based on TERF philosophy. That has a narrowly defined defintion of who is a womyn, of their own making, which is in contradiction of the universal rights of all womyn and unlawful in Australia.

    The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News Department broke the story online, which resulted in widespread social media protests of revulsion at the TERF policies harming womyn who are typically already highly marginalised and vulnerable.

    TERF philospophy is womyn bullying other womyn, because they think they can and get away with it – Germaine Greer is a leader of this WHW (womyn hating womyn) movement .

    The initial reaction of Seven Sisters Festival was deleting hundreds of posts confirming the inalienable rights of all womyn, and many defending the rights of womyn were banned and silenced.

    This led to even more protests and Seven Sisters Festival then threatened legal action, and vilified those defending the rights of all womyn to be treated with dignity and affirmation.

    Posts were no longer being deleted at this stage, and the filth and vileness of TERF hatred was unleashed in full force. The hatred these womyn expressed for other womyn is nothing less that pathological.

    Other media outlets were joining the revolution for that is what it was. A lot of womyn and some men, this is really a fight womyn owned, were beacons of light that we should all aspire to.

    Legal action was mentioned and I initiated legal processes against Seven Sister Festival and posted the same at their forum.

    A few hours later, Seven Sisters Festival offered a mea culpa. It isn’t known what happened, but it is a safe bet to say the patients no longer ran the asylum, as they say. It would seem the TERFS running Seven Sisters Festival were turfed. – Yeah I know, but it is a nice play on words. Turf the TERF I say! (Turf is Australia slang for “turfed out”, to be thrown out).

    My response to Seven Sisters and their mea culpa is below:

    “Seven Sisters Festival welcomes all women, including: … women of transgender”

    Thank you.

    I will cease the legal action in play against Seven Sisters.

    I welcome Katie’s appointment. This is a positive development. I’ll be in touch.

    “extend an apology to the transgender”

    Love always forgive quickly … speaking for myself, I forgive you.

    It was a very hurtful experience but positive growth has resulted.

    I think MichFest have something to learn from your example … and it isn’t too late for them. I NEVER give up hope for that which is good.

    I do not know Kylee and her partner, however I am appreciative of the steps you have and are taking. I hope they choose to participate as that would be something positive.

    I don’t hold grudges, so for me, we are all good Seven Sisters.

    I want to commend those at Seven Sisters who have addressed these matters with wisdom and compassion. We all make mistakes and it is how we move from there that is important.

    Time to move on I think.

    *hugs*

    Chrisentiae xo

    QUOTE BELOW:

    Seven Sisters Festival has never had an official policy regarding the participation of transgender and intersex women. However, it has been the philosophy and intent of the festival, since its first year, to welcome all women. Transgender and intersex women have attended past festivals.

    Official policy is not represented in the published reply to Kylee which is cited by the media. Recent events have highlighted the significance of this omission and the necessity to address it. Therefore, the Seven Sisters team wish to issue its official policy regarding the participation of transgender and intersex women in the festival as follows:
    Seven Sisters Festival welcomes all women, including: women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), women of transgender, intersex and diverse sexualities, women of diverse abilities, and women of diverse religious backgrounds and belief. Our position is one of full participation in what is a large, public event. We recognise the diversity of our community and will be working within a framework of affirmative action and self-determination.

    We have employed a cultural, sexuality and gender advisor and we are consulting with various advocacy groups to ensure the festival is inclusive, welcoming, and safe for all.

    Your assistance is also welcome in this important journey.

    Suggestions can be forwarded to our ‘Cultural, sexuality and gender advisor’: katie@sevensistersfestival.com Our team, have contacted Kylee and her partner, seeking to apologise and we also wish to extend an apology to the transgender, intersex and seven sisters community for any duress and confusion we may have caused.

    You can now find this statement officially on our website http://www.sevensistersfestival.com

    At the time of writing, I am still banned by Seven Sisters Festival, from their online public forum. I have made contact with the hope of this ban being lifted, given we are no longer foes, but allies.

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  17. Jo-Anna Cossey
    Jo-Anna Cossey at | | Reply

    Hey there!
    Great website, fantastic to see so much work done.
    My policy for transfemale and transmale inclusion has 5 main premises.

    1.It is not ok to scrutinise anybodies genitals in public for access to public space (an obvious but necessary point)
    2.There is no definition of women, the ‘reclamation’ of female identity was not designed to reclaim attributes of femininity but rather to diversify feminities and womanhoods including transmasculinities, with the understanding that stereotypes, homoginising stereotypes were a major vehicle for gender oppression.
    3.There is nothing about penises which is inherently oppressive. Gender oppression is cultural and socio-historical, willy’s are not the enemy.
    4.If you therefore do not define women attributionally, you cannot prove that anybody is not a woman. Because we dont want a limiting definition of women- it’s fine … some women have dicks.( Logically you cannot actually prove a ting is not- popper)
    5 If trans women come along how much of a threat will they be ? really it the hetero right patriarchy wanted to create an incursion in womens space they could far more easily recruit right wing women, you’ll get all of three or four transwomen turn up, lot’s of straight and bi women and a lot of us who have a lot to gain from meeting men and women who transgress these boundaries.

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