Trigger warning: References to transphobia
I think there is a need for anyone and everyone to know what a TERF is if they don’t know yet. I came across the term about a week ago, when I was looking up articles about transgender people. I read the definition of the term, but only had a vague understanding of it. However, after talking with a few people online, I began to suspect that I might have been talking with TERFs. So, I did more research on the term to check.
TransAdvocate.com linked to theterfs.com: A site “dedicated to exposing the hate contained within their movement.”, which has an infographic for those of you who don’t like reading too much text.
I consulted the dear members of the UNSW Queer Collective, who kindly explained to me the meaning of the term as well as the different waves of feminism. The following are some of the quotes I got from members of the collective:
In a nutshell, the term is used to refer to specific radical feminists who attempt to “exterminate” trans womens’ identities by rejecting their womanhood and gender identity, usually using “he” pronouns to refer to trans women and with various extremities (i.e. likening trans women to colonisation of women’s bodies by men, and also using rape analogies in a similar fashion).
A notable TERF is Cathy Brennan, who has done a lot of work to help with the extermination of trans women (e.g. influence law that assists in placing hurdles in front of trans women’s survival, such as legally blocking avenues of healthcare).
People often mistake the “E” in TERF to mean “exclusionary”, but that is the work of TERFs trying to say that they are merely “gender critical” a.k.a. they are spouting hate speech.
…to deny the legitimacy of trans identities is effectively to call for the eradication of trans-ness, thus the one implies the other anyway.
In feminist discourse there is three waves of feminism, 1st (which was around the first half of the century), 2nd (60s-early 80’s) and 3rd wave (90’s – present).
Not all radfems are TERFs in fact a lot of anarchist feminists call themselves radical feminists whilst specifically including and being allies or being trans. Most TERFs belong to the discourse of the 2nd wave. Famous 2nd wave feminists include Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys. Both are also Australian feminists, the latter is also known to be racist.
Modern (3rd wave) feminism holds that transwomen are women, just as transmen are men (and therefore benefit from the patriarchy in certain aspects.
There are some feminists who would for their other parts fit nicely into the 3rd wave type feminism except they are transphobic
I would also like to give a big thank you to our allies at Transcend Gender Australia, who wrote a simple and easy-to-understand check list of what being a TERF includes. The following were included in the blog post:
Do you think transwomen are men and they can never be a ‘real’ woman?
People questioned whether transwomen could understand female oppressions, whether the oppression of trans people measured up to this oppression, whether sex reassignment surgery made you a woman, so on and so forth. Who knew there was so much ground to cover. As Lucy Mangan from The Guardian said in relation to the excess of boundary marking and labelling this ‘TERF war’ incited:
“Will you excuse me while I go and shoot myself in the head? Because, like – whatever, you know?”
I have been accused of being pro-rape for advocating for the installation of unisex toilets, given links to cases where media outlets claim transgender perverts have assaulted women in their private toilet spaces. People have tried to tell me that transgender women should never be referred to as women because they are biologically different from the female sex and don’t menstruate. The negative generalisations people have stated to me clearly exhibit the behavior of people who have transphobia. Transgender women live their life presenting themselves as women and deserve to be respected for who they are. The way of extending this respect is to refer to them as women. So, I think that some of the people I talked to met the TERF criterion.
Also, let me ask the people who accused me of being pro-rape: If a rapist wanted to rape somebody, would that rapist care about which toilet their target entered? Or would they just rape once they lock in their targets? Rape can happen anywhere, including toilets, so toilets are not the direct cause of it. In fact, men, women and transgender people can all be sexually assaulted. Transgender people deal with a chance of being raped, just like everybody else. TERFs claim that a cisgender female will be more likely to be assaulted by a transgender woman, or have their privacy invaded by a transgender woman. Yet, they hardly think of how likely it is for things to be the other way around:
Say hello to the Pacific Justice Institute, a hate group that spreads propaganda about trans people. Sometimes mainstream media outlets repeat these lies. Like ABC’s Michael Chen, who, last October, mentioned the case of a trans girl peering over bathroom stalls to look at other girls. Except she didn’t. When activist site TransAdvocate investigated – using complex methods like picking up a phone – the school informed them that the story was “fabricated”.
…telling lies about transgender folk harassing people is a thing. People harassing transgender folks is also a thing. Transgender folk deserve restroom rights. Ya heard?
Did we mention that transgender women can also have problems with getting erections?
The following are more pieces of information that effectively discredit a TERF’s claims of how the majority of transgender people are rapists:
There are no statistics that support the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals are more likely to commit sexual assault or be sex offenders than heterosexuals. In fact, sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual men.
Montgomery County police chief Thomas Manger says that allegations that rapes and sexual assaults occurred in public restrooms following passage of a transgender accommodation law are “untrue.”
There’s no empirical evidence that things will “go wrong.” School districts with similar policies have reported no instances of misconduct and stated that the transgender protections have met with “nothing but positive results.”
According to Gay Star News’ Jane Fae, transphobic bathroom myths have been promoted by news outlets that fail to fact-check unsubstantiated stories about alleged sexual assaults.
Numerous conservative media outlets, including The Daily Caller, WND, and the Media Research Center, have similarly promoted the myth that sexual predators will exploit trans-inclusive restrooms to prey upon women. [Equality Matters, 8/19/13, 8/22/13, 2/3/14]
In an email to Media Matters, Executive Director Amy Sneirson of the Maine Human Rights Commission said that the state’s non-discrimination law hadn’t led to increased sexual assault or rape
“Since this law has been in effect, we have had no reported rapes committed in restrooms by men in women’s clothing,” Manger wrote Tuesday in a letter to Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk, who is lead sponsor of the anti-discrimination bill.
Someone claimed that I did not do enough research on this matter. I was called an imbecile for using the Media Matters article multiple times while I was defending my position and was mocked for the links or lack of links. Yet, that investigative piece had primary research and articles which linked to more articles, from pro-LGBTQ+ publications and authoritative sources, stating that transgender protection policies involving the installation of unisex or gender-neutral toilets have not increased sexual assault cases. Paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6 are all from that Media Matters article. The sources for the rest have been linked in the paragraph. Note that Jane Fae also wrote this article on The Guardian with video evidence:
Last week, the horrific beating(warning: graphic, violent footage) of trans woman Chrissy Lee Polis shocked the world’s trans community to the core … Lee Polis visited McDonald’s in Rosedale, Baltimore, where she went to the women’s toilets. There she was accosted by two teenage girls, aged 14 and 18 … They attacked Chrissy, dragged her from the women’s toilets and proceeded to give her a good kicking.
I’m still perplexed by how the person I spoke to thought I did not do research on rape and sexual assault.
The other argument someone proposed was saying that I was taking away cisfemales’ safe spaces. Well, I’m not advocating for complete elimination of gendered toilets and UNSW is not eliminating gendered toilets either. If people still think that cisfemales are more likely to be abused in unisex or gender-neutral facilities, they have the right to keep gendered toilets and keep using them. It’s their choice and they have just as much right to feel safe as queer and transgender people do. I can’t wait to prove that transgender people just pee and poo in toilets like every other person who goes to a toilet once the unisex or gender neutral toilets have been built. People will get the chance to see for themselves that not all transgender people are perverts. To quote the charismatic Jenny Taylor once again, “Nothing happens in the bathroom when you’re transgender except for no.1 and no.2″.
I posted all this here, rather than the website that offended me by calling me a pro-rapist and imbecile. Why? The person who talked to me said goodbye and gave me parting words while other people told me to leave, so I did. I guess one could say that they were queer exclusionary too.