Kelsie Brynn Jones08/02/2014
Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or TERF, is a loosely-organized collective with a message of hate and exclusion against transgender women in particular, and transgender people as a whole. They have attached themselves to radical feminism as a means to attempt to deny trans women basic access to health care, women’s groups, restroom facilities, and anywhere that may be considered women’s space.
Long time feminist and advocate, Gloria Steinem, used to hold an exclusionary opinion, but has since said that she fully supports the inclusion of trans women in the feminist movement, However, not all radical feminists agree. Janice Raymond, author of The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male authored a paper iIn the early 1980s that the Health and Human Services branch of the U.S. Government used to deny trans men and women trans-related medical care, for example.
Since then, they have continued to use anti-transgender rhetoric, using the banner of feminism in the same way that Westboro Baptist Church uses Christianity. They consistently use rhetoric suggesting that trans women are would-be rapists, that we are “men invading women’s spaces” — (Cathy Brennan, head of Gender Identity Watch) and are “forcing penises on lesbians” — (Justin Norwood, Gender Identity Watch), intimating that “penis” is a threat, with the assumption that trans women are nothing more than whatever genitals they may have been born with. The statistics, however, consistently show disproportional sexual aggression against transgender women, and to a lesser degree transgender men, when compared with the cisgender (simply a term meaning those who’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth) population.
When speaking out against the TERF movement, one is at risk of being “outed” on social media. In one instance, the group Gender Identity Watch worked with the right-wing anti-gay group, Pacific Justice Institute, to help prevent a Colorado teen from being able to use the women’s restroom. The leader, Cathy Brennan, outed the teen, who was already being bullied, and she was subsequently put on suicide watch. Their actions often incite others to denigrate or discriminate a minority — which is the definition of a hate group.
The verbiage often used by the TERF groups are problematic for the transgender community. Not because of the way in which they deliberately seek to dehumanize and denigrate trans women, but because of the reliance of tropes that medical science have for many years proven wrong, that feed into misunderstandings people may have regarding what being transgender truly means. In their words. a transgender woman is a nothing but a “self loathing gay man” and they claim that trans women are gay men who, rather than stand up and come out as gay, would rather “hide” by being transgender, as if it makes things more palatable for friends, family and co-workers. The reverse is unfortunately the truth.