This article contains content discussing transphobia that some readers may find distressing.
I find myself as a student becoming more and more obsessed with radical movements. Having already done a previous article on the Alt-Right I thought it might be fun to embrace this morbid curiosity and to extend it; to become the Sphinx’s Louis Theroux, using my nervous demeanour to awkwardly investigate more radical movements, to see what draws people in and expose them for what they are. One particularly ugly radical movement that has bubbled up in recent years have been TERF’s (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and while they may present themselves as progressives, their approach to transgender people is no different from the brutish, idiotic and bitter trans-phobia you’d expect from the far right.
So what are TERF’s?
Third and fourth wave feminism gets a lot of negativity nowadays but while some may claim that modern day feminism is censorious and illiberal, the goal has always been equality between men and women; a goal anyone with any sense can get behind. What seems to evade criticism however are the deeply problematic remnants of the second wave, the likes of Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer, the types who argue that being straight or gay is a choice. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism is rooted in the body. They embrace the idea that your body directly determines your gender, that if you have XY chromosomes you are male and if you have XX you are female. They subsequently see history as a struggle between the oppressor (those with male reproductive organs) and the oppressed (those with female reproductive organs). Like socialist feminists, radical feminists take issue with the individualism of liberalism and argue that personal choices and individual achievement are not enough to transform society. Rather than seeing people as individuals who are arbiters of their own choices and life decisions, TERF’s will reduce men and women to their reproductive parts, to their gender assigned at birth. TERF’s will argue that transgender people’s “socialization as men, no matter how short-lived or plagued by gender dysphoria and violence, renders them agents of female oppression.” The result of this is a cascade of abuse towards trans feminists, even including harassment or out right banning from Reclaim the Night marches.
What do TERF’s think?
The TERF argument rests on the idea that, as transgender women lack the reproductive systems of cis women, they’ll never be able to understand the struggle of cis-women. Presumably then, infertile women are also excluded from this protection. Intersex people also don’t fit neatly in to this biological essentialism, as they throw a spanner into the works for the entire chromosome dichotomy. TERF’s may dismiss intersex people as an anomaly but they are real and are often forced into surgery to fit society’s narrow definition of gender and sex.
One of the more disgusting claims TERF’s make is that transgender people are fetishists. This comes from a theory put forward by Ray Blanchard called “Autogynephilia” which claims that the primary reason for trans-women transitioning is sexual motivation, in other words sexual arousal at the thought of being or becoming a woman. This theory has been thoroughly rebutted time and time again and yet remains a buzzword in TERF circles. As I can’t speak for trans experiences, you can find out more about why this theory is patently absurd in an excellent rebuttal video made by political YouTuber Contrapoints. Needless to say, the idea that transpeople would go through a lifetime of taking medication, of spending thousands for top and bottom surgery, of facing a higher chance of sexual assault, homelessness, poverty and suicide just to get off is insane and a clear indication that Blanchard probably related a bit too much with Buffallo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.
The Bathroom Debate:
One issue that’s cropped up in recent years is the idea that transwomen are for some reason sneaking into the bathrooms of cis women to take advantage of them. This is another moral panic created by TERF’s. Transwomen have used female bathrooms for years without complaint. All of it rests on the idea that you’d even be able to tell that a transwoman isn’t cis which isn’t usually the case. For as much as transphobes argue to have some sort of chromosome vision, the likelihood they’d be able to tell who is trans and who is not is slim at best. The fact that they argue against transwomen using female bathrooms due to them “intimidating real women and children” is also refuted by the fact that under their own logic they’d be perfectly comfortable with the most intimidating, gruff transman using a female bathroom and with transwomen entering male bathrooms where they’d be subject to even more harassment.
As much as TERF’s want to crush “patriarchy”, they seem to want to replace it at any chance they get; acting as the single arbiters of who is and isn’t a woman. Policing the way people should look, the way they should act and the way they should express their gender isn’t feminist, it isn’t liberal and it isn’t progressive. It is bigotry under a feminist guise.