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Why TERFs are doomed to exist in their neo-religion of fear, lies and cowardice.

TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or Trans Exclusionary “Radical Feminists”) have, for nearly half a century, fought a particularly vicious, deceitful, dishonest and disingenuous campaign against trans people. Whilst denying the use of violence, they have, by proxy, often used violence as a tactic to oppress and suppress trans people. During the 1980s they collaborated with that well-known group of supporters of women’s rights, the Republican Party, to deny large numbers of, mainly poor and ethnic minority trans people, access to healthcare. The result of this was that these, mainly black and Latina trans women, had no other option but to resort to prostitution to try and fund the treatment they required. This ordinance has only recently been changed by the Obama administration. As a direct result for most of the period during the late 1980s, 1990s and the early 2000s the likelihood of being murdered if you were a trans woman in America has been 1:12, this compared with 1:22,000 for the rest of the population. Only this year have we seen a significant reduction in murders of trans people in the US. Yet they have now, quite dramatically, sunk considerably lower.

This time they have targeted a trans child.

Outing individuals who are trans has been a tactic of choice for TERFs for quite a while now. Trans people have been outed on the Internet with no consideration of the harm that might be caused to them and their families. The hypocrisy is of course that one of the principal outers of trans people has remained anonymous. This time however, Cath Brennan, a wealthy and privileged lawyer in the United States has outed a 17-year-old trans child in the UK. He was outed to his school (and quite possibly also to his family) because Brennan “didn’t like” the language he was using. Such is the cossetted privilege of her background, which apparently includes attending one of the most prestigious Catholic universities in America (paid for by Daddy…?) that she has no idea of the kind of language that young people use today. This child had the guts to fight back against a privileged, powerful, well-paid lawyer. He may not yet have developed the skill or experience in politics to do it well, but he is to be admired for having the courage and spirit to have a go.

Brennan, of course, doesn’t have as much courage as this child has in his little fingernail. She picks on people who cannot fight back, who are not fully covered by legal protections and who may be silenced by her outing them. One time she tried to have a go at one of the big names in the trans community all she did was spinelessly provide assistance to someone else to cause trouble for Autumn Sandeen when she got her name changed. For a feminist who claims to be “not of the fun kind” she sure as Hell doesn’t like getting her hands dirty. In the case of Autumn and of this child, she used others to do her dirtywork. The actions of a weak and cowardly individual, someone who likes to look tough but who runs away when the chips are down. Her actions bear all the hallmarks of a lady of privilege who has skivvies to do deal with ordinary people.

Like the rest of the TERFs the most telling part of Brennan’s cowardice is her intellectual cowardice however. Unable to coherently, convincingly or intelligently argue her case she can only attack personally those who disagree with her. This is not merely the intellectual cowardice of the ignorant, but the moral spinelessness of the hypocrite.

Indeed when she does “argue” her arguments consist of minor snipes at small points within a piece. She simply doesn’t have the intellectual nerve to engage in sustained debate over her beliefs. Indeed the title of her blog immediately suggests to anyone that she is not interested in arguing.

Now, for me, not only does that suggest that she is intellectually vacuous but that she is actually subliminally terrified of examining her own view of the world. She has invested too much in her involvement with TERFism that she cannot engage with any arguments about trans people and feminism, except abusively, or with trans people excluded. This perhaps explains the gutlessness of her personality. There is a whole PhD to be had for a psychologist willing to analyse her outpourings in cyberspace.

Yet her weakness is the weakness of TERFism itself. This is a pitiful band of frightened mice, whose only defence against their social and intellectual vulnerabilities is to exclude not only anyone who disagrees with them, but people they think are not like them. Their dogma is so weak they have to organise like a religion in order to protect their faith in a doctrine that can no longer stand up to rational argument. They are like religious fundamentalists when confronted with evidence that their God is a fiction. They have taken to provoking abuse as a cover for the desperate paucity of their doctrine.

So her outing of this child, personifies the neo-religion that TERFism has become, so desperate to protect their house of cards, they have resorted to what can only be described as ever more desperate attempts to intimidate, erase and silence trans people; that’s why they have decided to go after children. Of course child abusers always try to defend the indefensible, but let’s face it TERFs have plenty experience of trying to do just that.

The appalling, childish, dishonest and spiteful antics of the TERFs is a direct result of their bankrupt ideology. They cannot argue, they cannot engage in rational discussion, they cannot support their case with anything but the flimsiest borderline “evidence”. This is why they have had to resort to these tactics, this is why they will continue these atrocities; quite simply, they have nowhere else to go.

In the final analysis I have almost stopped feeling angry with them. The intellectual cowardice and emotional desperation manifest in their behaviour has made anger start to give way to pity.

Posted by Sakura

Trans Activists: MRAs?

A personal response from Unquiet on some of the articles that have emerged in the last week

Conway Hall has issued a statement revealing Radfem 2012 will not go ahead at their venue.

Conway Hall describes itself as negotiating with the event organisers, and being unable to reach an agreement – evidently, Radfem 2012 saw its trans-exclusionary policy as more important than holding the event at that venue.

I think this is, in a sense, a shame. My issue was with their trans-exclusionary policy and headlining of Sheila Jeffreys – for me, an ideal outcome would for the event to go ahead, but with all women welcomed. By sticking by their door policy, the event organisers have highlighted transphobia as a crucial element of their radical feminism – one suspects that even if they ultimately capitulate and begrudingly allow trans folk in, the atmosphere will still be toxic and filled with hate. This is a disappointment to all non-transphobes who might want to discuss other elements of radical feminist thought.

I should be happy. I am, instead, depressed at the turn of events online. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist blogs are claiming this is the work of Men’s Rights Activists, and in turn genuine MRAs are gleefully claiming the credit.

Having two groups of people who hate me, trans people and each other in equal measure, both using our protest to advance their hateful little worldview is profoundly depressing. It’s perhaps the only time Radical Feminists and Men’s Rights Activists will ever see eye to eye on anything, though it’s hard to be much amused by the unholy alliance.

As someone who has worked, and watched my friends work harder, writing about the event, debating our issues, contacting Conway Hall and other friends to make our criticisms heard, all in the name of Trans Liberation – I’d like to set the record straighter.

Dear Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists…

For TERFS, the claim that Men’s Rights Activists shut down their conference makes a warped sort of sense. TERFs deliberately misgender Trans people as a matter of course; therefore, when “Trans Activist” is translated into Radfem it often sounds identical to “Men’s Activist”.

Very well then. But even TERFs must recognise there are “Men”‘s Activists and then there are Mens Activists? Men’s Rights Activists is a name used to denote a quasi-group of thinkers, bloggers, writers and activists who agree on a number of key points, such as:

  • They are concerned by women nicking everything in the divorce
  • They fight for custody of their children
  • They are concerned about paternity fraud, conscription, men’s health, false rape allegations
  • In general, MRAs exist on a spectrum starting with “we don’t need feminism any more”, and travelling via a mild-to-moderate “feminism has gone too far” towards outright misogyny of the most vile kind.

Even if you hate – or “oppose the practices of” – transgendered people, you must surely recognise their concerns are not the concerns of MRAs. Even if you see both Trans Activists and Men’s Rights Activists as malign things, or tools of the patriarchy, you must be able to grasp that they are two fundamentally different tools of the patriarchy? As far as I’ve researched, proper Men’s Rights Activists seem to dislike us trans activists almost as much as you do.

Dear Men’s Rights Activists…

You’re wrong. You’re also hilarious. Let’s read the claims:

So you can see what is happening. The Agent Orange effect has been a wedge effect. Not only is it splitting off the radical feminists from the so-called liberal or moderate feminists, but it is introducing even smaller fractures between the transwoman faction and the rest of feminism.

I think that regardless of our feminism, we can see the flaw in this self-aggrandising statement. Though it’s nice to imagine all the problems of feminism have been created by a generational-conspiracy, passing secret files from one to another, and that there is a deep, dark lair somewhere with vaguely satanic overtones, and if only we can find the vorpal blade – hidden in legend as the one weapon known to slay the evil force of MRAs – we can put together a crack team of heroes to descend into darkness – ONLY BY BEHEADING THEIR LEADER CAN THE TIDE OF EVIL BE STOPPED.

But this seems logically dodgy to me. Those are all fractures which already exist, have always existed, and continue to exist. With or without men, women can do this ourselves, because we are not a monolithic bloc but a hugely diverse group of life experiences and opinions. Roz has written about attacks by radical feminist groups on kinky lesbians in the 80s – I’m sure Agent Orange was not responsible for that. Nor do I think he had a hand in Radfem 2012′s exclusionary door policy – I think they created that all on their own.

And far from “creating” a crack, Radfem 2012 has shown just how un-cracked modern feminism is. Trans Women have argued, fought, persuaded, debated and written about their right to be respected as women for decades. In the 70s, at the height of radfemininity, doubtless these exclusionary policies were everywhere and trans women has no legal recourse.

This year, in response to the conference, statements of solidarity have been produced by the NUS Women’s campaign, Brighton Feminist Collective, Royal Holloway Feminists, Oxford University Feminists and so on. Of the friends I have worked with to petition Conway Hall, many have been non-trans feminists. Twitter’s Radfem 2012 hashtag has been overwhelmingly trans-positive.

So yeah, there are divisions in feminism. But don’t you go claiming you created them – we’re more than capable of arguing amongst ourselves. Nor do I think this is the death knell you had in mind – I have experienced a stronger, more united feminism than I have ever felt before. So I have to ask – what “transwoman faction”? What I am seeing is feminism, and then an enclave of people who’re still in the 70s so far as understandings of gender is concerned.

I’d also like to see some proof that Conway Hall made their decision based on these mysterious files. Otherwise, I’ll be inclined to think you’re making it up.

Ethos

It’s funny, though, how his arguments seem to dovetail into Radfemininitiy. Like the idea that sex-positive porn was a creation of patriarchy and so forth – the hand of patriarchy, controlling some groups of women to make feminism weaker…!  TERFS jumping into bed with MRAs? What will we see next! The TERFS will refuse to consumate the wedding, and the MRAs will panic that the TERFS are only in it to steal their fortunes and their sperm!

But this observation is more for my entertainment than the spirit of high-minded debate. It is depressing to see certain TERFs falling straight into MRA hands here. The MRAs take credit, because the TERFs are helping to give it to them.

For the ancients, a speech to pursuade relied on three elements. Pathos – the appeal to emotion, Logos – the appeal to logic, and finally, Ethos – using character. Roman rhetorician Cicero would present his clients as ideal Romans – soliders, patriots, family men – and identify his opponants as petty, bookish, fans of weird foreign customs, or align their interests with the interests of The Enemy. “Exile my client,” he concludes the Pro Murena, “and YOU WILL LET THE TERRORISTS WIN.” You see it nowadays too – can we really trust Jon Huntsman as American president, when he speaks Mandarin…? Cue his opponants slyly suggesting that there’s something suspicious and un-American about that, just as Cicero did 2000 years ago. The lowest form of ethos is, of course, Godwin’s Law – attempting to destabilise someone’s position by comparing them to Hitler or the Nazis.

Modern writers should know better than to play these dirty tricks. Both emotional appeals and guilt by association are logical fallacies – things used to distract from facts, evidence, logic. The TERFs are, essentially, reviving this age-old custom to paint Trans Activists as anti-feminist and aligned with anti-feminists; the MRAs are, similarly, identifying Trans Activists as their secret, hypnotised strike troops, rotting at the core of feminism. And here I am, amused at the sight of two groups with seemingly nothing in common apparently banding together in a sharing circle of triumph and martyrdom because they both hate us more. I have seen feminist authors on both side of this debate compare their opponants and their arguments to MRAs.

Ladies, gentlemen, and the rest of us. Let us have some decorum in this debate! And let us look at the facts:

THE FACTS

In consultation with the organisers of RadFem 2012 and our legal advisors, Conway Hall has decided not to allow the booking in July 2012 to proceed. This is because it does not conform to our Terms and Conditions for hiring rooms at Conway Hall. In addition, we are not satisfied it conforms with the Equality Act (2010), or reflects our ethos regarding issues of discrimination.

Makes sense so far. Conway Hall has made a decision after taking legal advice, and working with Radfem 2012 organisers, and in response to the Equality Act and their own Terms and Conditions.

We had sought assurances that the organisers would allow access to all, in order to enable the event to proceed at the venue. We also expressed concern that particular speakers would need to be made aware that whilst welcoming progressive thinking and debate, Conway Hall seeks to uphold inclusivity in respect of both legal obligations and as a principle

Conway Hall describes their two problems – the exclusionary door policy and “particular speakers” who they believed would broach inclusivity. We all know who that is.

In the absence of the assurances we sought, the event in its proposed form could not proceed at Conway Hall.

I’m still not seeing “and in response to the terrifying flood of international feminism”. Instead, it seems Conway Hall tried to keep the event but Radfem 2012 chose to stand by their transphobia and hence lost the venue.

That said, we recognise the breadth of debate to be had amongst the feminist and transgender communities and it is our sincere hope that there will be constructive and positive dialogue on these matters going forward.

In case anyone was in any doubt, Conway Hall now mentions the central issue: the exclusion of the transgender community.

If you are still in any doubt:

I was the person who arranged the meeting with Conway Hall to discuss the RadFem2012 conference. But before that meeting had taken place Conway Hall had already decided that it would be inappropriate for Jeffreys to speak there. This appeared to be result of their own decision, having carried out further research into the matter, rather than as the result of any pressure from us. All we had done, in corresponding with Conway Hall, was draw their attention to things Jeffreys has said in the past. All we did during that meeting, was to provide Conway Hall with more information about Jeffreys’ and her associates activities and statements. One of the latter was this; “Janice Raymond does not consider that legislation outlawing surgery is the right way forward. I am not so sure, and classifying transsexualism as a human rights violation would be a step towards making surgery illegal…” (Jeffreys, S. 1997. Transgender Activism: a Lesbian Feminist Perspective p71) - Natacha on the Guardian website

Summing up

Considering they are mortal enemies, I hope both TERFs and MRAs wake up feeling slightly tainted by the way they are apparently feeding off each other’s rhetoric. I’m disappointed by the way TERFs seem to be playing into MRA hands here, and granting them a victory they don’t deserve. I’m disappointed by pretty much everything the vocally misogynistic wing of MRA does, so nothing new here – but gloating is never pretty.

And TERFs? If you really do believe this situation was manufactured by MRAs to destroy feminism, then clearly saving feminism from evil must be our number one priority. Can we put aside our differences and fight the patriarchy together – and once we’re done, hammer out our differences then?

Breaking news: Conway Hall does the right thing!

Conway Hall has released the following statement:

In consultation with the organisers of RadFem 2012 and our legal advisors, Conway Hall has decided not to allow the booking in July 2012 to proceed. This is because it does not conform to our Terms and Conditions for hiring rooms at Conway Hall. In addition, we are not satisfied it conforms with the Equality Act (2010), or reflects our ethos regarding issues of discrimination.

We had sought assurances that the organisers would allow access to all, in order to enable the event to proceed at the venue. We also expressed concern that particular speakers would need to be made aware that whilst welcoming progressive thinking and debate, Conway Hall seeks to uphold inclusivity in respect of both legal obligations and as a principle. 

In the absence of the assurances we sought, the event in its proposed form could not proceed at Conway Hall.

That said, we recognise the breadth of debate to be had amongst the feminist and transgender communities and it is our sincere hope that there will be constructive and positive dialogue on these matters going forward.

In response to Sheila Jeffreys’ online Guardian article in their ‘Comment is free’ section, dated 29th May 2012, we would like it to be known that Conway Hall has in the past made clear that speakers / attendees at events for other hirers will not be permitted where we have felt that these individuals have expressed and may express (on our premises) views which conflict with our ethos, principles, and culture; the reference to David Irving was simply one of the examples given.

 

Sheila Jeffreys, RadFem2012 and the imaginary trans conspiracy

This entry was initially posted by stavvers at ‘Another angry woman’  and has been reproduced with permission.

For those not in the know, in July a conference entitled RadFem2012 is supposed to be happening, with headline speaker radical feminist–and noted transphobe–Sheila Jeffreys. The conference is open only to “women born women living as women”, a clunky way of saying “no trans people”.

Kickass feminist and activist, the thoroughly inspirational Roz Kaveney recently wrote a takedown of this particular branch of radical feminism, rightly likening it to a cult (although arguably  there are also fascistic overtones to the radfem party line on this issue). If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s utterly brilliant.

Sheila Jeffreys has responded to Roz’s excellent piece with an argument with so many holes it would be better suited to function as a colander. Again, this piece is worth reading, though for the exact opposite reasons to the one above. Jeffreys’s entire argument hinges upon the idea that it is only trans people who could possibly ever object to this particular murky brand of transphobia.

This is, of course, patently untrue. I’ve written myself that transphobia has no place in feminism, and I’m hardly the only one. One does not have to be trans to care about the rights of trans people. One simply has to be free from bigotry.

Jeffreys claims persecution from the trans community in the form of utter horrors such as glitter bombing and captioned photographs. Perhaps the most stark example of the hideous persecution faced by poor Jeffreys and her transphobic ilk is that Jeffreys claims the RadFem2012 conference venue to have banned her from speaking, citing evidence of her hate speech that she believes to be entirely reasonable. Throughout, notably, Jeffreys can only blame a shadowy cabal of trans people: the idea that cis allies may have in any way been involved simply fails to occur to her.

This line of thinking is not unique to Jeffreys. In the past, coming up against a transphobic radfem who I will not name because I’m utterly terrified of her, I received a string of tweets saying “sorry you’re male”. It simply did not enter this person’s imagination that anybody but a trans person could care about transphobia.

For cis feminists, there are three major reasons to fight transphobia coming from those who are supposedly on our side. The first is a moral one: we should be against misogyny and hatred in all forms. Second, we must fight gender essentialism. And third, we must stand up for bodily autonomy.

Trans people are more likely to experience violence, sexual or otherwise. Trans people are more likely to be excluded from areas of public life. A large group of women are more vulnerable than others, and in their ignorance (at best), the transphobic radfems ignore this travesty: in the case of RadFem2012, and many other instances, they are actively partaking in exclusion.

Gender essentialism is something we have fought against for years, and I had honestly hoped that it would be at least mostly dead since the publication of Delusions of Gender. Alas, no. The radfems obsess over chromosomes and what genitals a person might have and testosterone levels as if it means anything. They view trans women with an almost McCarthyist suspicion, believing that they can never be anything but men infiltrating women’s spaces. All because of a peculiar fascination with biology in an age where such essentialism is largely discredited.

And finally, bodily autonomy. This is a fundamental aspect of feminism which is ignored by the transphobic radfems, who believe the surgical and medical interventions some trans people undergo to be inherently wrong. Jeffreys couches it in the language of concern-trolling, claiming it to be a “human rights violation”, yet, surely, having the right to do whatever the hell you want to do with your own body is the basic human right?

It is curious, then, that the men’s rights activists and the radfems do not make good bedfellows: both position themselves against these feminist struggles. In her piece, Jeffreys even uses the same argument tactic as the MRAs: all she wants, she says, is to have a debate (the irony of excluding trans people from this debate is apparently lost on her).

I am not alone in thinking that transphobia and feminism are diametrically opposed ideologies. The shift in feminist thinking is firmly on this side. Jeffreys and her ilk are anachronistic curiosities, though loud and dangerous. The trans conspiracy Jeffreys fights is non-existent: in fact, she is attacking a foe far bigger than she can possibly imagine.

We are in the majority, we who reject transphobia. We must continue to be vocal in our rejection of this dated and frightening rhetoric.

Resist RadFem 101 – Links Round-Up

Updated: 5/6/2012

Why should feminists resist RadFem 2012?

What is transphobia and how is RadFem 2012 perpetrating it through their entrance policy and speakers?

Many feminists (both trans* people and allies) have been blogging and writing insightful articles on exactly these issues. Here we aim to collect their posts to form a sort of primer for anyone interested in learning more.

If you have written or read something that isn’t on this list please add it in the comments.

Many of these links come courtesy of the excellent round-up curated by Unquiet Slumber.

Feminist Perspectives on Resisting RadFem2012

“I oppose you not because I hate you, and certainly not because I oppose feminism. I oppose you because you would cause me harm.”

Transactivist pens an insightful and beautifully written letter to those who would attend RadFem 2012. If you only read one piece on this issue, this should be it.

Cisginger Transgender discuss why transphobic values are patrticarchal values.

Orlando at Lashings of Ginger Beer expresses optimism at the feminist backlash to RadFem 2012.

“The fact that some people know they are male or female regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth is enough for me, because I respect other people’s lived experiences. I don’t want to sit around “critiquing” trans people’s identity because – aside from the fact that this basically boils down to a disgusting debate on whether people have the right to exist – as a cis person I’m in absolutely no position to understand. And, quite frankly, it’s none of my business.”

Laura at The F-Word UK explains why there’s nothing radical about transphobia.

“If the Radfem conference’s ultimate aim is the dissolution of gender, why is it starting by instituting a definition of gender that explicitly excludes women with a non-standard experience of gender?”

Rhiannon at 100 miles from the sea gives three reasons why excluding transwomen is anti-feminist.

Sarah Ditum points out the contradictions inherent in a ‘women born women’ entrance policy.

“The aim was always to simply exclude – based on what some people aren’t, rather than what they are. That, in my opinion, is ciscentric othering writ large, gender policing by people who simultaneously claim to want to dismantle gender.”

Helen G at The F-Word UK offers an analysis of the phrase “Women Born Women”.

Roz Kaveney provides an excellent and clear summary of the often cultish and dangerous behaviour of TERFs in the Guardian.

Sophie Warnes blogs for the Independent on the issue (warning for some potentially problematic language use here).

“…there cannot be a place for feminism if it is only going to invite a subset of women (i.e. only cis) to the party.”

Rebecca’s Dystopia coins the phrase “you-can’t-come-innery”.

“Gender policing one another on femininity is the antithesis of what feminism is about. If I want to be sized up for daintiness and probability of possessing ovaries, the patriarchy will oblige any day of the week. In feminist space, I want to be taken for who I am on my own terms, thanks.”

Biological Oddity tackles the notion of being ‘raised female’.

Julian Norman at The F-Word UK on the legalities of excluding trans women from women only spaces.

Transmeditations offers five reasons the ‘women born women living as women’ policy is wrong.

Who Does She Think She Is? offers a parent’s perspective.

Those Pesky Dames have produced two videos – No Feminism without Trans* Feminism, and Trans* Inclusive Feminism

xxRacheyGirlxx writes about The Hypocricy of Radical Feminism’s stance on Transgender Theory

Conference Venue – Conway Hall

Zoe O’Connell at Complicity covers the hypocrisy of Conway Hall standing against discrimination unless it’s transphobia, and their response to criticism so far.

Public Statements Resisting RadFem 2012

“We are committed to ending transphobia – within our unions and universities, our movement, and in feminism and society more generally – and as such we condemn RadFem’s policy.”

NUS Women’s Campaign

“WomCam has members who identify with different feminisms, who would disagree on many different things. However, transphobia has absolutely no place in any conception of any feminism we would care to endorse.”

OUSU Women’s Campaign

Brighton Feminist Collective

RHUL Fem Soc

NUS LGBT Campaign

If TERFs had their own glossy magazine… by Krissie

If you’re not in the mood for the wall of text we’ve just posted, how about a nice satirical picture?

Made by @Krissie_r on Twitter and initially posted here. Reproduced with permission.

 

‘RadFem 2012: a uniting force against transphobia’ by Orlando

The text below was first posted by Orlando at the Lashings of Ginger Beer Blog and is reproduced with the permission of the author and Lashings.

[Trigger warning: transphobia. Neither this blog nor the linked posts are transphobic, but they do engage with and discuss transphobic ideas, and it is possible that linked blogs which don't share our safe space policy will have transphobia expressed in their comments section.]

In mid-May, a London-based ‘radical feminist’ conference called RadFem2012 was announced, and parts of the internet began to rumble. A few days later, that rumble on Twitter became a roar on the blogosphere. Why all the attention? The website stated that entry was restricted to ‘biological women living as women’ – later edited to ‘women born women living as women’ – and renowned transphobe Sheila Jeffreys was billed as a speaker. A week later, and I’m – actually, kind of elated.

Read more…

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