So, my blog was recently linked to from the ‘Rational’ Wiki talk page on “TERFs“. The person said that my blog is “useful for debunking practice”. I’ve seen no comments forthcoming from him or any other anti-feminist trans activists (AFTAs) on my blog, so one wonders. Anyway, I had a look at the article, and behold the mountain of nonsense, ad hominem, and disregard for meaning of words.
If you’re familiar with AFTA arguments, then my apologies, this is just a basic retread. In the first paragraph, the article makes several errors:
Trans-exclusionary radical feminism (or TERF) is a subgroup of radical feminism characterized by transphobia, especially transmisogyny, and hostility to the third wave of feminism. They believe that the only real women™ are those born with a vagina and XX chromosomes. They wish to completely enforce the classic gender binary, supporting gender essentialism.
The first sentence is complete nonsense. “Transmisogyny”, which I guess is newspeak for “misandry” does not exist. The transphobia claim is peddled often by linking to Cathy Brennan’s responses to some seriously disturbed and verbally abusive men. Her response often boils down to publishing publicly available information on her various blogs. This apparently constitutes “TERFs are violent, murderous, and they doxx us” to AFTAs. Anyway, “only real women” is a fallacious argument. They even link to “no true scotsman”(!) Woman is a word that defines half the human population. Women are adult female humans, born with female reproductive system. The third endnote makes another fallacious claim:
They notably completely fail to acknowledge XY women with androgen insensitivity syndrome, people who are born intersex, genderqueer people, or people with various non-XX, non-XY chromosomes (e.g., X0, XYY, XXY, etc.). When pressed on the point, they will deny intersex is an issue, forcing them to choose a gender from the binary. Approximately 0% of chromosome obsessives have actually had their own karyotype tested.
“XY women” have complete (not partial or mild) AIS. They are women due to them being born with external genitalia that are the same as that of a normal female. Meaning they were not born with penises and testicles like male-to-trans people (AKA transwomen). While disorders of sexual development are numerous, they only affect a very small number of people (about 0.05%-0.06% of all live births according to ISNA), and most can be sexed. X0 is female, XYY, XXY, are male, etc. Fetuses develop into males due to the SRY gene, which in almost all cases is located on the Y chromosome (there are “XX men” when the SRY gene is translocated onto an X-chromosome carrying sperm). The fact that some people have DSD does not deny the reality of sexual dimorphism, which exists in all mammals, not just us. The last sentence is nonsensical, if you were born with anatomically correct male genitalia, every cell of your body will have XY chromosomes; likewise if you were born with anatomically correct female genitalia, every cell of your body will have XX chromosomes.
The article is filled with confused language about the distinction between “gender” and “sex”. The article uses them interchangeably in some aspects, but in others, it doesn’t. Here’s are some examples:
In other words, TERFs go so far as to reject gender being anything other than a synonym for biological organs or chromosomes. Thus (re)defining their own movement as that “of women to liberate women from oppression, and that female biological reality is a defining aspect of women’s experience of oppression.”
This is simply false, and a form of projection. Radical feminists have always maintained that sex (boy/girl, man/woman), our biological reality, is separate from gender, what society imposes on the sexes in terms of prescribed behaviour, attitudes, personality traits, clothes, hobbies, etc.
Academic radical feminism is premised upon the idea that gender is entirely a social construct (and further, that it must be destroyed). Some transgender people maintain, on the other hand, that gender is to some extent intrinsic (that is, even though they were raised as one binary gender, they have always identified as the other, and further, they often, but not always, want bodies to match).
Note the contradiction between the article’s claim of what gender means for feminists in the first quote, and the one before us. “Identifies as the other [gender]” and “gender is to some extent intrinsic”. What does this mean? Rational Wiki answers us in its very own gender article:
Gender, on the other hand, refers more to the non-biological characteristics of “man” and “woman”. These are often rooted in stereotypical identifiers, including things like “women are care givers, and gatherers”, “men are protectors and hunters”; women feel and are intuitive, and men think and work things out. However, sometimes biologically influenced characteristics such as strength and build are included.
Again, by Rational Wiki’s own definition, MtTs (male-to-trans) who claim they’re women, rely on the belief that stereotypes of women are intrinsic, and therefore by identifying with, and performing those stereotypes, they were always women (in their brains). When feminists discuss the dismantling of gender, they’re talking about eliminating sex-based socialisation. So boys wouldn’t be socialised to “be tough; don’t cry” or ridiculed if they want to wear dresses; likewise, girls wouldn’t be socialised to “be extra nice; don’t talk back” or ridiculed for wanting to play sports, etc. Feminists aren’t interested in creating more boxes so people could find their niche and try to fit themselves in, they’re interested in throwing away the boxes so all of us can be ourselves.
Significant number of AFTAs, however, get aroused by thinking of themselves as women, Autogynephilia, and so radical feminist arguments are seen as a direct threat, even a form of violence. Understanding this key aspect of AFTA beliefs explains the hostility towards studies that debunk the existence of biological reasons for brain differentiation between men and women, even without reference to MtTs, e.g. Delusions of Gender.
While not all radical feminists would agree, those that critique — “I’m not transphobic, I’m trans critical!” — transgender people’s existence maintain (generally contrary to both what trans people themselves have said about their own identities, and the medical consensus on gender dysphoria) that trans women are nothing more than “effeminate men” who have been relegated by the patriarchal gender binary to the status of women (whereas trans men, when they bother to mention them at all, are just women trying to claim ‘male privilege’ for themselves). Thus they slam transgender people in general for “reifying the gender binary.”
No feminist critiques “transgender people’s existence”, that is absurd. They simply make the obvious observation that MtTs are male/men. This is simple fact, and mentioning reality is neither abusive, nor “exterminatory”. While some MtTs are feminine, others maintain their previously held mannerisms. The article suggests that dysphoria is needed for someone to be called transgender; while I agree, this flies in the face of many AFTAs who argue that dysphoria is not needed if a man wants to wear a dress and call himself “Becky”. Reifying gender is the belief that what society imposes on men and women is innate, and therefore liking dresses, make-up, high heels, domesticity, long hair, etc. is linked to being a woman. How many MtTs make the claim that they liked playing with dolls growing up, or wished they could wear tutus but were refused, etc. and that means they have female/lady brains? How many say they’re ‘better women’ than women (often hurled at radical feminists)?
Rational Wiki also utilises block quotes suggesting that Brennan made the below quote, when in fact it was the web site they linked to which is misrepresenting her views:
Cathy Brennan, for example, literally believes not only that trans women are men, but that they are therefore de facto animals who cannot control themselves (all typos in original):
transgender woman are in fact men using an artificialy constructed feminine apperance to exert patriarchy from the inside of feminism and believe it or not, to gain access to womans bathrooms in order to rape them.
In reality, this was the dailykos misrepresenting Brennan. What they said, clearly not a direct quote, and no reference to it:
You may never hear Cathy Brennan say she’s not transphobic because like all “TERFs” she rejects transsexualism, believing instead transgender woman are in fact men using an artificialy constructed feminine apperance to exert patriarchy from the inside of feminism and believe it or not, to gain access to womans bathrooms in order to rape them.
As irrational as it sounds, its true TERF ideology.
The ‘Rational Wiki’, of course, notorious for irrationality.
All of this is highly ironic, since by doing all this they are objectifying women’s bodies and saying men are not to blame for their actions because “instincts”.
The article never explains how feminists are objectifying their bodies by explaining the reality of their bodies. Saying that if men remove their penis and testicles that does not make them women is not objectifying women’s bodies. It is asserting that women are not defective men. Women have a complex reproductive system, and you don’t shift sexes simply by removing an otherwise healthy body part. My understanding is that many radical feminists believe male violence is socialised, not innate. Not sure where the article got this from. The misquotation from dailykos?
TERFs loathe the third wave of feminism. For a number of reasons, partly their authoritarianism, partly their demographic myopia, and partly because they represent a partial embodiment of every stereotype thrown at feminists over the last century and a half, this particular group of radfems have been roundly rejected by nearly every demographic they claim to represent, including, but not limited to, women of color, sex workers, kinksters, most male allies, and, at long last, most every feminist who’s come after them. This is in part due to their inability or unwillingness to understand intersectionality.
I’m not sure whether to laugh or to cry at the utter falsity and nonsense of mostly white men telling feminists (including women of colour, prostitution survivors, and (hi there) male allies (also of colour)) that everyone is running away from them.
They also seem to deeply resent that the third-wavers have taken their best ideas — understanding and fighting patriarchal structures and rape culture, the fight for reproductive rights and women’s health care — and carried them forward, while leaving the dogmatism and one-size-fits-all theorizing behind, rendering the majority of them irrelevant.
MtTs calling women catty and jealous. These dudes call themselves “gender non-conforming”, but they represent some of the most gender conforming men I ran into online. Oh, and by the way, dudes, “Slut Walk” isn’t fighting rape culture, ok?
Back in the 1980s, TERF ideas were at the absolute pinnacle of the tree of ideological soundness and political correctness (early enough that that term was only used approvingly by those supporting it); they can’t quite understand how the same ideas — let alone their actions — in the 2010s are considered odious bigotry.
‘TERF’ was never used approvingly. Only MRAs think women’s liberation is “odious bigotry”.
In the 1980s, TERFs successfully brought an end to trans health care access. One TERF operative wrote the government report which led the the revocation of trans medical care under government programs and soon thereafter, private insurers followed suit.
This is a lie by Cristan Williams, which has been proven false a long time ago. I already answered in storify, but I’ll reproduce it here: Cris is blaming Janice Raymond’s activism for the government position back in the Reagan administration. The claims on Dr. Raymond are published in http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-trans-community-hates-dr-janice-g.html and are completely fallacious. The paper in question had nothing to say about ‘eliminating’ federal and state aid for transsexuals. Hard to eliminate what doesn’t exist and all that. The National Center for Health Care Technology commissioned Dr. Raymond along with other organizations, including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, among others to determine whether “specific procedures are reasonable and necessary”. The submissions were published in a report “Transsexual Surgery” in 1981, in its Assessment Report Series. The professor’s findings are quoted in one sentence of the 15 page report. In short, the notion that Dr. Raymond did any of the things AFTAs claim is bollocks, of course, but why let facts keep you from blaming women, yes?
The whole “TERFs and wingnuts” section is ad hominem stating that some radical feminist argument sound similar to right-wing arguments. The fact that why they believe in these arguments are different, and that their end goals are different is not explored, of course.
Their particular transphobic rhetoric also owes a lot to wingnut homophobia in its structure, showcasing the same homosexuality-as-a-choice; when Jeffreys noticed RadFem2012 was cancelled and labelled a hate group, she said: (emphasis added)
Criticism of the practice of transgenderism is being censored as a result of a campaign of vilification by transgender activists of anyone who does not accept the new orthodoxy on this issue.
The bolded part is eerily similar to what the radical right have said about homosexuality; specifically, it resembles a quote about such by neo-Nazi Paul Fromm: gender identity as choice instead of something a person is, as well as a massive persecution complex.
Gender ID is nonsense, and people can’t change their sex. A surgical created body cavity is not a vagina, and removing testicles does not make a man a woman. Also? No conclusive evidence that homosexuality is innate. Like all human behaviour, sexuality is fluid, and can be changed, by will/choice. In fact NARTH and other SOCE practitioners believe homosexuality is a mental illness, and believe reparative therapy will allow these people to become ‘normal’ members of society. Homosexuality is not viewed by them as a choice, freely made, but a mental illness that can only be changed through exertion and external effort to ‘correct’ wrong behaviour induced by past events (absentee father/mother, childhood abuse, etc.)
TERFs have advocated reparative therapy for transgender people, e.g. Janice Raymond, in her paper Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery:
Nonsexist counseling is another direction for change that should be explored. The kind of counseling to “pass” successfully as masculine or feminine that now reigns in gender identity clinics only reinforces the problem of transsexualism. It does nothing to develop critical awareness, and makes transsexuals dependent upon medical-technical solutions. What I am advocating is a counseling that explores the social origins of the transsexual problem and the consequences of the medicaltechnical solution.
This is exactly the same rhetoric used by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an anti-LGBT group dedicated to lobbying reparative therapy.
Hardly same. Raymond is advocating better treatment to people struggling with dysphoria, rather than presenting them with hoops/pushing them through path towards surgery. She’s advocating better psychological practices to enable men/women with dysphoria to look at the heart of why they feel psychological distress from otherwise healthy organs, rather than having one option, that of ‘transition’.
The thinking done on this article is muddled, and based on a misunderstanding and ignorance of several concepts. I haven’t even pointed out the reality that feminism is about liberation of women, not ensuring men’s feelings (including MtTs) are not hurt.