If you have been following the news about the movement or welfare of transgender women, you may have stumbled upon the term TERF. This term has been quite popular and has been linked to many personalities in the entertainment industry.
However, this term has negative connotations to it. If you are a transgender woman, you must know TERF’s meaning and how the individuals pertained by it, can cause you harm. If you are an ally who cares about transgender women, keep reading.
What is a TERF?
Before going forward, please know that this guide was created to spread awareness. It was not made with the intentions of attacking a group of people. Everything that is written in here is based on facts and was made for educational purposes only.
To answer the question What does TERF mean in a concise manner, it’s an acronym that translates to Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. If you are labeled a TERF, it simply means that you are a feminist who do not see transgender women to be equal with cisgender women.
Disagreeing in certain areas when it comes to recognizing cisgender and transgender women do not mean that you’re already a TERF. You are only considered a TERF if you invalidate the womanhood of transgender women in all aspects.
The term TERF was popularized by Viv Smythe. She is a trans-inclusive cisgender woman blogger. In 2008, she wrote a blog post responding to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s Policy. In her post, she shed light and displeasure with TERFs and how they’re negatively impacting the transgender community.
In a 2014 interview with The TransAdvocate about her post, she said,
“It was meant to be a deliberately technically neutral description of an activist grouping. We wanted a way to distinguish TERFs from other RadFems with whom we engaged who were trans*-positive/neutral, because we had several years of history of engaging productively/substantively with non-TERF RadFem”
Labeling someone a TERF on a whim is offensive. It is like labeling someone a racist. You have to be very careful when it comes to this term. Furthermore, this word can be labeled on any individual. As long as they are feminists who don’t consider transgender women as women, they are TERFs.
In today’s world, it can be seen rampantly in social media. Many social media personalities and celebrities who are feminists have expressed their disapproval of the womanhood of trans women. The list is quite extensive and will be discussed in the later parts.
What TERFs Believe
To have a better understanding of what does TERF mean in all aspects, you have to get to know their beliefs. This section opens a lot of discussions and arguments. Everything that will be listed here is the truth and not up for interpretation. It is in your discretion on how to take them.
Transwomen are NOT Women
TERFs discount transgender women’s gender identity because they weren’t “born female”. They also like to use the biology to further their arguments. Their simplistic view of womanhood all boils down to whether an individual was assigned female at birth or not.
Biology Versus Gender Identity
Furthermore, they don’t recognize the difference between biology and gender identity. To TERFs, if you’re assigned female at birth, you’re a woman. If you’re assigned male at birth, you’re a man. However, this belief is quite obsolete and has debunked several times by science.
According to the science of transgenderism, trans women have a similar brain pattern with cisgender women. Biologically, apart from the genitals and reproductive capabilities, transgender women share a lot of characteristics with cisgender women.
Negative Effects of Excluding Transgender Women
Although TERFs claim that they’re not discriminating against trans women, their indirect actions of “protecting women rights” prove to be harmful to transgender women. Not only are they discounting the womanhood of trans women, they’re also discounting the manhood of transgender men.
While transgender women are fighting for trans rights, they’re also fighting for women’s rights. They identify as women and care a lot about the welfare of all women. Most transgender women are feminists and can empathize with how it’s like to be oppressed and underestimated.
However, albeit all of this, TERFs still don’t like to associate transgender women with cisgender women. By doing so, they are indirectly battling against the fight of transwomen’s rights.
They are indirectly encouraging people to close their ears to what transwomen have to say. Their actions further the unnecessary discussions on whether transwomen can :
- enter women’s bathrooms
- compete in women’s beauty pageants
- change their legal documents for their appropriate gender
- be respected as women
- and more
The majority of what makes TERFs are cisgender women. This lessens the dignity of transgender women because they have been fighting all their lives to be recognized as women. Because TERFs are pushing them out of the women box, they’re forced to feel like they don’t belong to the society.
This is the reason why a lot of them resort to working in the adult industry. The adult industry is very inclusive and seems like the only option that they feel they’ll be qualified to be in.
A transgender woman does not like to be identified other than being a woman. If others do not recognize her womanhood, she will feel out of place. When one doesn’t have a sense of belonging, they can feel lost.
This makes them feel less dignified as they are not welcome to be who they truly are. It also makes them think that they belong to another gender that they really don’t identify with, making them think lowly of their existence.
How TERF are harming Transgender Individuals
You may think that TERFs are just fighting for what they believe in. Your notions may be about protecting “women’s rights”. There is nothing wrong with fighting for what you believe in. However, you must think, is it worth fighting for if you’re stepping on others’ overall dignity and personhood?
Majority of cisgender women is very inclusive of transgender women. They don’t mind sharing a bathroom. However, some cisgender women who are TERFs assert their beliefs by publicly humiliating transgender women. There have been many recorded incidents showing how transgender women are dragged out of the women’s bathroom because of “inconvenience”.
One of the most hurtful scenarios that a transgender woman can go through is be verbally excluded by someone. A lot of transgender women work very hard to form relationships and friendships, only to find out at the end of the day that their friends and family still don’t see them as a woman.
This hurts because out of all the people that they’re going to get flak from, it’s from people who should know and understand them the most. It’s people who have been with her while she’s living as a woman; the supposedly witnesses for why she should be considered a woman.
Sadly, in today’s world, people can still be easily influenced. Their moral compasses and guilt can still be easily manipulated by celebrities and famous people. This is true and is apparent most especially in social media. These famous TERFs use their influence and following to indirectly spread hate against transgender women.
To further expound on the last section, this guide will feature well-known trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
J.K. Rowling may well be the most famous TERF in the world. She does not skip a beat when it comes to voicing out her opinions against transgender women. She is claiming that she is not transphobic but her tweets show otherwise.
Most recently, she shared a link to a shop with her followers. The shop sells badges with messages such as “Notorius Transphobe” and “Fuck your Pronouns”. She has also argued that people who menstruate are women which received a lot of flak from transgender men, non-binary individuals, and cisgender women who don’t menstruate.
Kellie-Jay Keen Minshull (Posie Parker)
One of the most controversial TERFs is Posie Parker. She’s a UK activist who made a scandal through a live video. She broadcasted a Facebook live video while harassing the first transgender woman senator Sarah McBride in her workplace.
While McBride was sorting through photos, Parker aggressively misgendered her multiple times. She also demandingly asked McBride,
“Why don’t you care about lesbian girls at 14 getting double mastectomies? Why don’t you care about that Sarah?”
The “lesbians” Parker were refering to are transgender men transitioning surgically as they do not identify as women. This just goes to show one of the classic examples of how TERFs are ignorant about sexual orientation vs. gender identity.
How to Fight TERFs
There are many ways to battle TERFs. One does not have to join parades if they do not feel the need to. Just by using a computer, you can change the world.
On your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. accounts, you can post articles regarding the dangers of TERFs to transgender women. You may simply share this article as well.
Educating Family and Friends
Nothing is more effective in spreading a message than having a face-to-face conversation. Start with your home and let them know the importance of including transgender women.
Spreading the Word
Be innovative in spreading the word. If you have other ways of letting people know and touching their hearts, do so. Be part of ending the abuse against transgender women. Be the hero that they truly deserve.