Dealing with TERFs
CW: TERF mentions & calling out of transphobic + exclusionary beliefs
You've likely heard of TERFs or have had interactions with them. We find them within our own LGBTQIA2s+ community and outside of it, among those we trusted at one point, and those we have never interacted with. Transphobia and transmisogyny are steeped into a lot of society today (as a direct result of colonization), such that there is a branch of feminism dedicated to the exclusion of trans and nonbinary folks from certain spaces.
A lot of TERF beliefs can seem harmless on a surface level.
Aside from obvious/overt TERFs, can you identify statements that are covert ideas? I've found that covert TERFs espouse ideas that might be more palatable on the surface if you haven't heard them before. At first, you might think:
"Okay, I can understand where you are coming from but I don't agree."
They can subtly frame their arguments as a difference of opinion rather than them saying things that are getting trans women killed. They might say things like:
they are a "gender-critical" feminist (or gender-critical in general)
that they are a RadFem (TERF ideology calls itself "radical feminism")
make references to the LGB community (purposefully excluding any other letters)
dislike of the term "cis", argues that "TERF" as a term is a slur or hate speech
focus heavily on discussing trans children, perpetuating myths that children are being given surgery and hormones without acknowledging the rigorous process in place for many youths to get HRT or puberty blockers
the belief that dysphoria must be present for someone to be trans or non-binary and/or that it must be so intense that the person is immobilized
All of these more seemingly innocuous statements are meant to get people to sympathize with them and their ideas. To waste your time debating with them or hearing them out. But it's not worth your time.
More covert examples:
the belief that ace/aro people are not inherently queer
participating in the war against queer, calling queer a slur regardless of context
the policing of bi/pan (& other multiple attraction) sexualities
refusal to date trans folks / even consider them part of their dating pool
refusal to date bi/pan/multiple attraction sexual orientation folks
belief in "straight passing privilege"
HINT: its actually queer erasure!
anti-kink or anti-sex positivity
So what can be done?
Challenge those within your circles & community to re-examine their thoughts if they are saying anything along these lines. Having a conversation with a family member or friend you know personally is more likely to bear open dialogue rather than some stranger online.
If you see someone espousing these statements online the best thing to do is usually block & report and then reply to the comment debunking what they said for future readers. Do not give them your time or attention when they are saying things that are literally contributing to our deaths, Black & Indigenous trans women especially. The time spent arguing with a TERF online can be better spent supporting trans and non-binary people in your life and circles.
TERF is an acronym standing for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism/Feminist
TERFs mainly target trans women and transfeminine people and seek to have them excluded from women-only spaces. They define feminism by "sex-based" oppression. That oppression itself is a result of being "biologically female". Many do not acknowledge intersectionality, believing that all cis women experience misogyny the same because of their "shared biological make-up".
- Summarized from The CUSU Women's Campaign document on How to Spot a TERF
A specific kind of transphobia against transfeminine people. Where misogyny (prejudice against women) overlaps with being a transgender woman or transfeminine person.
- Coined by Julia Serano Click the link to read a short primer by her on it.
Maverick Lumen (they/them) is a Counsellor & Tarot reader who is passionate about seeing queer, trans, and non-binary clients receive the welcoming and understanding support they deserve. Their practice is founded on lived experience and anti-oppression, all while examining how the body and mind can be connected to uncover the stories that we have heard about and have told ourselves.