Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists have been a topic in my circles lately, so I figured I’d do a quick post on them.
As far as I can tell, the idea originated back in the 1970’s. Feminists promoted the idea of a “safe space,” where minorities could be themselves without fear of judgement. Women-only spaces were a refuge from the toxic masculinity present in our culture, something lesbians in particular found attractive (pun intended).
These spaces also seemed like an oasis for trans* women, where their woman-hood would not be measured and weighed. Some lesbians took offence, however; here were women who didn’t biologically resemble women. They had no attraction to them, even though they were attracted to women. So why were they in a woman’s-only place? As one TERF site puts it,
Over the last 25 years, we have watched this conversation around Transgender rights unfold. The conversation started out as a thought experiment at first. Then, one or two Trans people would show up in our communities. But they were “nice” and “supportive” of Women’s issues, and who really wanted to be the Mean Woman telling them they weren’t Women.
Fast forward to 2013 – It is impossible for Women to organize as Women without having the Trans conversation. It is impossible for Lesbians to date without having to sign a loyalty oath to Ladystick. It is impossible for Butch Women to go anywhere “Queer” without being asked about our transition plans. It is impossible for Women to just be Women and not have to justify our appearance or our existence, even to other Women.
As you can imagine, this pissed off trans* women; even in so-called “safe” spaces, their gender was being measured, debated, and in some aspects denied or rejected. As Natalie Reed explains,
The term “Cotton Ceiling” was originally coined by the intensely awesome Canadian trans-activist and porn star Drew DeVeaux, in which she referred (quite specifically) to the tendency within feminist and queer women’s spaces for trans women to be, while nominally accepted as women and supported in their pursuit for rights and equality, regarded and treated as essentially de-sexed, unfuckable, and sometimes a bit repulsive, with this becoming highly politicized in regards to its implications for things like what a lesbian sexuality really means, how much of sexuality is “orientation” and something we can’t be held accountable for and how much is mediated by our perceptions, how sexuality can reveal that biases and lack of respecting gender identity continue to exist on visceral levels despite being intellectually (or superficially) rejected, etc.
So more or less, TERFs started off as a bunch of lesbians squicking out over potential penis. That objection is rather… shallow, let’s say, so it needed some sort of cover. Hence, the birth of the idea that trans* women would inadvertently carry masculine attitudes into a safe space since they were originally socialized as men.
It’s a mere fig leaf, though; shouldn’t we also be worried about women accidentally carrying in masculine attitudes, or are they magically protected from sexism on account of their gender? If it’s impossible to scrub the masculinity off of trans* women, who are actively trying to act and be treated like women, then how do you expect to scrub it off men, who aren’t? TERF arguments make no sense, and reveal just how much their worldview boils down to a disgust over potential penises.
They really are bigots pretending to be feminists.