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TERFs come in all kinds, from “I’ll help trans* people, but I won’t respect their identity” to “all trans* people should die“. It’s the latter type that I’d like to focus on here.

I’ve summarized early TERFs as “a bunch of lesbians squicking out over potential penis,” and that never seems more true than when discussing “the cotton ceiling.” For those unaware,

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.

Within TERF circles, however, this has taken on a normative component. Discussing why lesbians might be reluctant to view trans* women as sexual partners is seen as discussing why lesbians won’t sleep with trans* women when they totally should. Or in the extreme case, the discussion is cast as part of a conspiracy to force lesbians into sexual relationships and conquer women’s-only spaces.

Transgender cotton ceiling rapists hold male-only (Planned Parenthood sponsored) seminars, write books, host lecture tours, and endlessly spam lesbian websites and blogs with rape and murder threats over lack of male “inclusion” in lesbian social gatherings, lesbian organizing, lesbian events, lesbian music festivals, and most importantly lesbian bedrooms.

Oh noes, the trans* women are coming for your vagina!!

you are a male sexual predator, enabling your male predator brethren. Which is why you and all your Cotton Ceiling buddies creep me the fuck out… These dudes in dresses are trying to guilt-trip you into sleeping with them, and name-calling you if you don’t.

It’s an extreme level of paranoia over something quite trivial.

Seven people met to talk about body image and shame and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) claimed that Planned Parenthood was organizing a meeting to teach trans people how to rape lesbians… and many, many people believed it.

The only olive branch I’ll cast out is that there’s a fine line between discussion and “discussion,” as fine as the one between asking questions and “just asking questions.” The solution is to call out the line and be cautious, though, not shut down all discussion. Going further and spinning wild conspiracy theories just outs you as a callous bigot.