Some Basic Points

Elsewhere I am still seeing people concern-trolling about how unfairly the poor TERFS are being treated by the horrid trans people. Why, people keep asking, are trans folk not prepared to debate important issues? Well, here are a few things to think about, based on stuff I have read elsewhere.

First up, the acronym TERF stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. All of those words are important. The suggestion that its use attacks all feminists, or even all radical feminists, is clearly incorrect. Indeed, most trans activists identify as feminists, and many as radicals.

I am well aware of the claim that “TERF” is a term of abuse. However, it is a simple and factual statement of their political position. If there was a better word, I’d be happy to use it. However, the TERFs themselves prefer to be referred to as “feminists” or even just “women”, this being an attempt to infer that their position has far greater support than it has, and to encourage the sort of confusion I referred to above. Claiming that any word we come up with to describe them is a term of abuse is a tactic used to prevent us from addressing their claims.

I have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Under the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 this means that I have the right, in law, to be treated as a woman. My driving license, passport, and even birth certificate say that I am female. The central thesis of this law — that I and people like me are women — was described as the “extreme form” of trans ideology by the New Statesman last week. Hopefully you can understand why I get a little irritated by constant demands that I “debate” the idea that I am not “really” a woman, should be barred from female-only spaces, and should be forced to use male-only toilets if I need to pee when out in public.

By the way, props to Roz Kaveney for pointing out that these attempts to prevent trans women from using public toilets are very similar to the Victorian idea that by not providing public toilets for women they could be forced to stay at home and not participate in public life.

If your position is that an exception can be made for trans women like me, but not for others, then you need to define how this exception will work. Note, however, that the TERF position is that I am, and always will be, a man, and can never be allowed in women-only spaces. Germaine Greer’s position is that anyone with a Y chromosome is a man, no matter how weird their biology. This include people with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who are female-bodied, assigned female at birth, raised as girls, identify as women, and in a few cases have even given birth.*

If your idea for how to control exceptions is “PENIS!!!”, what will you do about a 17-year-old who has been living as a girl since she was 5, has not and never will go through male puberty, but cannot legally have gender surgery until she turns 18?

Note also that in order to qualify for gender transition patients at Gender Identity Clinics generally have to spend at least 2 years living full time in their preferred gender role. That includes the use of gender-appropriate toilets.

Currently some 13,000 people have undergone transition under the care of British gender clinics (not all of whom will have had surgery). It is reasonable to assume that getting on for half of them identify as trans women. To date not one of them has been charged with sexual assault of a woman in a public bathroom. (It would have been all over the papers if one had.) Why would anyone say that all of them should be punished by being denied access to toilets, just in case one of them might commit an assault?

If your position is that heterosexual men might disguise themselves as trans women in order to sneak into women’s toilets and commit sexual assaults, why is your solution to that to ban actual trans women from toilets? If you were worried that rapists might disguise themselves as postmen in order to attack housewives, would your solution be to ban mail deliveries?

Why is it that trans men are never seen as a sexual threat (even when TERFS demand that they use women’s toilets)? Why are lesbians not a danger in women’s toilets, or gay men in men’s toilets? Why is it only ever trans women who are seen as potential sexual predators?

And finally, over 200 trans women are killed worldwide every year, just because they are trans. Almost always the killers are men. TERFs know this when they demand that trans women be forced to out themselves to strangers and enter a male-only space if they want to have a pee.

I don’t suppose any of that will put a stop to it. People will go on and on complaining, “why can’t you be reasonable, why can’t you just debate this point?” After all, people keep saying that we should debate the reality of evolution, and climate change, and the moon landings. But there comes a point when you have to say enough. The reality of gender identity issues, and the appropriateness of gender transition as a treatment, is recognized by the UN, by most democratic governments, and by the bulk of medical and scientific opinion. As this post on Skeptoid states, it is time for TERFism to be recognized as a form of denialism so that most of us can stop having these endless “debates”. Mostly they are just excuses for terrorizing trans women, and we need to stop enabling them.

By the way, on the subject of medical evidence, I note from Canadian news that Kenneth Zucker, the primary proponent of the sort of trans “cures” that Julie Bindel advocates, and which led to the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, has been put under a six-month independent review by his bosses.

Also the current evidence used by Zucker and his pals to claim that trans women are mentally ill is the condition of “autogynephlia”, a form of sexual fetish in which we are supposed to be in lust with our images of ourselves as women. I saw recently on the GIRES website that someone has done some proper science to test this condition by introducing a control. The research showed that, using the diagnostic criteria recommended by the inventor or autogynephlia, Ray Blanchard, 93% of cis women tested should be classified as suffering from this “mental illness”. Yet autogynephilia is still included in the current US directory of mental illnesses, and many countries still require that trans people be officially diagnosed as mentally ill before they can even change their names.

* There is a science fiction story to be written in which external incubation of babies becomes fashionable because Greer-like feminists have a horror of being “contaminated” by male cells should they male children. Every woman who has born a son has a bunch of Y-chromosome cells floating around in her body.

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10 Responses to Some Basic Points

  1. Wow. As always, food for thought, and eloquently expressed. I’m still learning, Cheryl. I’m trying to learn *better*.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Fantastic piece!

  3. Glenn Glazer says:

    This particular instance aside, I think there is a general point about language and categorization to be made here. Once we put people in a category of People We Dislike, we start calling them PWDs and start forgetting that they are real people. People like us, with passion, energy, hopes and fears.

    No one has ever called me a TERF, because that would be absurd and wildly incorrect, but I have been on the receiving end of similar phenomena. It’s not a lot of fun to be referred to as “those people”, particularly if one’s membership in the acronym group is based on circumstances of one’s birth or if it is some sort of political or philosophical leaning that does not define, in a major way, who one is.

    Do people self-identify as TERF?

    • Cheryl says:

      Fair point, though I confess that I find it hard to be sympathetic to people whose primary obsession is persecuting me and people like me.

      They certainly identify as Radical Feminists, and they are firmly committed to excluding trans women from the category “women”. But apparently they don’t like being described as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. It is kind of like, “I’m not a racist, but…”

      One term they do use for themselves is “gender critical” feminists, but no one outside of their own circle is going to have any idea what that means. I’m not sure I know what it means either. They certainly aren’t critical of the idea of gender. I guess it means people who criticize other people’s gender performance.

      • Cathy Butler says:

        It’s also far too wide a term. Many feminists who aren’t trans-exclusionary are “gender critical” – indeed, it’s hard to imagine a feminist who isn’t – at least if that term denotes (which seems the obvious reading to me) a suspicion of all claims that certain roles, appearance, interests, expression, etc. are the natural province of one sex to the exclusion of another.

        One very small niggle with your post. In the sentence:

        “Note also that in order to qualify for gender transition patients at Gender Identity Clinics generally have to spend at least 2 years living full time in their preferred gender role.”

        “gender transition” should probably read “surgery”. Transition is the necessary precondition for so-called “real life experience.”

        • Cheryl says:

          I’m not sure that is what it is supposed to mean. I think it is being critical of “gender theory” in much the same way as the Pope is critical of “gender theory”. That is, it is critical of the idea that someone can have a gender identity different from their chromosomal sex (which is presumed binary).

          As to your niggle, I very deliberately did not say “surgery” because not everyone who goes through a Gender Identity Clinic will end up having surgery. It might have been better to say “full legal gender recognition”.

          • Cathy Butler says:

            I assumed you were thinking of surgery given the previous paragraph, but “full legal recognition” is fine.

  4. Siobhan says:

    You’ve raised some issues that I used to have trouble with – back when I was extremely ignorant of the people around me and fitted everything into a mould. I used to be one of those people who didn’t really want to share a bathroom with someone who wasn’t biologically female. This was because of my own lack of understanding, my own small-town mind and my own very limited experiences.

    I came from a very small town in rural Ireland. Everyone was white. Everyone was middle or working class (apart from the big farmers and big shop owners who were a little up themselves). Everyone stuck with the gender that they were born with (as far as they knew). The only drugs that people took were prescribed by a doctor. Things like bathroom use for transpeople were issues that you read about in the newspapers or saw occasionally on TV. Yes, I was also incredibly naive and thought that when a boy/girl said they loved you that they actually meant it and weren’t just in it for sex.

    I grew up when I hit college and started meeting people from the melting pot of cultures that university generally is. I ended up living next door to a very nice lady who’d had a very hard life. She was a troubled teen and ended up going in and out of jail several times. She had been hooked on cocaine and heroin and was on methadone. She had to keep coming off her hormone treatments because they interacted with the methadone. She joined the GLB (our university’s version of LGBT – notice the lack of T) and was horrifically picked on. They used the wrong pronouns, words that you should never use in relation to a person let alone one going through a hard transition, they belittled her totally. I was horrified by this and ended up leaving the group (and letting them know exactly what I thought about them in words of one syllabel or less!) over the way that they had treated someone who had paid them membership. And more than that, out of every organisation on the campus, this was the one place where she should have been able to find respite, understanding and everything else.

    I saw, in very short order, how much words could hurt. There were people there who shrieked and left the bathroom when she walked in. They petitioned the students union to make a ruling on the issue and I saw the woman next door trudge back to her apartment, shoulders down and looking so down. I ended up inviting her in for tea, sitting down and having a chat with her. We talked about everything, her life, my life, her transition (never asked about genitals because that’s none of my business). The next day we met up for lunch and afterwards, she steeled her shoulders and headed towards the bathroom. I swear to God she stopped in front of the doors and hesitated over which to go into; girls or boys. I linked arms with her and not stopping talking, walked straight into the girls with her. The smile on her face still sticks with me.

    I was ignorant when I was young but I learned better. There’s no reason that other people can’t do the same. Who cares where people go to pee? As long as they don’t pee on the floor, I have no problems with anyone going anywhere. In fact, wouldn’t it be better to go into the womans? It’s all stalled and private…

    There are a lot of people out there who don’t take the time to think about their actions, including people who should know better. If you tell me that you’re a woman, then who the hell am I to disagree? If you tell me that you’re a man, then who am I to disagree? If you tell me that I’m using the wrong pronouns, then it’s my duty to remember that and to address you properly. If you tell me your name is Lucy and I keep calling you Kate, then you’re right to get annoyed at me. How are pronouns any better?

    In short, don’t be an asshole! It’s not that hard.

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