TERF wars

TW: Transphobia, rape, abuse

This week you can’t of missed the violent and misinformed preachings of the mainstream press discussing trans issues*, gender and what they deem to be a threat to every woman, child and trans exclusionary radical feminist or TERF, apparently.

I don’t want to pollute this piece nor platform the sensationalist hateful transphobia nor do I wish to resurface trauma for those affected by it in this writing, they’ve already been shared widely across social media, day time television and the daily rags - stumble and you will fall upon them.

Should you wish to save yourself the heartache here is the abridged beef. The beautiful Travis Alabanza called out TopShop for not allowing them to try garments on in one of its stores because of an assumption of Travis’ gender. Travis tweeted their disappointment and was systematically dragged through the mill by hateful and aggressive journalists, each piece of writing littered with purposeful misgendering and ignorance.

Travis’ feed and those those who came to support them began to fill with hate speech, threats of violence, transphobia and misogyny. This spilled onto my own Twitter when I dared to say Monki were brilliant for having an inclusive changing room policy.

Questioning why you are not allowed to try on an outfit or why arts spaces don’t have gender neutral toilet space or even just by being a forward facing trans* or gender nonconforming person online and you can expect violent, aggressive and strategic TERF attacks..

The Church of England this week also announced that children within their 5000 faith schools in the UK should be allowed to play with whatever toys or costumes they want from the dressing up box (well, actually they said boys should be able to wear tiaras which is binary royalist bullshit) and not just be allocated to play with or dress in things considered to be for their assumed gender.

I’ve recently taken to being more public or forthcoming about my relationship with gender - adorning my profile with the tag ‘not a man’, I’ve also written a play scrutinising working class maleness and been talking lots about men sharing privilege, platform and power. Man or male is an identifier that never fitted or suited me and one I will never become accustomed too. Being more open to talk about my gender identity (a direct result of hanging out with folk like Travis) has meant I’ve been asked to use my big fat mouth to talk about it ...and where appropriate I do.

Increasingly I’m turning down telly and radio gigs because currently producers love nothing more and than shove you alongside an angry TERF for the modern equivalent of a gladiatorial battle or TERF war. As much as I believe we should live life outside of the echo chamber I don’t think it needs be so nasty, violent and for the entertainment of others.

As a result of speaking my mind I’ve had my fair share of trolling, simply because I’m a nice person who believes in inclusion. In fact this week I found a corner of the internet that’s dedicated to me - lets call it a fan club. One video I found on the trolling equivalent of the darknet has a video that’s had 188,000 views calling me a ‘fat femme feminist man who hates gay men’ ...and only one of those things is untrue.

One film even has CGI, voice overs and green screen - the lengths people will go to simply tell me they don’t agree with me is astounding. We’ve got a point in history where if you disagree with someone you tell them by doing an evening course at Apple on iMovie special effects.

More and more these aggressive interactions online are with TERF’s, gone are the days of a cis man manspreading your twitter feed. Many of my friends and even my own interactions with TERF’s demonstrate the formulaic nature of their harassment. They often begin by asking if I want to rape women, they ask if rape is OK. Some share with me cases in America where cis men have assaulted women in toilets. They want to know why they should share a space with me because I’m likely to piss on the seat or take pictures, apparently.

They often want to talk about my penis and the socialised privilege it's given me (as a queer femme if abuse, assault, harassment, daily violence, and bullying is a socialised privilege then I’m guilty). They purposefully ignore pronouns and misgender to provoke painful reactions. They hunt in packs, gang up on trans* and NB folk, pushing a prodding until they have not option but to come offline and go back into anonymity where it’s safer. TERF strategy is to bully and contribute to the invisibility of trans* and NB folk. It's worth noting that bullying and aggression enacting on trans* and NB folk is never reciprocated and there is something in that.

However, what upsets me most about these interactions with TERF’s isn’t their concern about the safety of women - in fact I’m really willing to hear where they are at and what their concerns are. I understand why that concern exists - cis* men have and continue to rape, assault and abuse women, they think this is one way in protecting women from that. Although, I would much prefer to create a culture in which cis* men didn’t rape than violently ostracise trans* and NB folk.

I’m not offended by the fact they don’t want me or NB folk in ‘their’ space - I’m really willing to hear and debate their strategies for creating a safe space for all, but I want a space that is also inclusive and not based on cis privilege.

The violence, aggression and language TERF’s approach these contentious subjects with is what I have no time for. The blatant ignorance towards trans* issues, the misinformed assumptions and the purposeful hatred that causes me to shut down and stop listening.

I’m more likely to block and ignore a TERF than I am to interact with because of the aforementioned bullying. This leaves us both angry, unheard and ignorant of each other's view point. Being willing to listen and hear the concern is the only way we’ll be able to move forward but again this doesn’t have to be hateful.

Listening or engaging doesn’t mean I or anyone else has to agree with the TERF’s but to be able to have non-violent interactions with them is the first step in us both moving forward. By no means am I saying I will ever make room for their transphobia but to understand the problem means we can work towards a shared solution.

What I find super revealing and really sad is how these TERF’s have adopted trolling behaviours previously or in fact are actively enacted towards feminists by cis* male misogynists. The oppressed has learnt a thing from its enemy and is passing the oppression down the privilege chain. Many of the TERF’s who troll me proudly include #feminist in their bios - I wonder if the irony that they are oppressing a group of people because of their gender or non-gendered identities is lost on them? Also when TERF’s troll trans* women are they aware this is nothing more than misogyny? Or do they feel their status as cis women means they are unable of being misogynistic?

TERFing is now a culture, one that painfully demonstrates the brilliant ability misogyny and patriarchal systems have in making those with variant oppressions be able to turn on each other whilst the menemy succeeds in retaining power and privilege aka smoke screening.

As long as the TERF’s continue to use harmful, hurtful and nasty ways of aggravating trans* and NB folk I’ll continue to slam the block button until this culture of so-called feminism educates itself, annuls its threats and navigates their concern with care.

Our trans* fam our under attack by the mainstream - we must stand with them to fight back, reach out, give them time, show them that they are loved.


Here are a few ways you could donate money to a few brilliant orginsations I support...

Open Barbers - donate to their home cutting service here!

Gendered Intelligence - donate to their work here!

Transpire - trans* support group in Southend!


Recent Posts

See All