The Problem with TERFs

If there’s one constant to being a member of any minority/marginalized group, is that there’s someone out there who seems to have no purpose in life but to make things worse for you. For trans women and men, though in practice it’s almost entirely trans women, that someone are TERFs, Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Whose entire thing is basically coming up with an endless series of reasons why trans women aren’t women. Also they can get very upset about being called TERFs, even though by their own actions they are trans-exclusionary and label themselves radical feminists (which itself is a label that could justify an entire blog post). They will claim it’s a slur even while being exactly what it says they are.


And while I could go on about various statements, ideological claims and so on, better to look at what’s underneath it all. Where the foundations of what they think and say are. How it is they come to be so toxic not just to trans women but our allies as well.

To start with take this quote from Australian feminist Germaine Greer, one of the pillars of TERF thinking,:

“No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight”

Now let’s for the start leave out the factual validity of what she’s claiming and look at what she’s saying. She’s saying trans women would disappear if having to get an ovary and uterus transplant was mandatory. Which is rather illuminating as to her own feelings about them. In the larger context of what she’s said, having a uterus and ovaries is essential to being a woman. It just is. Somehow this isn’t meant to be a slight to women born without either or both. Yet declaring those are essential to being a woman can’t be read any other way. Even as Greer claims trans women see women as defective males, she posits a definition that implicitly declares women born with certain conditions are also defective women.

But there’s another part to it, and it’s in what she doesn’t say. She never says why a trans woman wouldn’t accept a uterus and ovary transplant. She never, as one might think she would, argues no trans woman is strong enough to endure having to deal with having an ovaries and uterus. Or that at the least no trans woman would ever agree to having periods. Which starts getting into a key part of reading her statement, that having a uterus and ovaries, is just awful. Something so awful no trans woman would ever actually agree to it. After all, why else claim no trans woman would go along with a transplant?

And if it sounds like Greer has a not too great view of women, her recent comments about #metoo are certainly illuminating. Instead of praising women for coming forward she castigates women for trying to fix past wrongs and even tosses in a defense of Woody Allen. Also if you think I’m reading too much into what Greer has said in declaring she thinks a functional uterus and ovaries are essential to being a woman, a few years back she said:

“Being a woman is a bit tricky. If you didn’t find your pants full of blood when you were 13 there’s something important about being a woman you don’t know. It’s not all cake and jam”.

So any girl who at 13 isn’t bleeding, because she can’t, can’t really be a woman. Because she doesn’t experience how awful periods are. Why else posit that being a woman isn’t “all cake and jam” if not to say they’re horrible? And why the imagery?

Though Greer herself doesn’t base her work in it, her statement about uterus and ovary transplants fits with a view of some feminists labeled as radical feminists and accepted by TERFs as axiomatic truth. Specifically that women’s oppression is entirely centered on their biology, that it is having a uterus and ovaries, is the nexus of oppression of women. And the view of oppression comes to dominate all else. Everything flows from how men oppress women purely because of their biology.

Now for the other part of Greer’s statement, the factual validity of it. Currently medical science doesn’t make such uterus and ovary transplants possible. Though uterine transplants have been done on cis women, so far no one has gone forward on performing the procedure on a trans woman. So even if a trans woman begged to have them, it’s not currently possible. So the absence of the begging doesn’t change anything. So the first part of the statement can just be written off on account of the limits of medical science.

It’s the second part that’s far more illuminating and also creates a bridge by which to look at the most toxic part of TERF ideology and conduct. She declares that if the transplant were mandatory trans women would disappear. Yet by what basis does she declare that? It’s pretty clear she’s never actually engaged with trans women in any sort of dialogue. Because if she had? She’d find some of us, would have no problem with that transplant. Oh it’s mandatory? And? Where’s the problem?

But a woman who so openly holds all trans women as contemptible as Greer does, and that’s all TERFs, is not going to find that out. Save for possibly some musings online they won’t even encounter the idea of a trans woman who wouldn’t have issue with the transplant.And they aren’t even aware that there’s something they don’t know, it doesn’t occur to them something may not be as stated.

There is however a further thing, that a trans woman would not only accept a mandatory uterus and ovaries transplant, but were it just an option, she’d go for it. If you’re wondering what trans woman would choose it, well I’m one. And yes there’s the initial reaction of “You’d want to bleed?” some people have. It’s not however really about wanting to bleed, it’s that bleeding, having a menstrual cycle, is a fairly typical part of being a woman. And if it were an option, why not? One of the hardest things about adolescence as a trans girl is dealing with that you’ll never experience that. If I could correct that, why wouldn’t I?

Then there is the other side of it, that having a uterus and ovaries also brings a potential. The potential to give birth. Which is something I once brought up online and watched as TERFs attacked it as perverted and other things. I didn’t even mention, they didn’t ask of course, if it’s something I’d do. But it’s not about actually doing it, but having the option to. Having that choice. And while the idea of a trans woman as innately maternal isn’t something that comes up, well why couldn’t a trans woman be maternal? We’re women after all.

That ignorance, which carries to everything about trans women, is what makes TERFs so toxic. They have their own explanations for why trans women are as we are, what we are and so on. And they’re taken as axiomatic. A trans woman stating something contrary is stating something invalid, lying, or obfuscating etc, take your pick. And as a trans woman’s own words are never valid, there’s no chance to really explain anything. That trans women will as a group declare gender identity has nothing to do with sexuality, TERFs declare it does. TERFs will attack trans women’s own statements out of a lack of critical thinking of the limits of language. After all, how else to describe one’s own internal self without the word “feeling”? Which is turned to declare being a woman isn’t a feeling. Which it’s not, but if you only get hung up on words without thinking of what’s actually being aid, you can go that way with it.

The insistence that nothing a trans woman says about herself or trans women in general is never truthful, as well as the persistent ignorance among TERFs, isn’t something that comes out of nowhere. Indeed, despite what they may say about how horrible men are, it’s something TERFs share with men. That anything they can’t relate to, that they don’t understand, is inferior to their own status and being and therefore not worth any bother. Men have used the threat of violence, as well as actual violence, to subjugate entire populations they viewed as inferior. In some cases they’ve just wiped the populations out of the existence. All because those populations are seen as inferior, because they are different, and not something the men can relate to and not someone they understand.

So it is with TERFs, the experience of a trans woman is something they can’t relate to. What we trans women say about ourselves is something they don’t understand. Now add in some texts declaring trans women are already horrible (sound familiar?), and they end up no different from men. Indeed they’re taking on what is historically the most destructive part of men. To declare anyone unfamiliar, anyone not understood, as inferior and at best only worth subjugation. Anyone not understood is inferior and therefore not worth understanding. And anyways, how can someone whose experience, whose being, you can’t relate to be equal?

It never occurs to them that the same things that have caused men to wipe out populations is why they treat women as they do. Just as they invent and spread superstitions about native populations, they invented and spread superstitions about women. It’s not women’s biology they hate, it’s that women experience things they can’t relate to, things they don’t understand, therefore women can’t be equal. And here they are, happily doing what men have done to them.

And if you think pointing out historical analogies would help, they don’t. Even pointing out how what TERFs do to trans women is the same as what men have done to women, goes nowhere. After all, they’d never do something as vile as mimic men. Except in all the ways they do. And insisting upon equality, well how dare a marginalized person demand to be treated as equal?

There’s a lot more that could be covered, but it all comes from the same place. A place in which TERFs attempt to be the gatekeepers of what it is to be a woman, feminism and other things. A place in which no one except them is right about anything. A place in which any attempt at self-explanation or even self-defense is viewed as a sign of being every worst thing TERFs say. In the end, like with any group that holds to things as they do, only thing to do is get on with life. All the while knowing, that life is being made harder by someone who wouldn’t sit down to have dinner with you as an equal.

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