Defining themselves as “protectors of women’s sex-based rights”, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, are women who crusade against trans inclusion and integration in society because, from their viewpoint, sex and gender are a static binary. To them, sex is gender, and both are immutable. By that logic, trans women do not exist. They believe that including trans women as women minimizes the suffering and exploitation of women by the patriarchy. Similarly, in their view, those claiming to be trans men either don’t exist, or are confused women who are “trying to be men” in order to escape patriarchal oppression.
TERFs think that they own – or should – own every space not blatantly carved out for men.
They believe that their increasingly narrow definition of women should access whatever is left over from male-dominated ravaging of the world (read: capitalism) because they see men given the false right to own just about everything, and certainly everything that matters to material conditions: certain men have been granted (read: through force and systemic violence they’ve stolen) control of water, food, healthcare, weapons, shelter, transportation, etc., unto society itself. (Not all men are given this of course, but the TERF / Gender Critical (GC) analysis includes Nazi-like elevation of strongmen and the related fallacies.)
TERFs see a rigid hierarchical structure dominated mostly by men, and historically wholly by men, where only certain men get to direct, control, and enjoy the fruits of mankind’s labor, in other words, “select” men use everyone else’s expense for their benefit. They see this and instead of ceding that we (the collective of humanity) should tear down such unjust hierarchy, they would rather perpetuate it but with them as the woman dominants, or at least equal dominants to those “select” men.
Look to the wealth and relative privilege that wealth grants of the most notable TERF leaders, “thinkers”, etc., and their male GC allies. The vast majority of these notable TERF and GC people are themselves inordinately wealthy. Given that multi-millionaires and billionaires are generally class-conscious, and objectively share interests as a class, they’d rather obfuscate the messiness of human experience (see them relying on miseducation and concepts like “general biology” to minimize the definition of what’s real and therefore valid) in order to get (in their view) lesser individuals onboard with their ideology, meaning frustrated working-class and petit-bourgeoisie people who aren’t class conscious and need an outlet for their perceptions of the system’s vast injustice and inequity.
By doing so, they perpetuate the system that granted them their wealth and associated power and seek to use genuine sentiment for change to merely reform the system so it becomes more advantageous for themselves.
For example, take the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – who was incredibly racist and neo-colonial – but is lauded the most by materially comfortable white women, because RBG’s work had the impact of letting them into the hierarchy closer to the top than ever before. Any benefits RBG’s trailblazing had for the working classes were likely secondary to RBG and are secondary to these modern “feminists”.
TERF theory, to the degree it exists, focuses heavily on retribution and punishment. TERFs don’t see a system of patriarchy and violence and the dictatorship of those with capital and think “oh, let’s take steps to remove all of these injustices and create a free and fair society!”. Instead, these so-called “feminists” ignore the work of our mothers and their feminist comrades of all genders in order to peddle ideals that allow them to insert into systems of oppression and experience directing, controlling it like men have since, likely, the dawn of Western/Eurocentric society.
They see the rewards reaped by predatory men at the top of the monied power structure, and that this power structure is the only one that matters to society’s actions at large, or in other words, is able to influence the system (because capital owns and controls the system in the majority of the world) and knowingly decide to try and reform that system enough to let women be anything in that system – from the jackboot to the head of it all – to seize more control, power, and privilege for themselves, and they project this desire for control of predatory violence on their targets.
It’s reasonable to think almost everyone can agree that predatory violence, such as abuse and assault, are unequivocally wrong. TERFs use this moral consensus as a primer to get people to join in the hatred against trans people – by conflating trans people existing with activism and “trans rights activists” as people who either are themselves predators or people who want to help predators commit violence through obfuscation of the lived experience and general reality of trans people in this world – we’re poorer, sicker, and shunned for being ourselves.
They paint, with the broadest of strokes, all trans people, and anyone who supports transition and trans lives, as “groomers”. Transphobes have obfuscated the term “groomer” to the point where it is harder to know whether abuse and grooming accusations are really accusations of abuse, or if they are the extension of fascist violence at the latest right-wing targets. Similar political elements have long championed against sex education for children in school, which further obfuscates abuse. Sexual and health education for primary school students is focused on what body parts are private and helping kids understand and identify abuse and molestation if it happens to them. In secondary school, “high school”, it is often about the medical risks of STIs and STDs, how to recognize them, and what to talk to a doctor about. Axing sex education in schools increases the risk and potential harm of abuse, especially sexual assault and molestation.
At best, trans people are faced with inordinate hardship – at worst we’re not merely killed, but also erased while struggling with that hardship.
Trans people have disproportionately high rates of preventable diseases, such as renal diseases. This isn’t because we are broken or lesser humans; this is because of the impacts of our social estrangement. We can’t safely use public restrooms more often than not, and this social phenomenon leads to medical deficits. This is one iota of the total social, financial, and medical costs of being who we are. Again, these “costs” involved in transness, in being trans, aren’t natural or automatic. They are enforced upon us by apathetic cis people and the horrors of capitalism.
TERFs ignore these facts and weaponize basic understandings of things like medical science and human biology to make being trans and medically transitioning seen as an irreversible horror – something so out of the field of reasonable that only predators and bad actors would seek to provide care and affirmation and support to all trans folk. There are permanent effects to puberty, whether natal or brought on by hormone replacement therapy. Cis people, trans people who transition, and people who medically detransition, all frequently seek gender affirming care. A cis woman who gets a breast augmentation is receiving gender affirming care. A cis man who takes finasteride to avoid male pattern baldness, or testosterone to feel more youthful or increase fertility is receiving gender affirming care. There are many more examples that could be used, however, regardless of the examples given, the only time our mass culture is against gender affirmation treatments, even surgeries, is when a trans person attempts to access them.
The vast majority, if not the entirety, of healthcare and treatments used for gender affirmation for trans people is repurposed, repackaged medicine that was developed for cis people. All vaginoplasty wasn’t developed for trans women – it was created for cis women who were born without a vagina, or with an incomplete vagina. Hormone replacement therapy was used first for cis women who were post-menopausal, and cis men who were experiencing low testosterone. With both, the health deficits of having the wrong hormone levels were clear, so hormone replacement therapy became the treatment.
Again: TERFs use “basic facts” against the more complex reality. The TERF worldview requires an unflinching bio essentialism. Biological sex in humans is both binomial (meaning a two-polar spectrum, not a strict binary) and fluid. Hormone replacement therapy changes cellular expression, bone structures, muscle tissues, ligaments and connecting tissue, performance and function of genitalia, and so much more.
An example of TERF bio essentialism leading someone down a road of false bio-essentialism is when known TERF / gender critical journalist, Caroline Perez, claimed that “the BMJ” (formerly the British Medical Journal) article was “dangerous nonsense” simply because the facts it discussed conflicted with her personal bio-essentialist worldview.
For the record, the studies into blood transfused into cis males from pregnant cis females found that there was no link between those transfusions and higher mortality rates.
If we use chromosomal makeup as the determiner of human sex, there are 8 known human sexes. If we use the state of genitalia at birth, as in whether a newborn infant has internal or external genitalia, we would have at least five human “sexes”- “has penis”, “has vulva”, “has neither”, “has both penis and vulva”, and “other intersex combination visible upon birth”. If we use brain patterns, there would be no such thing as human gender. This is because, while trans and cis people share brain pattern commonalities for their gender (there’s common sex-specific diversion in neural structure), there is no sure-fire way to determine gender based on brain structures or neural activity alone.
TERFs and their transphobe allies do all this to ultimately further their class interests and reform capitalism to make the system work better for them (white and very rich women) while perpetuating the oppression and bloodshed onto everyone else.
Recently, the right-wing smear and fearmongering campaign against trans people across the West, especially as led by prominent figures within the USA and Britain, has begun to cause a wider moral panic among the general populace. This moral panic is exactly the point; however, it isn’t the end goal.
Historically, anti-Semitism is or leads to Nazism. This is clear as we study the Holocaust. Similarly, in the historical context, transphobia and anti-trans sentiment is or leads to Nazism or mainstream fascism. When the Nazis stated their campaign of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and state-sanctioned terror, they went after trans people so fast, that trans and queer people didn’t make it into the famous poem:
First they came for the CommunistsPastor Martin Niemöller
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
One of the first mass crimes of the Nazi regime is the book burnings. It’s hammered home in public schools that burning books and silencing alternative thought is the work of Nazis. However, it is not taught which books the Nazis burned. Deliberate or not, this omission has the effect of empowering queerphobia, especially transphobia and priming the populace towards accepting the bad faith arguments of transphobes as merely “reasonable concerns”.
You may be familiar with the argument, or concept, that would have you believe that the historical context of something isn’t the determinant of its effect in the now. In other words, history can teach us, but it doesn’t really affect what we do in the now beyond that. It isn’t entirely that simple. In human society, the conditions of our lives, the material wealth and education and cultural understanding available to the lowest among us juxtaposed with that of the most elite, determines the “human nature” of that society and its humans.
“In 1845, Marx and Engels drafted their first book together: The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism, trying to develop “the science of real men and their historical development” (Marx and Engels, 1845, 8). They refer to human nature in this book. When their views on human nature are read in connection with their scientific goal, it is safe to infer that the two thinkers believed that they could develop a science of humans that included the notion of human nature. They utilize the notion of human nature when referring to alienation in capitalist society:
‘The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. . . . The class of the proletariat feels annihilated in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and the reality of an inhuman existence. It is . . . abasement, the indignation at that abasement, an indignation to which it is necessarily driven by the contradiction between its human nature and its condition of life, which is the outright, resolute and comprehensive negation of that nature.’
Marx, Engels, 1845
They argue that the estrangement and degradation the laborer feels under capitalism is the antithesis of a flourishing human nature. Human nature is under capitalist labor relations.”
Similarly, historical conditions inform and determine the impact and effect of something. Historically, anti-Semitism leads to genocide and mainstream fascism. Historically, anti-indigenous thought leads to colonial expansion, genocide, and fascism that isn’t considered as such due to the color of skin of its targets. Historically, anti-blackness and racism in the United States leads to chattel slavery, segregation, eugenics, and, yes, genocide.
Capitalism requires a permanently impoverished underclass. It also has always required artificial divisions among the lower classes in order to maintain the status-quo of rule by, for, and of capital. The ruling class, aka the bourgeoisie, are people whose wealth and ownership of materials, stocks, infrastructure, etc.; “capital” is what sustains their lives and livelihoods. The true middle-class is the petit-bourgeoisie, where a combination of personal labor and accrued capital sustain them. And the lower class is the proletariat, where you must sell yourself, body, mind, and soul in order to earn a meager wage in order to keep living and producing.
The cultural wars we see in mainstream discourse and news are a product of capitalism’s need for division to maintain exploitation. This is the level of culture we’re being allowed to develop under capitalism. Just like the Nazis, whose first book burning target was the “Institut für Sexualwissencraft” the world’s leading gender and sexuality studies center. At least two people are known to have undergone gender-affirming genital replacement surgery there before the Nazis destroyed it. Unlike with the Jews, the Nazis so completely erased knowledge of trans people that there are essentially no records that they destroyed them. In fact, you can internet query “institut fur sexualwissencraft” on the world’s presumably most complete search engine (Google), and only get 5 results. 5, across the entire cataloged internet. Only one of those references, or seems to reference, the Nazis destroying this center for sexology.
Similar to capitalist socioeconomic relations relying on the artificial enforcement of privatized property, such as real and material resources, infrastructure, and other solutions for human needs, so-called “gender critical” thought and its cousin, “trans–exclusionary radical feminism” rely on both the brutal maintenance of these private property extensions and the commodification and dehumanization of children as the private property of their parents.
Under the current level of socioeconomic development, children are the property of their parents. They aren’t seen, in mass culture or by the organs of the state, as the independent, autonomous, and sapient beings they are. In the eyes of the USian collective and all levels of United States government, as well as many other western societies, children are – at best – the extension and eventual stewards of the monied legacy of wealthier parents and, at worst, drains on the public and liabilities for poor parents.
This ownership-relation of children and parents under capitalist society is so normalized, so acceptable, that when children inevitably color outside their parents’ boundaries, outside of their socioeconomic expectations, the state and the masses both stand ready with two responses. The first, and most common, is punishment and outrage. The second only applies if the child’s activity, what they ultimately produce, is instantly and readily beneficial for the capitalist ruling class. This second response is encapsulated by “heartwarming” stories in the mass media as well as private philanthropy targeted at making an appearance of supporting the child/children in question while ultimately bettering the financial leverage or public appearance (or both) of the capitalist(s) involved.
Children are not seen as autonomous and living beings. Under capitalist economies, within a capitalist society, they are there to be molded into productive workers that eventually supplant their parents, take on the outsourcing of caretaking duties for their parents, and repeat the cycle while having more kids themselves and continuing to labor in a way deemed acceptable by the monied class, the capitalists. Further, under capitalism, labor and work must always be structured in ways that ensure the continued expansion and dominance of capital. The sum value of a child, under capitalism, is wholly determined by whether they ultimately exceed their parents’ consumption and production for private profit.
These property relations, as applied to children, are especially clear in the anxiety around childhood transition. Committing to medical transition is an incredibly powerful, grueling, liberating, and self-directed activity. Choosing to color outside the lines of the cis-tem and chase your real self, is in itself revolutionary. Any child who transitions is materially asserting their right to autonomy and self-determination in a way few ever do under capitalist society.
Letting children choose for themselves, and choose in such a way as beyond the cisheteronormative pale of capitalist society, is an affront to the idea that children are the natural property of their parents, and that is an assault on capitalist property relations. Capitalists cannot allow that in any form. The ruling class maintains power, in large part, through maintenance of and artificial limits on cultural development. These culture wars are the means by which capitalism keeps running, and running smoothly.
While so-called “gender criticals”, “anti-trans activists”, and “TERFs” all share a base of transphobia, TERFs are set apart by their usage of feminist rhetoric, and often their status as lesbians or allies of lesbians, in order to cloak their fascist, genocidal rhetoric and tendencies. They want you to believe they are “just protecting women”. However, if you analyze their rhetoric, and the impacts of that rhetoric, you’ll find they often boil womanhood down to childbearing and childbirth far more, and in far worse ways, than even mainstream misogynistic men. TERFs have gone so far as to reduce women, and womanhood, to “holes”.
They much more frequently boil womanhood down to pregnancy and gestation. That, put simply, isn’t feminism. Rather, it’s patriarchy.
Are you a woman? Do you believe that you and the women you know are only good for pregnancy and childbirth? If you do, you’ve got a metric ton of internalized misogyny to work through, hun. If you don’t, then you should be able to agree with at least the “boiling women down to child-rearing is misogyny and patriarchy” part. Trans, just like cis, is an adjective. Trans women are women, like cis women are women, like fat women are women, like blonde or brunette women are women, and so on. There is no adjective that removes the core of the concept or word it modifies. Adjectives are descriptors, not nullifiers.
Further, there isn’t a case where TERFs / GCs have tried to limit or police womanhood, and gender itself without hurting cis women. Sports bans led to Eurocentric standards of gender removing African athletes from competition, and even women who were assigned female at birth being disqualified due to their chromosomal makeup.
It is important to note that fascist elements always cloak their intentions and obfuscate the root of their concerns. They maintain the veil until enough of the mass populace is onboard or apathetic, and the fascists have consolidated enough power that they can slowly pull the mask off, so to speak. The terms transphobes have picked for themselves, “TERF”, “Gender Critical”, “anti-trans activist” all obfuscate their true intentions. They want the complete and total extinction of trans and queer people, and they are well along in the process of committing a genocide to achieve this.
Banning trans people from civic engagement and publicity via sports bans, outlawing childhood transition and gender affirming medical care, smearing trans folk as groomers and pedophiles, all of these are components of the campaign of genocide against transgender people. Look no further than the misinformation campaign ran by the host of the USA’s number-one nightly news show, Tucker Carlson.
For the record, child transition and even many aspects of adult and teenage transition are not irreversible. The standard practice for childhood transition is affirming clothes, and respecting the child’s chosen name and correct pronouns, as determined by the child. The standard practice for teenage transition is a period of puberty blockers, followed by correct-gender puberty via hormone replacement therapy. Surgeries, while much more permanent, are generally only done on informed, consenting adults.
By calling themselves feminists, TERFs are able to cloak their anti-human, anti-woman, and anti-life rhetoric and the fascist goals they harbor through a façade of “concern for women”. By calling themselves “gender critical”, transphobes are able to position themselves as anti-establishment and turn distrust of the system into hate for trans people.
Transphobic elements, especially TERFs, see rape and sexual violence as inherently “male”. They seem to believe it is automatic, and natural, for a man to be a rapist and abuser. While there is an argument that patriarchal rape culture does foster a mindset that leads to rape and abuse, that is not the argument structured by these TERFs. Rather, they believe that testosterone and masculinity irrevocably make someone desire to rape. They believe anyone born with external genitalia will grow up to seek, to want, to desire engaging in the violation of boundaries and committing abuses against women. In other words, they re-invented original sin, but for masculinity.
Finally, by calling themselves activists, they imply that there is a power structure that is “pro trans” which necessitates their “anti trans activism”. For the record, there is no such power structure, as all of mainstream society is actively organized against transition and being trans. In reality, no matter how they cloak themselves, the end goal of all transphobes, especially TERFs, is genocide. While there may be some transphobes who haven’t yet been pulled that far down the path, by supporting transphobia, they support the same goals. Inevitably, without intervention, they will end up pushing genocide. That is how the cult radicalization of TERFism works. Leading, wealthy TERFs and “gender critical” persons want to maintain their powers and privileges through the spilling of blood.