TERFs: you can’t have a dialogue with people who despise what you are

I wonder what goes on in the mind of any woman who prints transphobic – specifically M2F transphobic stickers – to post publicly around a city. How aggressive. How hateful. What a masterclass in taking the worst of the patriarchy – cruelty, oppression, violence, mockery, contempt – and making it your own, after centuries of such being used against women. To those who believe dialogue is the only path to peace, such behaviour is reprehensible.

I attended an LGBT group yesterday where an older trans woman was saying there needs to be dialogue with these TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). I kind of understood where she was coming from – without dialogue there can never be peace, I’ve already said it – but TERFs are kin to terrorists and subjugators with their words and deeds. How can you have dialogue with enthusiastic dehumanisers? She argued – actually, no, she platformed, attendees didn’t get asked if they wanted to hear it, I certainly didn’t attend thinking I was in for a defence of these people – that I’d be presented with more statement than argument that TERFs deserve respect for their work for women’s rights from the 1960s onwards.

I say fuck that. What you did yesterday that was good and great counts for nothing in your favour in a court of law if you arm yourself against the innocent today. Look at Germaine Greer. I once had respect for her pioneering feminist work but in her dotage she’s become the de facto leader of the TERFs and spends her time crudely attacking trans women from any platform she is given, working to exclude them and generally being a nasty old bigot.

Besides, Greer and a few other older radical feminists aside, these TERFs mostly weren’t alive when bras were burned. It’s like arguing Myra Hindley deserved her freedom if it had been discovered her granny had been a suffragette.

Yes, the problem is violent words and deeds often get met with violent words and deeds, and that’s wrong. You don’t want to become a bigot against bigots. But it isn’t bigotry to be unwilling to offer a seat at the table to those who commit outrageous stunts and say vile things until they stop doing that. They don’t want to sit with you if you’re a trans woman. They want to see you exterminated at worst, outcast from society at best. They shun you. Dialogue can’t happen until they change – not you.

A trans woman declaring support for TERFs as caring wonderful women if you only look past what they’re doing today and look at what they did four decades ago, that astonished me. She meant well. I just don’t often meet lambs sympathetic to the butcher.

TERFs do not deserve places on Pride marches, so they steal their way to the front and corrupt the messages of love, the celebration of diversity and acceptance, into something ugly and divisive and threatening. I think it’s wonderful and hopeful that cisgendered, heterosexual people watching the London Pride march booed and hissed at the TERFs who forced themselves into the parade with placards daubed with transphobic slogans. I think it’s quite the opposite of wonderful that TERFs were recently physically assaulted on a lesbian march in San Francisco, although they’ve made much of themselves as ongoing victims way beyond the specifics of that one incident, using it as they would to paint all trans women as violent when the overwhelming picture is one of trans women often being persecuted, surrounded and intimidated by crowds of abusive TERFs.

Violence is not the way. We cannot, we should not, though, accommodate transphobic groups any more than we would racist and anti-Semitic groups. People confusing allies with enemies, or putting them on an equal footing, are themselves horribly confused if well-intentioned. But good intentions among TERFs, meanwhile, are rarer then hens’ teeth. I say no platform, no engagement, until and unless they change. I’m not transgender. I’m not female. I am, however, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and therefore have a right to have opinions on those who would tear my community apart. Different voices should always be welcomed, of course – unless those voices seek to undermine shared values of acceptance and love.

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2 thoughts on “TERFs: you can’t have a dialogue with people who despise what you are”

  1. I completely agree and as fellow cis member of that community who identifies as female, I’m disgusted and deeply disappointed that TERFs cannot see that they are treating a minority group with the same level of hatred as many of them have had over their stance on women’s issues.

    Not to mention on how they almost completely ignore F2M transfolk and have absolutely no idea how to rationalise their argument when faced with a transman who post transition could look like the epitome of the so-called legions of ‘men’ who according to them want to invade biologically female-only spaces.

    Their argument does not stand up to any scrutiny or challenge whatsoever, M2F transwomen are some of our most vulnerable sisters, they receive even more abuse than ciswomen do and they suffer with more mental health issues.

    Cis women need to be welcoming them to the sisterhood and recognising that whilst they may have not be socialised as female during childhood, for someone who has gender dysphoria, any male privilege that upbringing had is massively outweighed by the mental trauma they had having to be in the wrong gender & being openly trans as an adult.

    Every human being grows up different, no matter what you gender identity at birth or your home life. Even identical twins have different life experiences.

    As the late great Jo Cox said, “we have more in common than what divides us”

  2. Transwomen who argue in support of TERFs are no different than Jews who argue in support of Nazis or POC who argue in favor of KKK. Yes, opposition through force is pointless. If nothing else, it gives them all the option of saying, “See! WE are the ones being attacked.” Much better is attacking them by simply ignoring them.

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