We all have that one friend who appears to be super politically engaged. The friend who attends women’s rallies and fights the wage gap, who posts pictures on social media with Elizabeth May or Hillary Clinton or a whole array of powerful women in male dominated roles. A friend who appears to be all about equality, about fighting sexual violence, about bettering the lives of women.
But then one day you open your Facebook and there it is. Like the harsh bright light on an interrogation room, your feed fills with articles about how transgender women are taking the spotlight away from actual women, that transgender women shouldn’t be allowed to use the bathroom that matches with their gender identity, that being transgender is a mental illness that laws should not be adjusted to accommodate.
All at once the person that you once knew, whether that be your aunt, your next door neighbour, that one girl from high school that you no longer talk to have all fundamentally changed. Maybe that person is you. Either way, that change, is fundamental to the overarching problem that is Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or TERF.
TERF is exactly as it says, a ‘sect’ of feminism that not only excludes trans women from the narrative, but enforces the traditional gender binary, or in other words, they stand for there only being two genders. It operates much like white, or liberal, feminism which does not benefit all women.
Being a TERF is the equivalent of being a person who is only racist against one specific race. Sure, it appears like you’re doing something right 90 per cent of the time but if you are discriminating against one race that still makes you a racist. Being a TERF, while appearing to contain many of the same qualities of feminism is hardly feminist.
It can all be boiled down to one very specific fundamental reason. If your feminism doesn’t stand up for the equity and equality of all people, you are not a feminist. If you stand up for women but you don’t stand up for helping foster a society that allows men to question masculinity and be more emotion, you are not a feminist. If your feminism doesn’t account for race, age, intersectionality, oppression, you are not a feminist.
If you don’t think that trans individuals should have a voice in the narrative, you are not a feminist.
The main problem with TERF’s, much like liberal feminists, is that they give real, powerful feminism a bad rap. Arguments about feminism always boil down to ‘feminists hate men’ or ‘feminists are angry and only want to help themselves’ and when concepts like TERF come into play, feminism becomes a punchline to a joke that’s not even remotely funny.
Feminism is just as important today as it ever has been and not just because of the wage gap. Trans women are dying, women of colour are dying, men who have never been allowed to feel are killing, and by denouncing a highly marginalized, vulnerable group, you are literally doing nothing to help anybody.
Demonize the structures in place that marginalize and oppress. Stop demonizing a group that needs feminism just as much as cisgender people do.