Thanks for the response. I'm really sorry, but I still don't see how I can agree with any of the reasons you gave for anti-trans bigots to be offended at being called TERFs. Also, this is not the first or the last time bigoted people will call a descriptive term for them a slur. It is a great way to sideline the larger conversation.

I still have a hard time seeing why being called out as a member of a subset of feminism that is anti-trans is offensive. And saying that they see themselves as being the mainstream and trans-allied feminism as a subgroup is a bit of a cop out. Of course they think they are the mainstream! Most feminists, though, are not anti-trans. Therefore, those who think being anti-trans is mainstream are deluded as well as bigoted.

Is it the "radical" part that's a problem? Because the idea of anti-trans feminism started with a group of feminists who call themselves radical feminists. It started in the 1970s when "feminists" sent death threats to a womyn's music collective (Olivia Records) for hiring a trans woman to engineer the records, and when the West Coast Lesbian Conference saw Beth Elliot nearly mobbed and killed for having the audacity of being a trans woman. It moved into the 1980's with the likes of Janice Raymond, who wrote an entire book about how trans women colonize women's spaces (and, of course, aren't women). It exists today in the words and writings of Julie Burchill and Germain Greer. Those were the radical feminists that trans-allied radical feminists sought to distance themselves from when they coined the term TERF. As being trans has become more and more accepted by mainstream society, the anti-trans feminist voices have become more and more obscure. So TERFs are, in fact, the less mainstream faction of feminism.

And, as I said before, this term probably gets misapplied. Many who are anti-trans are not feminists in any way, much less radical ones. I would not call someone who is clearly misogynistic in their own right a TERF because that's not what they are. However, someone who thinks trans folks, by nature, are anti-women, who calls themself a feminist while excluding trans women from the set of people they consider women, well, they are at least anti-trans feminists, if not Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

Honestly, I am fine with not using the term so much because it gets overused and then loses its power as a term. If I call every one who is anti-trans a TERF, then it really doesn't mean much. There are other words for transphobes that work better, such as, well, transphobes. Or anti-trans activists, or bigot. Interesting how bigot, which will shut down debate much more quickly than TERF does, yet it is still a viable word choice when it actually applies. Anyone showing prejudice, especially toward a marginalized group, is exhibiting bigotry.

My biggest problem, though, with saying that TERFs find the term offensive so it shouldn't be used is that TERFs only started objecting when it was clear that the rest of the world was not on their side of the argument. So long as they could convince the world that being a feminist meant being anti-trans, then they really didn't care about the term. It was after they realized that most people now new that you did not have to be a bigot to be a feminist (and that this bigotry was hurting the cause of feminism overall) that they decided the term was offensive.

And that's my biggest fear with this argument--moving of the goal posts. If calling an anti-trans feminist a TERF is offensive, then what about calling them anti-trans? What about transphobe. I will admit I use those terms much more often, but I can foresee a day (very soon) when those words will be deemed offensive slurs. And, of course, if differentiating between most radical feminists and the small subset of their kind who are trans-exclusionary is offensive, then it only stands to reason that being called trans-exclusionary, anti-trans, transphobic, or any other way of denoting that their major characteristic is that they are against trans people is going to be a problem with them as well.

A good example of this is the use of the word Cis. Before TERF was a slur, cis was deemed to be a slur by these same people. Why? Because if they admitted that cis was a valid word, they would have had to admit that trans people are legitimate as well. Instead, they tried to claim that trans people were using it as a slur. And yes, a lot of trans people were getting fed up with the hate generated at them from cis people and sometimes did include the word in vulgar epithets. However, that doesn't make the word a slur. If someone were to include the word vegan in a similar epithet (say, calling some vegans "vegan scum"), does that mean that vegan is now a slur? Of course it doesn't. And frustrated, marginalized, disenfranchised, and threatened minorities' mentionings aside, neither is the word cis.

But now, the same thing that happened with cis is happening with TERF. I don't believe people are taking offense just because some people mean it to be a demeaning term. As I said, bigot has much more power and is actually just as (or more) accurate. It seems more that the problem is that TERF calls people out: "How dare you call, me, an anti-trans bigot, an anti-trans bigot?"

To be clear, I hope you don't take what I say here to mean that I disagree with everything you say in your piece. I applaud your standing up for us as an ally. I appreciate your outrage on our behalf. But I can't agree with you saying that those very people you are outraged against have the right to be offended for being called out about it.

Written by

Educator, writer, LGBTQ+ advocate, avid reader. Novelist in progress. Website: http://janelleswritemind.com/ Empowering the LGBTQ+ community one word at a time.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store