The London Pride parade was derailed this year by a transphobic group of women who broke into it and despite not having parade passes were then allowed to lead. They held up large signs that said: “Transactivists erases lesbians,” “Get the L out of LGBT.” They had smaller signs and leaflets which claimed transgender people are oppressors of women. ‘Pride In London’ have since released an official apology and denounced their behaviour.
These people are known by the term ‘TERFs’ which is an acronym standing for trans exclusionary radical feminist. There is nothing radical or feminist about them anymore. They organise solely to dispute the existence of trans people and do so under the guise of feminism. They believe it is scientifically impossible for trans folk to exist and therefore they choose to be transgender so that they can infiltrate and rape in female safe spaces.
They aim most of their outward attack towards trans women which is ironic considering it was found and written in the Journal of Homosexuality that trans women involved in lesbian feminism were found to be not significantly different from cisgender* women in their political beliefs, activist philosophies and gender ideology.
As the parade moved through the city, the very first group that everyone saw was this transphobic group. Videos online show the absolute disbelief and upset on young trans people’s faces. A reporter attempts to interview a couple of trans teenagers, asking them their thoughts on the group. They stare at him in stunned silence, unable to answer. Imagine for a moment that a group of straight men and women had stopped the pride parade and then could lead it, carrying similar signs such as “LGBT erases straight identity.”
There are stories of cis women being subjected to cameras up their skirts from these groups, trying to prove that they had penises so to discredit their argument against TERFs. A trans man was sexually harassed by a cis woman who thought he was a trans woman, she tried to strip him naked to reveal certain body parts.
Pride was a protest, it began with a riot started by transgender women and a gender non-conforming lesbian, now we allow these groups space to spread hate at Pride? Trans people are constantly involved in societal reform and they always have been. They were central to gay rights liberation, they set up safe homes for homeless youth, have always been a part of feminist and activist movements and after 9/11, trans people joined movements and campaigns against the American bureaucracy which made the lives of refugees, immigrants and undocumented workers impossible in the U.S.
TERFs are influenced by the offshoot of second wave white feminists who were biologically determinist. They refuse to look further than the body parts of trans people and thus label transgender women rapists and oppressors because of their biological parts. They have become fixated on an already oppressed minority group who they label as oppressors. I think it is fair to say that most trans people struggle to leave their homes each day knowing what they might be faced with, let alone leave it with the intention to head out and oppress people with experiences like their own.
Thankfully, inspired by the National Black Feminist Organisation in the 1970s, The Combahee River Collective formed (Boston black feminists). They are known as one of the foundational movements of trans-inclusive feminist politics and black and intersectional feminism. They stated “We do not have the misguided notion that it is their maleness per se – i.e. Their biological maleness – that makes them what they are. As black women we find any kind of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis on which to build a politic.”
There are very worrying websites out there, one is run by a butch lesbian who believes all trans men are either straight or lesbian butch women in denial. She firmly believes that we mutilate our bodies and adopt a male identity because it is easier. She collects videos of trans boys from Youtube and then posts screenshots of them to her site. Some are as young as 13, she posts their personal names, contact details and sometimes even their addresses.
There are also forums that are run by these transphobic groups, whose aim is to target vulnerable young trans teenagers and then “detransition” them. They share fearmongering inaccurate information to plant doubt much like gay conversion camps do. They also play off stories of sexual and physical abuse, telling young trans men that they are cis women who are failing to process their abuse. Surely, gender clinics and medically trained psychiatrists are far more qualified in helping teenagers to work through their gender identities?
TERFs pride themselves on being feminists and in aiming to dismantle the patriarchy. However, the medical science (now proven incorrect) that they use to uphold their claims that transgender people cannot exist, was founded and developed by white males who often experimented on the unwilling bodies of black male and female slaves. They also wholly ignore the fact that ‘female’ bodies have always been researched in a bias and poorly manner by cis men, and only now are beginning to be treated as deserving equal attention within medical science.
TERFs are often prominent women in academia, political parties, and media. When faced with recent scientific findings in favour of the biological existence of transgender people, they seem to resort to the worrying trend found often in the right. Publicly claiming it is fake and that the specialists should be disregarded because they must have an alternate agenda. Meanwhile, specialists are left shouting into the void about TERF claims. Considering some TERF groups have ties to alt-right funding and conservative Christian groups, perhaps this behaviour is not so surprising at all.
I came out as lesbian aged 13 whilst struggling with my gender identity. I then came out as trans but went back to identifying as a butch woman when I became immersed in TERF theory and ‘detransitioning’. I nearly didn’t survive this far. I was filled with internalised transphobia and self-loathing which led to multiple suicide attempts. I believed that I must be a misogynist if I am trans. At 23 I admitted to myself that I was a trans guy. I realised that I had been trapped in gender and feminist theory that was either written by the patriarchy or by white feminists (a.k.a. not intersectional).
Trans people are not pillars of the patriarchy. We are not the oppressors. It is the dominant cisgender classist white patriarchy that systematically abuse us, who are the oppressors. Trans people subvert the societal gender norms and thus we are a threat to the hierarchies that control us simply by existing.
*Cisgender is derived from Latin prefix ‘cis-‘which is used in the fields of chemistry and genetics. Together with the word ‘gender’ it forms the opposite meaning to ‘transgender.’