The Road to Terfdom

Katie J. M. Baker in Lux:

Nothing caused me greater culture shock when I moved from New York to London than the British media’s hysterical obsession with trans women.

I’d turn on the Today Programme, the BBC’s flagship morning news show, as I made my coffee and hear debates over whether trans women were actually just men who thought they were women. On the weekends, I’d read headlines in both the liberal Guardian and the conservative Daily Mail questioning whether trans women have the right to identify as women. Then there were the protests: women diving into men’s bathing pools wearing fake beards and “mankinis,” yelling “dykes not dicks” at Pride parades, wielding graphic post-surgery posters at LGBT youth conferences. I was confused to find that the protesters were often middle-aged, middle-class women, some of whom wore mysterious badges proclaiming they had been “Radicalised by Mumsnet.”

Of course, I’d witnessed virulent transphobia in the U.S. But there, it takes a different public form — its most vocal proponents are Republicans who want to ban bathroom access to trans people, or contrarians who might call themselves liberal but derive their credibility from criticizing oppressed groups seeking equality. TERFS, short for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, don’t get as much airplay. TERFs believe that women are defined by their biological differences from men. They want liberation from gender stereotypes, but don’t think it’s possible to be freed from biological sex, and argue the latter goal is not just naive but hurts efforts to combat sexual violence and discrimination. That was exactly the type of messaging I was regularly hearing in the U.K. media, which more frequently than not cast women’s rights and trans rights as diametrically opposed.

More here.