The great TERF war of November 2018

Rachel Stewart wrote in the NZ Herald:

Just a few short months ago, I had no idea what the term TERF meant. I knew it was chucked around as a pejorative with monotonous regularity, so it piqued my interest. What had these so-called TERFs done to warrant such naked hatred?

Here’s what I’ve learned.

TERF stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ and is used as a way of denigrating any woman who questions the current craze of people – overwhelmingly men – who say they were born into the wrong body.

Basically, it’s a derogatory and offensive label and is used to shut down debate on the fraught subject of transgender rights.

Ironically the response to this column was people demanding it be retracted, complaining it was every published and a campaign of mass complaints against it. There was even reports that one NZME staffer was so upset they had to go home because the Herald had published this column.

Stewart had a valid point that the term TERF is used to denigrate and silence. You never hear someone self identify as a TERF. Again there is an irony that people often advocate that you should respect a trans person by calling them with the pronoun they identify with. I agree that you should do that. But then they try and force a label on people against their will if they are deemed not supportive enough.

Under the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill, the proposed law will see adults (over 18) apply to the Register-General to have their nominated sex registered by specifying they want to be female, male, intersex (neither male nor female) or X.

Daring to question this, I’m now regularly referred to as a TERF. Boxed up, compartmentalised, and considered fair game by those who enjoy hunting in packs online.

It’s fatuous because I’m neither trans-exclusionary or a radical feminist so, technically, it’s false. Except, the transactivists, most of whom are not trans, spit the word in your online face with such venom it causes one to reel at the mere sight of their dripping fangs.

Twitter especially has been overflowing with venom.

So, to hear Labour MP Louisa Wall use the word in a public (media excluded) meeting was enough to make me reach for my snake gators. She said, “My whole thing is I don’t want any f***ing TERFs at the Pride Parade.”

I can tell you, that as a lesbian who has never marched in a parade of any kind – I loathe the sound of brass – I now feel like turning up.

Heh a great reason not to march.

I mean, as I’m the ‘L’ in LGBTQIA+, I should be safe to do so, right? But what if Louisa Wall sees me? Will security turf me out? Will I be dragged down a dark alleyway and forced to watch endless reruns of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?

Again heh. But it touches on a serious point I already blogged on. You can’t claim to be a parade and festival of inclusivity and them do the opposite.

Under the proposed new law, a man can call himself a woman without ever medically transitioning (most never do) and insert himself in female-only spaces such as changing rooms, women’s refuges, and prisons. Women would have absolutely no legal recourse to challenge such a move.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be locked up alone in a cell all night with a hairy, muscly, sex-starved inmate of either gender – but particularly one with his full kit and caboodle intact.

Neither would I want my six-year-old niece to see a grown male stranger naked in the changing rooms at her local swimming centre. Why shouldn’t she be able to have a male-free space? And me too?

How about Laurel Hubbard competing straight-faced as a female in weightlifting? And all those other athletes around the world winning hands down against biological women? Is it fair to females, who’ve often trained their whole lives, only to come second to a biologically stronger athlete – no matter how they identify?

These are legitimate issues that should be able to be debated. They are more complex than issues such should homosexuality be decriminalised, should same sex couples be bale to marry. No one is negatively affected by that.

But allowing people to simply choose a gender does have some negative impacts on others. We do need to be able to debate about whether someone born male should be able to compete as a women in the Olympic Games because it may make it impossible for biological women to win.

I have great empathy for people whose gender identity does not match their biological sex (or whose biological sex is not clearly male or female). Absolutely we should support people to live their lives the way that makes them most happy. And we’ve seen from the case of Bruce Jenner, that this isn’t something most people do lightly. It took him decades to decide to transition. We should treat any individual with dignity.

But when it comes to legal recognition, it is far enough to question whether one should just be able to legally declare yourself a different gender with no criteria to meet. Sadly you can get abuse of such a situation. In the UK a trans woman who was a sex offender was put into a women’s prison and raped other prisoners. The issue of sportswomen who were born male competing against biological women is an incredibly tough issue to resolve.

But screaming that someone is a TERF because they think these issues should be debated is unhelpful.

This issue doesn’t impact me directly. But I do spend a bit of time researching it and I wonder if one solution might be formally separating out sex and gender. In other words people have both a sex and a gender. And for some people they won’t be the same.

Sex would be determined by your chromosomes. If you are XX you are female. If you are XY you are male and if you are anything else (intersexual etc) you are other.

Gender would be the gender you identify as and wish to be recognised as. And in most situations it is your gender that would be important.

However in a small number of situations such as health records, possibly professional sports, the biological sex would be what is important.

It would be far from a perfect solution but basically getting people to regard sex and gender as two different things might be a way forward.

Which brings me to the money trail. When movements gain full throttle as rapidly as the trans train has, it must be asked who stands to gain from it?

Sure enough, American transgender lobby groups are being funded by the likes of billionaires Warren Buffett and George Soros. Why? Because investors want to help normalise the altering of basic human biology, and Big Pharma stands to make a fortune. It’s already started.

This is where the column jumps the shark. I don’t think the trans “train” is motivated by money in any way. If Buffet and Soros donate to such groups, it is because they are liberals and support them, not because they will profit from their advocacy.

In the meantime, I believe all human beings – including trans people – deserve human rights and respect. What I don’t believe is why anyone questioning the obvious dangers lurking within the proposed new law, should equate to them not being afforded the same.

Calling women TERFs is disrespectful, and Louisa Wall knows it.

That is the key thing. The term TERF is used to close down debate and stigmatise people. The reaction to the column has shown haw vigorous that can be.

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