Are you a TERF?

Here is Suzanne Moore apparently saying supportive things about trans women. “I support Jane Fae, a trans activist”. She mentions how threats of violence are part of many trans women’s lives. This is pleasing when her last mention of us led to such repellent articles. Yet when she defines Trans exclusionary radical feminist, she links to this article, which defines it as most people with sensible views.

Am I a “biological woman”? Well, no. Perhaps the only evidence that I am a woman is my unchangeable conviction that this is how I wish to express myself. Sneakily, the TERF “Terry Macdonald” (a pseudonym) concentrates on these matters. She says that all feminists oppose violence against trans women: There is a particularly clear intersection between feminist and trans concerns.

She attacks the notion that trans women are women. Well, some of us have penises. She does not state what follows: it is the practical result which matters. I want to use women’s changing rooms in clothes shops and sports centres. I hope I never have to use services for women victims of violence, but do not want to be excluded on the grounds of being a man.

We might concede that trans women should be careful in such spaces. Arguably, the more you look like a man the more discreet you should be. We should act not as if asserting a right, but tacitly accepting a favour. We should be particularly careful to avoid a penis being visible. I still hate those open changing rooms with a bench round the edge; I much prefer a cubicle.

What I ask is messy human relationships, live and let live, give me a break, rather than clear logical rules like

You have a Y chromosome
This is a women’s changing room
Therefore you are not allowed in

which is arguable, I suppose, and is death to me. I want to be treated as an honorary woman: mostly I am, and that is why I am no longer suicidal. I am an asylum-seeker, not a colonist. Therefore we have to be a bit careful of upsetting those “born women”, though I do not like that phrase.

Of course there are differences. I was glad to be called a slut! H, a feminist, was angry on my behalf, but while the epithet alleges she is not entitled to the protection of the Patriarchy as she belongs to no individual man so belongs to all of them, and all men may chastise her for anything they find objectionable; for me it shows that the abuser has not read me as trans, he sees me as a woman, so is less likely to hit me. For her it is a threat of violence, for me a reduction of the threat. When that large man called me a “whore” I felt relief.

You can be a terf until you want to deny me women’s space. That is the moment of trans exclusion which hurts.

Moore goes on to justify Bahar Mustafa, who used the hashtag #killallwhitemen. I find that as empowering as the slogan “Die cis scum”. I sympathise, though I would hate anyone to put it into practice; I would just like to feel less fear. Perversely, sometimes I would like the privileged group to know what my fear feels like.

Eugene Delacroix, Medea

11 thoughts on “Are you a TERF?

  1. Very interesting article Clare. In Australia not long ago, there was a bit of a debate about change rooms when a pre – op MtF (I assume… Is that a bad thing,vthat terminology.), anyway, the trans student demanded to be able to use the females toilet/ change room/ toilet at school, rather than have a separate one. It was interesting to read your perspective on the issue.


    • You know, I have just deleted the word “pre-op” from my post? I used it, so can hardly object to you using it; and yet it is talking about people’s private bits, which is, not done. I am behind the curve.

      It happens occasionally. Once in the 90s in the Manchester gay village, I was queuing in the loos when a woman said “I think that was a transvestite”. Actually it was a trans woman, and the complainer had waited until she was in the cubicle before mentioning it; and she said nothing to me.


    • You have given me the answer to Terry Macdonald. She is retrenching to her core territory: the evidence is disputed that trans women have “female brains”, though we do have brain differences; so we are men. Pretending we are women is wilful denial. But, faced with the phenomenon, it is also courtesy. And the real matter in dispute is access to loos and changing rooms- well, where else are we going to go?

      I have checked my privilege. And allegations of yours.

      And while I am giving back-links, more as footnotes than as an answer to you, I have played with the idea of being a man, woman, neither, both.


      • It’s no big deal to me Clare. I don’t think you are going to rape me, and I don’t give a rats arse about who sees me in a changing room. It is just not an issue. Communal toilets, communal,changing rooms, communal sleeping compartments on trains, so you’re trans, so what. You want to be female? Fine by me. Now, that’s it, over. I appreciate it isn’t as simple as that for you, but from my perspective, that’s how I view you. Your choice, so that’s it.

        I remember your privilege posts from before. I think that’s a very different issue.


        • Julie Bindel has been no-platformed at Manchester University- I think by the Students’ Union- for excluding trans women. I think she has uttered hate-speech in the past, and when she refused to comment on Caitlyn Jenner to The Sunday Times, saying Thank you for asking. However, I do not fancy another 11 years of McCarthyite bullying, threats, no platforming, vilification, misrepresentation, false accusations, and my work on sexual violence towards women and girls being under threat.

          I think she is in the wrong, and people are entitled to object vociferously to her hate speech. The objection is to her views, not to her. I may post on this.


  2. Imposing limitations seem to come from all sorts but when it comes from a TERF then I peer into the space before me and think how far feminists can go – so far to cause the rest of the female gender cringing revolt.


      • I look forward to the day when we won’t hear “us”, “we” etc as some separate category of “us”, “we”… for we are all human and humans are versatile, thank God. I can imagine how intolerance can breed violence…just awful but don’t forget to stay proud, Clare – you are you and there is nor will there be another you 🙂 That goes for everyone

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What am I missing here? I find it totally weird that a species of human (say, a female) can claim the moral high-ground simply because she was born female. Yet, I suppose that people do that all the time. TERFs, MCP, FCC, WTF :)xxxx


    • The arguments are these. The trans woman is a man: generally the evidence says so, the brain evidence is questionable. The heart of radical feminism is that the only differences between the sexes are the reproductive organs, and cultural differences which oppress women- “Patriarchy”.

      Because of male violence against women, women need safe spaces where no men can go. Trans women are men. So trans women should not be allowed in women’s spaces.

      There. That is the argument. It arises from fear, but also from so much bad experience. And yet most women are reasonably tolerant. The Quaker Women’s Group agreed to admit “those who experience themselves as women” around 2003. The Quaker Lesbian Group took longer, but now accepts trans women.

      I have a mutual friend with Julie Bindel, who has said she could introduce me: I have not taken her up on this. I will see her on Wednesday, and we may disagree about the no-platforming.


All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.