TERFs see trans women and “trans ideology” as a threat to women and girls. So they make us Other, with derogatory terms like TIM and now “parasite”. Seeing opportunities rather than threats, positive thinking rather than negative, helps you seize those opportunities so that the threats become insignificant. It is adaptive. Why should TERFs think in this embattled way, and what consequences does it have?
They see trans as a threat. They say trans boys are damaged by testosterone, chest masculinisation and binding, rather than freed to express themselves more fully. They say trans women in women’s spaces are a threat to women. They say this blurring of the definition of “woman” and “man” will make women’s liberation impossible, that the oppressed class will not be distinguished from disguised oppressors, so cannot liberate itself.
I see trans as a boon to gender-critical feminists: individually, it helps people express who they really are, and collectively, it subverts gender roles. Allowed to develop naturally, we will move from a strict trans attempt to pass completely, involving surgery and hormones, living in Stealth, and a rigid understanding that trans women are born that way, or have women’s brains, through identifying as “non-binary”, and picking and choosing from the symbols of gender the better to express our underlying gender variation, then not needing the labels at all. The result will be a severing of the link between gender and sex, which is what the gender-critical feminists want.
It is part of my belief system that there should be no out-group, that creating out-groups to be disparaged or opposed incites conflict and impoverishes everyone, and I have read two explanations of this: rejecting out-group thinking is a sign of maturity or spiritual growth (Yay me!) or it comes from a comfortable childhood. That’s arguable too. Yet here am I in an out-group. Are TERFs simply less spiritually advanced?
Anecdotally, the more extreme radical feminists seem to have been traumatised in some way. The iron enters into their souls. The world ceases to be a safe place where we can achieve goals, and becomes filled with threats to be warded off. The threats exist. We differ in how we try to deal with them. Sara Ahmed, who is trans-inclusive, points out some deny them. Between that and magnifying them, becoming a Crusader against them, comes a middle way, awareness of risk without obsession.
I see value in drawing people’s attention to the threats. Others are in denial: they should wake up! “I could not believe how compliant they were”- it feels like an uphill battle, like being Miles Bennell on the road outside Santa Mira seeing lorries full of giant pods. Much feminist work, such as #MeToo, involves speaking out where we have been silent.
It is enjoyable, though not positive in the same way, to radicalise each other, swapping verbal formulations on Twitter and forums. It gives a sense of belonging. That radicalisation can attach to any cause indiscriminately, good or bad.
Being open to accepting trans people means being willing to see good in others, or change your mind. Someone under immediate threat concentrates on evading the threat. You look at wider possibilities when the threat is gone. Some people may not be persuadable: here is Elena Ferrante on how all women are oppressed. Meanwhile masculinity is war on the irrepressible plurality of human existence.