Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Revenge of the TERFs!

Revenge of the TERFs!

I quit paying attention to TERFs a long time ago. I know full well that they spread scientifically incorrect arguments, make spurrious and hypocritical “think of the children” arguments, and present contradictory concepts of what defines womanhood that are almost entirely based around penises.

TERFs seem more obsessed with penises than gay men are. The reason I quit paying attention to TERFs is because they were just cultural conservatives who may not have been born with resting bitch face but certainly scowled their way into one. So when women from WoLF or “Women’s Liberation Front” showed up on a panel at the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation and many people were surprised, my reaction was “Oh, you noticed?”

First off, never trust any organization that calls itself a “Liberation Front.” Groups that call themselves that are usually only interested in “liberating” themselves at the expense of everyone else, sometimes quite literally and quite violently. Not saying WoLF are about to go wandering around in the jungle wearing red berets and AK-47s, just saying the name has a history that deserves a side-eye. However, radical ideology has been part of TERF ideology since its inception, and part of that foundation is based on radically conservative ideas about sex, women’s bodies, and even a touch of religious fundamentalism.

The “bible” of TERF ideology is a book called The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male by Janice Raymond. I don’t use the word bible ironically since Raymond is a former nun, who earned a degree not in biology, psychology, or medicine, but theology. Fun fact about that book; it was Raymond’s dissertation written under the supervision of another religious Catholic TERF, Mary Daly. Not only are these women anti-trans, but also anti-sex work. Other TERFs like Sheila Jefferies and Julie Bindel are not only anti-sex worker, but Jefferies also finds BDSM practices among lesbians offensive. In fact, if you look through a lot of TERF ideology, even the lesbian-focused aspects, it contains a very backwards and almost evangelically fundamentalist attitude toward women’s sexuality in that they have little to no agency. The stereotypical lesbian radical feminist argument that any sort of penetrative sex by men to women, even if it is entirely consensual and even instigated by the woman, is rape is quite popular among TERFs. The body essentialism among TERFs bears a striking resemblance to a fundamentalist religious one that a woman’s body must remain pure and unsullied; she must be sexually chaste.

TERFs have long been cozy with conservatives when it suited their purposes and it tends to suit their purposes quite often. In the past they have worked with them to encourage reparative therapy for transgender people and to deny them medical access to care, have cheered on alt-right activists and praised them for their attacks on transgender people. They also share a trait among the right — a loathing of the very real science that supports the truth that being transgender is not a mental disorder but a medical condition that is only treatable through the transition necessary to alleviate the dysphoria. Science denialism and psuedoscience is very strong among conservative circles to not only deny truths such as global warming, but to foster hatred of minorities with arguments such as racial IQ. They also share similar tactics of abuse and harrassment such as the recent one involving Human Rights Campaign spokeswoman Sarah McBride. Additionally, there is an abusive anger among TERFs who have compared trans women to Frankenstein’s monster, pedophiles, say that they are mutilating their bodies, call them mutants and a cancer, and accuse them of wanting access to women’s bathrooms because they want to rape. 

Let me just say this outright, if you think an entire group of people are sexual predators, social degenerates, and mentally disturbed based on nothing but ideology, you’re a bigot. Claiming that TERF is a slur when it’s used (yes, admittedly in much deserved anger and hostility at times) to describe an ideology that wants to not only deny the existence of science but hopes to deny medical care, is a stretch. It's not unlike when conservatives cry and rend their garments about being called out for their bigotry.

So honestly, seeing TERFs at the same table as people who want to take away women’s right to abortion, deny racially-biased policing, lie about immigration, claim Christians are the real victims when they have to serve minorities they don’t like, want to cut necessary social services like SNAP, and reverse marriage equality, isn’t that surprising. TERFs in their very nature are conservatives in their attitudes towards a woman’s body and sexual agency. They view anyone who disagrees with them as the real bigots while they paint their opponents as mentally ill degenerates and freaks. They see their opponents not merely as having a different opinion, but as existential threats who must be defeated, ostracized, and segregated if not outright purged from society. Of course many hide this bigotry behind “just asking questions,” sealioning, false consciousness and false compassion, and the ever present “think of the children.” TERFs sharing the stage with these hateful people isn’t a shocking turn of events, it’s observing them in their natural habitat.  

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City, and a regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.

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