"TERF" stands for "trans-exclusive radical feminists."
Simply put, TERF is a term in the radical feminist community to refer to those "feminists" who are transphobic. In their mind, transgendered women do not have the same oppressions as women in today's society and, therefore, are somehow not worthy of being helped.
Ignoring the fact that, arguably, transgendered women have a much worse experience in modern society than women do, I want to address this ideology and its ridiculous rhetoric, because they are one of the many reasons feminism today is dying.
In 2013, 28% of Americans identified as feminist. Just two years later, that number has dropped to only 18%. Are these people actually not feminists? Likely not. Most of them support, at the very least, equal rights for women, surely.
While they may not accept feminist ideas such as the patriarchy, most will at least concede that men and women should be equal in society. So, then, why is this collapse happening?
Simple: disgraceful forms of radicalism have been alive and well in the feminist community for a very long time, and those forms give feminists a bad name. In a way, then, this is my way of fighting back and helping to reclaiming feminism for people who actually fight for equality.
I understand that this will not change the minds of any TERFs who may be reading this. I know that from personal experience; my opinion, as a man, means nothing to them, so I see no reason to address this to them. I'm addressing it towards real feminists and people who have a negative view of feminists who need to know the truth of the matter.
1. "TERF is a slur!"
First, I want to address this, because I know this will be brought up in any discussion about TERFs. While the term is quite young, it already has quite a bit of criticism. Numerous people have claimed that TERF is a slur against their ideology. TigerTim on Twitter, who, sincheye then, has removed or changed her Twitter account, argued that "It was coined to purposefully insult and discredit Radical Feminists so they can be excluded & silenced." An interesting proposition. Yet, when one looks at the origins of the term, one finds this argument lacking to say the least. After all, the term was coined in 2008 by a cisgender feminist who, herself, identified as a member of that subset of radical feminists. In fact, she even clarified what she meant by TERF when she coined it once this argument started going around:
Grammatically, the “trans-exclusionary” placed before “radical feminist in the TERF acronym means that it modifies “radical feminist”, describing a subset. Just the way that the term Italian-American doesn’t mean that all Americans are ethnically Italian, it’s just describing a subset of Americans.
In reality, the term is merely a means to identify those who hold transphobic beliefs in the feminist community. "The 'TERF is a slur' meme is a way for TERFs to simultaneously attack and dismiss critiques of their ideology and behavior." Sorry to have to break it to you, TERFs. Your argument has no validity here. In truth, TERF is simply a way to describe a type of bigot. Next think you know, "sexist" and "racist" will be slurs, because they hurt the little bigot's feelings. Cry me a river.
2. "Trans women are a threat to women (in the bathroom, especially)!"
First off, this whole debate has been done to death, I realize, but I wanted to bring it up because it is always hilarious when it's hard to tell the difference between a "feminist" and a hardcore conservative. Nothing says "radical feminist" like being unrecognizable from a right-wing nutcase. When you find yourself agreeing with the KKK and men who are considered a continued risk to women, you may want to reevaluate your position. Alright, though. Let's here what they have to say. The Facebook page Women are not property. Sex is not a contract., an openly transphobiac page that has an unnatural obsession with the bodily functions of trans people, wrote the following:
Why don't men travel to the bathroom together in packs? Exactly. They don't fear imminent danger to the point where their lives have subconsciously been developed over time to never be alone, not even during bowel movements.
Males as a class are dangerous, their preferred gender identity is not the issue though male trans do tend to be more abusive towards women than the average misogynist.'
Mad props to the brave, honorable men who are not threatened by women using their bathroom as the risk of androcide and rape are so high. Kudos.
The implications in these posts, of course, are that women fear for their safety because of the potential of predatory men to attack them in the bathroom. Men, and, therefore, trans women, do not. Yet, this argument was flawed from the very beginning. Firstly, it begs the question by assuming that trans women are men. Secondly, even if it was not fallacious from the get-go, the basis for the argument is simply wrong. For one thing, there have been virtually no cases of sexual assault done by transgendered men. For another, while TERFs like to post examples of men claiming to be transgendered and assaulting or harrassing women in the bathroom, there is a clear problem with that: this bathroom bill would not solve the problem, because criminals will act criminally regardless of the law (because of course). Lastly, biological women are not the only ones who live in fear. 50% of all transgendered people have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. That's HALF. The problem with the argument, then, is not that transgendered men are a danger to women; it's that transgendered men are in danger. Yet, TERFs don't want to discuss this, pretending to ignore reality. Probably because facts are not on their side very often.
3. "Gender does not exist (i.e., trans women are just men)!"
This is just inherently false. Scientifically speaking, there is evidence to suggest differences in the brain shape of cisgender and transgender people. Transsexual female-to-males have increased white matter in areas that resemble male brains, as well as other brain differences. A twin is 62% more likely to be transgendered if the other twin is as well. This is a statistically verifiable and proven phenomenon. It is hard to claim that these trends do not exist. Next you'll be claiming lesbians and homosexuals don't exist.
4. "You can be a feminist and be trans-exclusive!"
No, you can't. You cannot pretend that you are against the oppression of women and then oppress women yourself. You're not a feminist if you're a TERF. You're a hypocrite, plain and simple. I think TheTERFs.com articulates my views on the matter quite nicely:
Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, as in excluding trans people from housing, employment, education, and accomodation [sic] equality as well as local, state, national and United Nations protections. It means preserving a cisprivileged world through excluding trans people from fully participating in society as equal citizens.
TERFs are oppressors. They have no place in the feminist community.