Yet another way to further subdivide “the left.” And what else is driving this sick trend?
written by Meghan Murphy
On November 15, I woke up to find my Twitter account locked, on account of what the company described as “hateful conduct.” In order to regain access, I was made to delete two tweets from October. Fair enough, you might think. Concern about the tone of discourse on social media has been widespread for years. Certainly, many have argued that Twitter officials should be doing more to discourage the vitriol and violent threats that have become commonplace on their platform.
In this case, however, the notion that my commentary could be construed as “hateful” baffled me. One tweet read, simply, “Men aren’t women,” and the other asked “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” That last question is one I’ve asked countless times, including in public speeches, and I have yet to get a persuasive answer. I ask these questions not to spread hate—because I do not hate trans-identified individuals—but rather to make sense of arguments made by activists within that community. Instead of answering such questions, however, these same activists insist that the act of simply asking them is evidence of hatred.
The statement that “Men aren’t women” would have been seen as banal—indeed, tautological—just a few years ago. Today, it’s considered heresy—akin to terrorist speech that seeks to “deny the humanity” of trans-identified people who very much wish they could change sex, but cannot. These heretics are smeared as “TERF”—a pejorative term that stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist—and blacklisted. On many Twitter threads, the term is more or less synonymous with “Nazi.” Earlier this year, Tyler Coates, an editor at the apparently respectable Esquire magazine, tweeted out “FUCK TERFs!” and promptly got retweeted more than a thousand times.
In many progressive corners of academic and online life, it now is taken as cant that anyone who rejects transgender ideology—which is based on the theory that a mystical “gender identity” exists within us, akin to a soul—may be targeted with the most juvenile and vicious attacks. “Punch TERFs and Nazis” has become a common Twitter tagline, as is the demand that “TERFs” be “sent to the gulag.” (This latter suggestion was earnestly defended in a thread authored by students who run the official Twitter account of the LGBTQ+ Society at a British university. The authors went on to say that the gulag model would, in fact, comprise “a compassionate, non-violent course of action” to deal with “TERFs” and “anti-trans bigots” who must be “re-educat[ed].”)
In other cases, attacks on “TERFs” take the form of taunts that one might hear in middle school. Last August, for instance, The Cutpublished a lengthy investigation into “TERF bangs.” The author, Amanda Arnold, claimed to be interested in how “short, chunky bangs” came to be wrongly associated with “TERFs”; but of course, the whole thing was a thinly veiled attempt to provoke catty disparagement of women who don’t toe the party line on gender mysticism. And while The Cut may be considered a vacuous fashion blog, it is a vacuous fashion blog run under the auspices of New York magazine.
The reason why engagement with the most militant trans activists is fruitless, and yields only a slew of empty mantras and false stereotypes, is that one cannot argue with religious faith. At the core of transgender ideology is the idea that the old mind/body problem that has bedeviled philosophers for centuries has been definitively solved by gender-studies specialists—and that a female mind can exist within a male body and vice versa. Moreover, we are informed that these mystical phenomena are invisible in all respects, except to the extent that they are experienced from within—which means the only reliable indicator of supposed bona fide transgenderism is the self-declaration of trans-identified individuals (many of whom seem to have made these stunning discoveries as part of a sudden social trend).
In March, the San Francisco Public Library hosted an art exhibitfeaturing the work of Scout Tran, founder of the Degenderettes, a trans activist group that has taken to showing up at LGBT and women’s events with baseball bats and mock-bloody t-shirts festooned with the words “I punch TERFs.” This is considered very edgy and progressive in the avant-garde scene. One trans exhibit included a display of these gore-themed shirts alongside baseball bats and axes, painted pink and blue. In case there was any doubt that these are intended to be viewed as weapons brandished in the prosecution of a culture war, some of the bats were wrapped in barbed wire—presumably as a threatened means to turn a regular old woman-beating into a maiming, or even a murder.
While it might comfort some to view these threats as performative or theoretical, that isn’t always the case. On May 29, a lesbian named Taelor Furry was beat up outside the Grey Fox Pub, a gay bar in St. Louis, Mo. Her attackers were queer-identified women who had accused Furry of being a “TERF.”
In April, a trans-identified biological male who goes by the name “Tara Wolf” was convicted of assault after beating 60-year-old Maria MacLauchlan, who had gathered with other women at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park to discuss mooted gender-identity legislation. Prior to the gathering, this champion of progressive ideals had posted on Facebook, asking where the event would be taking place, as the assailant wanted to “fuck some TERFs up.”
At this year’s Pride March in Montreal, biological males who identify as women led the parade, carrying a banner reading, “Transwomen first/Never again last.” One participant carried a sign with the words, “Begone TERF,” as if he were summoning his mystical powers to cast a hex on we TERFy witches. At Dyke Marches, lesbians who express reservations about making themselves sexually available to suitors who just happen to have penises are now commonly screamed at.
In San Francisco, which one might assume to be a hot spot for lesbian pride, a group of women carrying signs that read, “Proud to be lesbian,” “Lesbian Visibility,” and “Lesbian not queer” were harassed and bullied. Feminist historian Max Dashu, who was in attendance, said she and the other “old lesbians” were surrounded by “young queers” who pushed them and chanted “TERFs, go home.” On Facebook, she wrote: “I’ve been to many marches, including dangerous ones, but this was the most vicious episode I have ever experienced, ever in my life.” As a result of Dashu attending the march alongside these heretic women, she was disinvited as a speaker, most ironically, from a group called the Modern Witches Confluence. When it comes to the campaign against TERFs in trans-compliant progressive circles, even self-described witches now go in for witch hunts.
January 20, 2018 Seattle, Wash. Womxn March
In Vancouver, Canada, where I live, a group of lesbians attended this year’s Dyke March wearing t-shirts with the word “Lesbian” written overtop a drawing of a uterus, and carrying signs featuring their “lesbian heroes.” Before the march began, they were approached by two members of the Vancouver Dyke March board, who told them they could not participate while wearing these t-shirts and carrying these placards, as they were “trans-exclusionary.” They also were told that if any of their signs featured the venus symbol (which represents “woman”) or “XX,” symbolizing the fact that females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome, they would have to remove them. The group declined to follow these instructions, but joined the march anyway. As the women walked on, they were surrounded by trans activists, who shouted “TERF bigots,” “Transwomen are women,” “This is an inclusive march,” and, “There is no room for hate at the Dyke March.” One trans-identified male-bodied individual ran through their group repeatedly, yelling “Get your ‘Fuck TERF’ pins!” at the women. (Afterwards, the Dyke March board published a statement, labeling the women “TERFs” and “a hate group”: The Vancouver Dyke March, they said, is “upset, angry, and disappointed by the actions of those people who sought to reject and exclude valued members of our communities, including trans folks.”)
Like other women who have been sounding the alarm about these trends, I regularly get accused of spreading moral panic, and of attempting to vilify trans-identified people as inveterate predators. But my issue isn’t with “transgender people,” per se, but, rather, with men. There is a reason certain spaces are sex-segregated—such as change rooms, bathrooms, women’s shelters, and prisons: because these are spaces where women are vulnerable, and where male predators might target women and girls. These are spaces where women and girls may be naked, and where they do not want to be exposed to a man’s penis, regardless of his insistence that his penis is actually “female.”