Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).
Intersectionality is an important part of feminism and by having it be a central part of feminism, we recognize the intersecting identities that all influence our lives in different ways. Some women deal with racism and sexism compounded, others deal with misogyny, ableism, and classism, others a combination of the aforementioned or with even more issues like transphobia, fatphobia, etc. Intersectionality is important in regards to feminism though because it acknowledges the fact that we all experience life and society through a different lens and through many identities.
The reason I started off by talking about intersectionality is because there are some fractions within feminism that are exclusionary towards trans women, claiming that trans women aren’t actually women. (Hint: trans women are in fact women.) But intersectionality is important in this regard because it reminds us that we have to take into regard the many identities that shape us as individuals.
Before anything further, let’s define what trans exclusionary radical feminism is. Kelsie Brynn Jones wrote a great article about what trans exclusionary radical feminism is, defining it at the beginning as:
Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or TERF, is a loosely-organized collective with a message of hate and exclusion against transgender women in particular, and transgender people as a whole. They have attached themselves to radical feminism as a means to attempt to deny trans women basic access to health care, women’s groups, restroom facilities, and anywhere that may be considered women’s space.
TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) have a long history of advocating against trans people (particularly trans women). One concrete example? The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, or Michfest – “a womyn born womyn” (read cis women) music festival that took place every August starting 1976 to 2015. This year’s festival was actually the last after the leaders of the festival decided to close their doors rather than make the space trans inclusive.
The TERFs is a website with so many resources about trans eclusionary feminism, including what it looks like, where the term comes from, examples of real violence perpetuated by TERFs, and TERF positions on issue like trans health care and trans restroom access. Adrian Ballou and Justin Killian wrote about why the end of Michfest is good for feminism, saying among many other things that the idea of womyn born womyn spaces are strictly for cis women and alienate others. Justin Killian points out that:
When people say that some women are born female, they’re saying that other women absolutely can’t be.
The idea that [trans women’s] womanhood is not as “natural” as cis women’s is already very popular. If we were not “born women,” then the gender binary dictates that we are strictly male. We are nothing more than wells of “phallic energy.”
I fundamentally believe that trans women are women, that they are my sisters in this struggle. My feminism includes the most marginalized and the people who are both like and not like me.