Sunday, 13 October 2013

Silencing TERFs.

TERFs persist in childish accusations that trans people are silencing them, but exactly who is silencing who? The answer may surprise you...

The subtle violence of TERFism has in many ways intensified in recent years. Making use of the panoptic effects of the internet they trawl the web attempting to find ways to out and harass trans people. Outing transguys who use video, harassing trans women on dating sites, outing trans people to employers, outing trans children to their schools, attempting to bully trans children by proxy through the parents of other children are but a few of their cowardly tactics. Some TERF academics have even threatened to deliberately introduce transphobic elements into their Gender Studies courses, something that most students are likely to be able to see through, but also something worth monitoring…

Yet in spite of all this in the topsy-turvy universe of Planet TERF, where everything is the opposite; the myth that trans people are attempting to ‘silence’ them is still propagated. Their use of the panopticon, their lies, their threat to indoctrinate students, their myths of silencing are all they have left.

The reality, of course is quite the opposite. Harassment of trans people who argue against TERFs is common, and recently they have used legal threats to try and silence us and our friends and supporters. Prosperous, white, cisgender, secure, middle-class TERFs using their positions of privilege to silence and intimidate trans people from much less privileged backgrounds.

Yet TERF attempts to silence trans people have not stopped there; some are now attempting to deny trans people the language we need to articulate, describe and make sense of our circumstances. TERF efforts to argue that “TERF” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) is an insult or a discriminatory word are matched in their dishonesty by their attempts to convince that dwindling group of people who will listen to them, that “cisgender” is supposed to be an insult rather than a simple descriptor of people who are not trans; no more of an insult than “heterosexual”.

Violence can be overt, covert, tacit, abusive, subtle or indirect, but the ideology of TERFism now requires its use. As its core ideology has failed it cannot exist without becoming more abusive, violent, and complicit in atrocities perpetrated by groups that are the enemies of feminism. TERF arguments against the existence of trans people have all been comprehensively discredited, and remain so no matter how often they are restated. Once you strip away the veneer of argument and discredited justifications, all that remains is the raw hatred. This is what TERFism has become.

But the tide is turning, and it is the activities of the TERFs, which are now centre stage. So TERFs now regularly delete or conceal their own material from the internet as it is used by trans people to demonstrate to others exactly what they are like.  I recently needed to explain to a neutral journalist about the TERF problem, all I had to do was point him in the direction of a couple of TERF hate-sites and lend him my copy of The Transsexual Empire. He called me the next day saying “I see exactly what you mean, I had no idea!” They claim trans people are silencing TERFs, yet the truth is that TERFs are now silencing themselves as trans people use TERF material to expose their hate.

So let the TERFs speak, (although they should still be no-platformed, which is different from censorship) they condemn themselves by their own utterances. Some of the material published in faux-radical online magazines this year has been particularly valuable for exposing TERFism, especially when used in conjunction with other elements of their output. Exposing TERFism has rarely been so easy.

But in a sense TERFs are right, trans people do silence TERFs, but not in the way they would have others believe; we silence them by getting up every morning, we silence them by interacting with others everyday online, in our social lives and at work, we silence them by marrying or living with our partners, we silence them by bringing up our children, we silence them by telling our stories, we silence them by walking the Earth as trans people have done for centuries before us, we silence them by our very existence. 


  1. With all bigots, letting them speak (though no-platform as you say) is usually the best way to have them show their true colors. Let us also bear in mind that TERFs are a tiny fraction of feminists and lesbians, but just receive disproportional attention, as extremist haters tend to do, e.g. Westboro Baptist Church.

  2. "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you Then they fight you. Then you win" Nicholas Klein in a 1914 address to a labor union congress.

    I just plain could not agree more. When we look at TERF dialog as the target it hurts. If we look at TERF dialog as though we were uninvolved, they look crazy. But the single biggest thing we can do is provide the counterpoint of good examples. Be someone who is so contrary to their narrative that it makes them look rabid and radical.