Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Actual harm

WPATH is a professional organisation for those working in the area of healthcare for trans people. It is constituted by the WHO, (World Health Organisation) and it sets standards and procedures for medical treatment of trans people. The important thing is that this is a professional body and one which deals with provision and standards of healthcare from trans people on the basis of scientific and medical evidence, as well as listening to input from trans people themselves.

It may not always come up with ideal results from the point of view of trans people but it has generally moved in a positive direction in recent years, there is, of course always more to do.

As part of its activities it has started an onilne consultation to enable trans people to have input about its decisions and activities. This is important and good to see an organisation like this listening to those who are directly affected by its deliberations. What it decides is important for trans people, in terms of our health both physically and psychologically.

Unfortunately there are those whose intention is to disrupt its workings and reduce the effectiveness of trans healthcare and trans people’s access to it: TERFs.

The TERFs (Trans Exclusionary “Radical Feminists”) are a small group of individuals who like to portray themselves as engaging in a “critique” of gender, yet almost never engage in any critique of gender. They like to portray themselves as being prevented from engaging in a critique of gender by trans people “sliencing” (ie criticising) them.

Of course this descriptor is wlidly inaccurate to the point of being deliberately misleading since TERFs have since their inception in the early 1970s, engaged in abuse, violence, stalking and bullying of trans people. They have also engaged in intervening harmfully in trans people’s healthcare. Many people believe that TERF interventions in having trans healthcare made inaccessbile to poorer (ie mostly black and Hispanic) trans people in the 1980s resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of trans people in the US since that time. 

Well now this kind of intervention to cause actual physiological, psychological and material harm to trans people is back, giving lie to their claims to be “gender critical”. TERFs have set up and shared a website linking to the WPATH consultation with trans people with the intention of flooding it with views intending to harm trans people and impose their own hate-filled, abusive ideology on standards of care. This website invites TERFs to intervene in trans healthcare by responding to the WPATH consultation.


It directs TERFs, for example, to push for WPATH to include the thoroughly discredited theory of “autogynephilia”. This is dangerous and has the potential to result in WPATH making decisions about standards of care that it would otherwise not make, and to the detriment of trans people.

Fortunately some of us have taken this to senior officials in WPATH and they are now alerted to it and are taking action to ensure that the TERF posts concerned play no part in determining WPATH policy or standards of care. They have also assured us that the World Health Organisation is aware of what is going on and will take action accordingly.

However the upshot of this incident is that WPATH may well be unable to run any genuine consultation exercise with ordinary trans people because of the possibility of distortion by anti-trans bigots. This, in and of itself, is harmful to trans people, and may indeed have consequences for trans people as the consultation becomes less effective. In other words TERFs have not only tried to influct actual harm onto trans people but they have probably succeeded in doing so by dint of the fact that WPATH will be unable to engage in as effective a consultation on ICD-11 as it would otherwise want.

So when the TERFs claim, as they often do, that they merely want to engage in a kind of discursive critique of “gender” they are deliberately misrepresenting themselves. TERFism, is not a critique of gender (indeed their “critique” of gender pretty much begins and ends with trans women, even in the rare instances it occurs) it is a mode of action, as I have said before.

It is common knowledge that TERFs engage in routine abuse, defamation and harassment of trans people both online and offline. They also doxx and stalk trans people, both online and offline, indeed these are probably their core activities. Some engage in deliberately misleading journalism which engages in targeted misrepresentation of trans people and trans people’s allies and our needs and lives. However the intervention in professional issues of trans people’s healthcare has clearly not gone away. These actions by the TERF community are clearly reprehensible, harmful and morally obscene. 

When you next hear a TERF complaining they they  “only want to engage in dialogue” and only want to put their side of the story in a "fair and democratic" exchange of views, remember that they are enaged in deliberate, calculated action behind trans people’s backs to cause us actual physical harm. TERF dishonesty knows no bounds.

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