Sunday, 16 July 2017

Annihilationism: The Basis of TERFism.

Neo-TERF Blaire White has once again foregrounded the dirty secret that the TERFs have tried to hide-in-plain-view since the infamous Janice Raymond exhorted that trans people should be “mandated out of existence.” Her hastily-deleted comment about immigrants exposing the fundamentally right-wing basis of her ideology. “Gas ‘em” is every bit as chilling as you might think, and it exposes the inherently annihilationist nature of TERF ideology. 

The esprit fasciste of TERFism laid bare in White’s and Raymond’s comments is in fact an ever-present basis of TERF dogma even if it is disguised or cloaked in linguistic alibis. To its core TERFism is inherently annihilationist of trans people, whatever its modus operandi or claims it makes, it ultimately seeks to prevent trans people from existing. In particular the new TERF alignment, a formal one in many instances, with hard-right/alt-right/extremist “Christian” far-right/Trumpist oppressive groups exposes this. The tsunami of anti-trans “bathroom bills” in the US have been given a veneer of legitimation by TERF narratives. These bills are designed to prevent trans people from accessing employment, education, social life, civic engagement and more by preventing us from using the appropriate public convenience. This is simply a way of preventing trans people from living their lives, and it is a tactic specifically aimed at trans children.

Of course the idea that trans people threaten women’s existence is another ultimately annihilationist stance and resonates with the propaganda of 1930s Germany. The idea that trans women are inherently “anti-women” or “anti-feminist” is of course based on an essentialisation of trans people and a deliberate misrepresentation of us. Their need to present their own confected image of what trans people are like is necessary to maintain this argument, an essentializing one presented in the clothes of something else. This is why TERFtexts try to focus the arguments on older, late-transitioning trans women (victims of more transphobic and oppressive times) like Caitlyn Jenner, as opposed to younger (and more representative) trans girls like the tough cookie who is Jazz Jennings. Not only is this reductionist, but it employs the propaganda techniques of the far-right; define your target in the minds of your target audience in a way that reinforces your argument; dehumanise, misinterpret, misrepresent, demonise, monster… It allows you to avoid engaging in real arguments, and means they can avoids defending their arguments against pesky things like facts.

TERFs engage in all kind of activities of an annihilationist nature, and in particular with trans children; spreading the lie that simply treating a trans child as the gender with which he, she or they identify will result in their being placed on an unstoppable conveyor-belt to gender-reassignment surgery. This is Julie Bindel in that well-known subversive radical-feminist publication the Daily Mail;

“If I were a teenager today, well-meaning liberal teachers and social workers would probably tell me that I was trapped in the wrong body. They might refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe fistfuls of hormones and other drugs. And terrifyingly, I might easily be recommended for gender re-assignment surgery… just because I didn’t like the pink straitjacket imposed on girls.”

Obviously Bindel has not read my article on CulturalCisgenderism published in 2013 by the British Psychological Society (or indeed countless stories of trans kids and their parents trying to access acceptance at school or any kind of treatment). Yes Julie Bindel, there is a conveyor belt, but it is an invisible one that is pointed in the opposite direction from the one you have concocted. Cultural Cisgenderism is a tacit ideology that positions cisgender as the norm and transgender as deviant. Trans kids are more vulnerable to this than most, not having the resources to challenge it or the power to resist it. In my opinion by spreading the myth that teachers, medical professionals and others are putting kids on a conveyor belt makes TERFs potentially complicit in child abuse. Anyone who has worked with trans kids will know that the opposite of this narrative, is true.

However this is indicative of how, for TERFs, their worstnightmare is large numbers of trans kids being who they are, this is why they have devoted so many resources to campaigning against trans kids, in effect advocating a kind of amateur Conversion Therapy by teachers and parents, by not allowing trans kids to be themselves, effectively encouraging adults to bully trans children, at home or in school.

Of course trans people and our allies call the TERFs out on their dishonesty all the time, which is why they have changed their modus operandi. Now, quiet words behind the scenes individually have become the way of spreading their hate and disinformation in order to influence others without opposition.

What we need to remember is that TERF ideology is predominantly comprised of deliberate misinformation supported by caricaturing trans people. What Blaire White’s outburst reminds us, is how anihilationism is the ultimate goal of TERFism. All their anti-trans activism is based on this, and what they have shown is that they do not care who they work with to achieve this aim. Ultimately fascism, like all bigotry and hatred, is based on essentialisim, and TERFism is no different, the dissimilarity is that TERFs also essentialise women in a biologically reductionist narrative cloaked in faux social-constructivist language. Far from trans women being anti-feminist, it is TERFs, whether through the essentialist foundations of their narratives, their profound annihilationist hatred or their association with fascists, who are the real anti-feminists.