In the last few days (despite one rather embarrassing example of the “let’s hear both sides” style of journalism, at bustle.com), we’ve seen quite a few excellent articles — some written by cis women, and some by trans women — speaking up and speaking out against transphobia, and, particularly, the words and actions of one particularly well-known anti-trans “activist.”
Here are some links; each of these is very much worth reading — and, if possible, emulating:
http://seattlefreepress.org/2013/10/23/3052/ (by Quinnae Moongazer of quinnae.com)
http://www.shakesville.com/2013/10/so-heres-deal.html (by eastsidekate)
http://www.reluctantfemme.com/2013/10/its-time-to-squash-bug.html (by Cassie Goodwin)
http://www.bustle.com/articles/7419-my-response-to-cathy-brennan (by Amy McCarthy)
http://theterfs.com/2013/10/22/fact-checking-terf-claims/ (by Cristan Williams)
http://theterfs.com/2013/10/23/attorney-cathy-brennan-more-extreme-than-an-ex-gay-hate-group/ (also by Cristan Williams)
We would never, ever suggest to anyone that they “should” speak up. Some of us know as well as anyone what the risks can be, both in general and in this particular case. Especially for trans women, as some of these pieces point out — not that cis women, like Laurie Penny in recent days, are by any means immune to being threatened with defamation lawsuits.
Still, for the most part, what happens to cis women who speak out against transphobia, or even just publicly state that they accept trans women as women (as by signing our trans-inclusive statement), is that they’re accused of being, among other things, homophobic and lesbophobic — because accepting trans women as women apparently equals believing that cis lesbians should be coerced into having sexual relations with trans women even when they don’t want to, which of course no cis lesbian ever would. Indeed, the very individual who’s the subject of the articles above has given the collective appellations “Homophobes for Lesbian Erasure” and “Men and Women for Homophobia and Lesbian Hatred” to the signatories to our Statement. (The so-called “Men” she’s referring to are, of course, primarily trans women.)
As a friend of this blog pointed out in a comment on Shakesville some time ago (she has given us permission to use her thoughts here), it really does seem to be necessary for TERFs to vilify and belittle and discount any cis woman who supports trans-inclusiveness, because acknowledging the reality of that support fatally undermines at least part of the foundation of their reprehensible ideology. Without active support from cis women for trans-inclusiveness, it can be very difficult to penetrate the self-contained, circular argumentation of transphobic radical feminists, because they can always rely on their underlying premise from which everything else flows: namely, that trans women are men. (Because they’re men.) No matter how vigorously trans women argue the contrary, it’s easy for TERFs to dismiss what they say as self-interested and not worthy of serious comment. But it isn’t so easy for them to be quite so dismissive of cis women who accept that trans women are women.
The TERF “party line,” of course, is that it’s impossible that any cis woman who believes that trans women are women could have reached that conclusion as the result of an actual, intelligent, truly voluntary, thought process. Instead, all such cis women — including every last one of the 750+ cis women who expressed support by signing on to our trans-inclusive statement — are not only homophobic and lesbophobic (see above), but are also (1) suffering from false consciousness, (2) delusional, (3) brainwashed and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, (4) handmaidens of the patriarchy, (5) “is it self-hate, internalized misogyny? Internalized lesbophobia?” (asked on twitter by one thoroughly baffled and befuddled TERF faced with the fact that so many cis women signed our statement), (6) “The essence of their POV is entirely based on magic” (another confused TERF), (7) “They know, at cell level, they are erasing themselves” (another), (8) “I really think it’s being afraid of men/transwomen” (another), or (9) all of the above.
And these are the things they have the astonishing arrogance to say to every cis woman who disagrees with them, many of whom have devoted their lives to feminism, and many of whom identify as lesbians themselves. This is where the whole TERF system of belief begins to fall apart, because as good as the TERFs are at playing on trans women’s insecurities and fears, we find it very difficult to believe that they have ever convinced a single trans-friendly feminist cis woman to change her mind, and decide that all trans women are really men, by telling her (with supreme condescension, of course!) that she’s nothing more than a delusional, brainwashed, Stockholm-Syndromed, self-hating handmaiden of the patriarchy, who accepts trans women only because she secretly knows that trans women are men, and, therefore, is afraid of them and feels compelled to cater to them. (Because all the cis women who signed our statement are, of course, deathly afraid of disagreeing with men!) The sheer ludicrousness and preposterousness of the TERF reaction to cis women disagreeing with them (one can almost see the circuits shorting out and the smoke coming out of their ears, as they desperately try to understand how any cis woman, let alone a cis lesbian, could possibly accept trans women as women) shows that they have no avenue whatsoever that allows them actually to comprehend disagreement. And they certainly can’t deal with it — and can’t deal with the fact that over the last 20 or 30 years, theirs has gone from the overwhelmingly dominant viewpoint in feminism (including feminist academia), to a dwindling (but increasingly furious) remnant — other than by telling themselves comforting bedtime stories about how “Years from now, when more & more trans ppl turn away from trans, . . . their statement will look like jokes” (yet another uncomprehending TERF tweet).
So, as important as it is for anyone who can to speak out, it can be especially important — and, we believe, especially effective — for cis feminist women to speak out against TERFism, whether in general or about the specific person who’s the subject of the linked articles above, but whom we refuse to name. Your support through signing our statement, of course, constitutes a form of speaking out in and of itself, and, as the TERF reaction makes clear, has already had a significant effect. Thank you all.