Hello, reader. How are you? Are you friends with any TERFs? TERFs are trans-exclusionary radical feminists. That’s the acronym.
In my experience they’re old lesbians who are cranky about gender. They might call transwomen “a man in a dress.” They feel that woman-ness is an exclusive club they suffered to be in, so they get to gatekeep. Some think parts are what matter, like having a dick and stubble makes a man, or having a uterus and breasts makes a woman. How simplistic. They’re stuck in an inaccurate binary mentality.
Life is way more complicated than m or f. Once we understand that, we can see how gender is a scam, and we don’t need to repress ourselves or other people anymore.
A famous maybe-TERF these days is JK Rowling. A lot of queers loved Harry Potter books, and when JK Rowling said transphobic nonsense, I’m sorry the queers lost a thing they loved.
But is JK Rowling really a TERF? Maybe she’s just a transphobe. I can’t be bothered to look it up.
The TERF I was somewhat friends with was an old white wealthy intellectual writer philanthropist lesbian. Actually it was not clear that she was a TERF. More like she said some things that could be read that way. If TERF is a spectrum, she was probably a 3 or 4 out of 10 on the scale.
You know I am queer, Ming is non-binary gender, I use she her as well as ki kin pronouns these days, and I love freedom. I need freedom with my entire being, and maybe so do you.
We celebrated passover seder at our house. It was fun to celebrate with these housemates for the first time and bring that spiritual love. It’s about liberation for all. Here’s Ming with Bunny right before we started our passover seder, with an orange and an olive on the plate.
Freedom is my religion. In my heart, the flame of liberation is always burning. That means fat liberation, mad liberation, autistic liberation, queer liberation, and trans liberation. Every day all day, that little flame is burning in my heart, for me and for you.
Liberation means I oppose oppression. But also liberation means I don’t need to hate. Liberation is love. Hate is a huge problem in a dysfunctional culture where love is way too scarce.
liberated from hate
I’m doing my best to be liberated from hate. And TERFs I feel I am supposed to hate, as a trans-loving, tran-aligned, possibly trans myself person. But I don’t hate TERFs. I have a hard time hating them or anyone.
TERFs in my experience are mostly old lesbians who don’t understand. Mostly I don’t see TERFs making laws to harm trans people, physically attacking trans people, or taking away things that trans people need. I see TERFs as suffering elders who are making a mistake out of ignorance and stubborn, misguided fear.
Like the workers at the Nevada National Security Site, or the people who made and tested the first atomic bomb–they were doing a harmful thing. But they were victims also. Violence harms everyone, the receiver and the giver.
how to help
TERFs are making some big mistakes, but I don’t think hating them will help.
What helps TERFs realize that they are mistaken about gender? I can make memes, make art, write blog posts, and model the joy of my queer trans loving life.
But an important way of healing violence is friendship. If a TERF can be friends with queer and trans people like me who are full of love, that might help. If we leave TERFs alone in their bubble of error, there’s not much chance they can see a better way. They will surround themselves with other TERFs or people who are TERF-leaning.
Ming and I are about building bridges. There are lots of ways Ming and I are marginalized. But in some ways, we are privileged. We’re both full of love, stable and safe in who we are, we have a car, we’re housed, we have community, we have enough money to get by right now, Ming has family, I’m articulate with language, we’re not imprisoned, we both were born in the US, neither of us is caring for a baby or toddler, neither of us is actively dying at the moment…
We can use our relative privilege to take risks and build bridges. Because of his narcolepsy, Ming shouldn’t risk arrest. In jail he can’t have his medication, so he will just sleep, which isn’t safe. So Ming shouldn’t risk arrest, but there are many other ways to help the world and to resist.
Staying friends with TERFs is a way we might resist. Here are some ideas of what I would say to TERFs if I wanted to try to show them a better way.
Intersex is about as common as having red hair. This article gives a smart breakdown and helpful info about different types of intersex and how they’re seen and reported. How genitals look, how chromosomes present, differences that become apparent at puberty, differences you might not know unless you try to have a baby and can’t.
Science is imperfect, and the values of people who win–who have full time jobs, degrees, and wear a white coat–are the values that win.
content warning: harming lil kid
If it’s obvious to a doctor that everyone needs to be male or female, and they can easily snip snip something on a baby to make the baby “normal,” they have a whole culture backing them up to mutilate an innocent child whose actual needs weren’t considered.
Norms are so powerful, which is why I live a life of speaking out for diversity, unconditional self-love, consent, and disability justice. We can do way better than staying in narrow boxes. Let’s make a world where all kinds of people are welcome to the table. Normal isn’t in and of itself desirable. Being normal is not necessarily more valuable.
People pretend that intersex is a strange thing that’s so rare, we don’t need to think about it. But red hair is a thing, and intersex is a thing. I will be friends with people who have any of these traits.
sex and gender aren’t binary
Intersex being rather common is a clear sign that sex isn’t binary and gender isn’t binary. Once we admit that sex and gender aren’t binary, we can let down our hair and loosen our ties. Now we just need to figure out how to respect and support people in who they are, on their own terms, or leave them alone.
When we start thinking about emotions and spirituality, and how the inner life matters, we realize–of course intersex is real and ok, and of course transness is real and ok.
TERFs are weird because they’re radical enough to recognize patriarchy and misogyny, but not radical enough to recognize that inner life and outer life both matter, and gender is a scam.
In your inner life, what are you? Do you feel like a woman? Like a man? A child? Like a mushroom, a sparrow, a Totoro forest spirit?
Today I’m feeling like a puzzle of infinite pieces, made of lichen and tree bark, that’s constantly changing shapes in a dream-like way, with dappled light goldfishing on it. Some pieces are lost, some found, some stolen by a cat, then returned by a different cat. Some pieces flicker into another dimension and come back at random.
What gender is this puzzle? No gender, for sure. Gender doesn’t even make sense here.
That’s me. I’m not joking, and it matters. I love you, TERFs. I hope you find a better way. If not, please don’t hurt me and my trans friends.