The happy TERF

I’ve been reading a lot about the terfwars I referred to in an earlier post. There are the MTF transgender folk participating as women in sporting events. There are the drag queens—that is, men in woman-face, walking parodies of female stereotypes—who like reading to kiddies but also, it seems, a spot of kiddy-fiddling too, or at least rolling on the floor with them, which, in my book, is called “grooming”. There was the idiot in an obscene monkey-costume advertising a child literacy program. There are the MTFs in female prisons where they threaten and assault both other inmates and, it seems, the staff too, and this despite the fact that a 2009 UCI study already found that 20.5% of men identifying as women are registered sex offenders and 49.8% of them have committed crimes against another person. Those numbers must have gone up a lot since gender self-identification became a Thing and getting access to women became as simple as telling people you are one. A British soap had an absurd story-line about a trans woman being assaulted by women in prison because she was trans. (If they’d assaulted her because she was a murderer, maybe that would’ve been OK?) In any case, nothing about women prisoners being assaulted by trans women, which is what happens in the real world.

Then there is the constant, often threatening, always vicious, wearing down of opposition on Twitter, Instagram, etc. by TRAs who don’t mind deviants but refuse to accept any deviation from their ideology. There is public, violent aggression towards those who disagree with them, as witnessed in the two (to date) demonstrations outside the Korea Town Wi Spa in Los Angeles (now my home city). I was disgusted to see people at the first protest surround and harass a lone woman, shouting insults at her as a “transphobe”, blocking her path, snatching away her hat and the poster she was carrying as she walked on a public pavement/sidewalk and exercised her 1st Amendment rights. If she wasn’t a transphobe before, you can bet your wig and glittery platform boots she is now. Stricto sensu, you see, the word ‘transphobe’ refers to someone who is afraid of trans people.

This is male privilege at its worst. This is men wanting access to women’s spaces; wanting women to STFU; wanting access to children.

Let’s take the spa incidents. On at least two occasions a biological male (not necessarily the same one) entered a part of a spa reserved for women and children only (since nudity is permitted there) and displayed his meat-and-two-veg for all to see—including a small girl. He talked in the shower about how much he liked having sex with women and was looking for a new girlfriend. But he was allowed in because he self-identified as a woman. This is California’s doing. According to California, the rights of men to enter female spaces is important and to be protected; the right of women to feel safe—which often means: to be somewhere people with penises and a Y chromosome cannot reach you—, is neither of these things. The woman who posted a review on Yelp said that she had seen trans women there before and had simply treated them as she would anyone in that part of the spa. This was different. This was a male-bodied person getting access to naked female-bodied persons, adults and children alike, and displaying himself—on one occasion semi-erect—before them. And they could do nothing about it, except tell the receptionist (who limply said it was the law), and then leave.

Just yesterday (July 17 2021) came the second Wi Spa protest, on which The Guardian wrote a report so misleading, so inaccurate, so anti-feminist that I have cancelled all of my contributions to it—the basic monthly ones and the extra ones too. I wrote explaining my reasons. I have read the Graun (as I used to refer to it affectionately) since I was a teenager. I have always been left-wing, but fairly moderate. Here they are the reasons I gave:

‘I have already cancelled my additional contributions on the basis of the outrageously inaccurate and dangerous report on the Wi Spa protests yesterday, 18vii21. I am going to rehearse my reasons again, though much good it will do me, or you.

First, it confused four distinct groups of protestors: RW fringe (QAnon; Proud Boys); RW Christian; and feminists, each protesting for different reasons. In the earlier protests, feminists and Christians were alike threatened, harassed, and intimidated by antifa, including a lone female. Did you see the video of that? The police didn’t turn up until these protestors had already been driven from the scene. This time, the police came. And maybe this escaped you, but antifa THANKED THE POLICE. Do you notice anything wrong with that sentence?

Second, feminists want women’s spaces, not, as you so condescendingly put it, “women’s spaces”, as if they, or women, weren’t real. I thought The Guardian supported feminism, but now you seem to have lost your collective marbles. Woman fought long and hard to get their own safe spaces. In many parts of the world, they still do. They can’t even take a crap in peace. But in the West we have our own problems, including from the RW—and from TRAs. There are plenty of transwomen who just want to talk about what they need to live in peace—effective protection from harassment, threats, intimidation, and worse. Just like women. And IRL all those things come, overwhelmingly, from men, ones with a functioning Y chromosome. 98% of violent criminals are male. Online, women and transwomen can be just as vile, threatening, and, yes, exclusionary. Excluding women.

Not “cis women”, BTW. Women. Less than 1% of the population is trans, and their enablers are taking power away from the rest of us, in life and in language.

We want to keep males out of female spaces: in prisons, changing-rooms, spas, refuges—anywhere where women are at their most vulnerable. Already there have been numerous attacks by transwomen in women’s only spaces. Transwomen are attacked by men, not by women, and women should not have to pay the price for keeping men safe. Transwomen should have their own safe spaces.

In this case a fully-intact male entered a women’s only space at least twice. On both occasions children were also present. On one occasion he was semi-erect. Do you really think that that is acceptable? Because if you do you are condoning perversion, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.’


Men in women’s sports:


Obscene monkey-costume:

Prison assaults:

Threats to TERFS [WARNING: not for the faint-hearted]:

Harassment and violence at the spa protest:

Hollyoaks story:

Tweets and terfwars

I haven’t read the Harry Potter novels or seen any of the films, and never will. I am bemused by the size, commitment, and complexity of what I am probably supposed to call the “on-line Harry Potter community”. I was just about as puzzled by the folks who identified Luca Rocco Magnotta through Facebook as I was shocked and disgusted by his crimes. Well, not really. Making a real snuff-movie wins that contest hands-down. But I felt I was watching the rituals of an unfamiliar tribe, who worship the gods of instant communication with people whom they’ve never met and never would have, if it weren’t for the producers of Don’t Fuck with Cats engineering an encounter between the two protagonists of the show who weren’t psychopaths. You know: people who not only check FB as soon as they wake up, but leave their phones by their beds in case something really important happens, so they can wake up in the middle of the night instead. Half the time I don’t know where my phone is. I have joined Twitter, but it’s more to get interesting headlines to follow. There’s no real prospect of having a discussion on Twitter. You might as well try to do a Kabuki version of Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft. What you have are people reinforcing their own opinions, lightened by cute pictures of people’s cats and babies and craft work.

Now, I’m not a Luddite. I have a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and, as noted, an iPhone. In fact I have used a personal computer since my first, a Macintosh Classic, in 1986. I keep up with friends and family by email and Whatsapp and Facetime as well as simple phone calls. I listen to podcasts and I watch movies and music videos on Youtube, mostly embarrassing ones I don’t like to admit to. We subscribe to several streaming services. But I don’t want to know what even my relations and closest friends are doing all the time. If something important happens, we contact one another through the usual channels.

It’s not just that I don’t need minute-to-minute updates. I don’t want my private life out there for all time. I use Adblocker and Privacy Badger as well as Ghostery. I have a Google account, but with everything switched off that could possibly allow them to collect any data on me, although they probably will anyway. I have an email account that encrypts end-to-end. And I’m nobody; I have a couple of followers on Twitter and that’s it. But now J.K. Rowling is a “transphobe” for all eternity because she expressed her support for a woman who lost her job for questioning the assumption that gender isn’t all in the mind or in social constructs.

I suppose I’ll be labelled a “TERF” for my views, even though I deplore the violence and discrimination to which many transgender people have been and continue to be subjected. For I think this is not a matter of questioning whether transgender people are victims. It’s a matter of questioning what they are the victims of.

Growing up as someone whom everyone around you believes to be male, even if you don’t believe it yourself, even if you are absolutely sure they’re wrong, is not the same as growing up as someone whom everyone around you believes to be female and believing it yourself, even if you aren’t sure what it means and don’t like a lot of what it brings with it. People who were labelled male at birth, but reject this label, aren’t persecuted because they’re women: they’re persecuted because, for those around them, they’re not women, yet behave or want to behave as if they were. All of this holds, mutatis mutandis—which, appropriately enough, is Italian for “a change of underwear”—for those who are labelled female at birth but identify as male.

Moreover, there are facts of experience transgender women haven’t shared and could not have done. Birth-certificate-males don’t get periods or go through menopause or have babies. They don’t get ogled and whistled at and propositioned and insulted in the street from the age of 14 on just because they are perceived as female and regarded as passive objects of male desire by most definitely born-as-males men. They don’t suffer discrimination at work and earn less than men on the grounds that they are women (although openly transgender people are certainly discriminated against just for being transgender).

We are who we are in part because of what we did and what happened to us in the past, which we cannot escape just by wanting to. Transgender people must know this. They are who they are in part because of what they suffered, and learned, growing up, acting a part for which they were not born. Lots of birth-certificate women who identify as female have go through a comparable experience, as they are expected to behave as traditional females in a male-dominated society, while simply wanting to be scientists, business executives, vicars, academics, engineers, doctors, teachers, or politicians who just happen to have two X chromosomes. Or perhaps they feel that being a woman brings something to their work they could get no other way. The thing is, it’s just not clear, to many birth-certificate-women, what being a woman means; that’s why some of us are puzzled about what it feels like to be sure you’re a woman when everyone around you is sure you’re not. Not indignant. Just puzzled. And one thing we know is that you don’t lose all that baggage just by saying, over and over again, I’m not who you think I am.

So it’s deeply sad that, rather than birth-certificate-women and transgender women sharing experiences of degrading or humiliating or merely irritating treatment by those with the wrong expectations, or starting a conversation about what it is to be a woman, a war has broken out amongst us. And it’s tempting to say that that is, in part, because transgender women want to stick yet another label on other people. And themselves.