Recently, a different form of transphobia has become more and more prevalent. Obviously anti-trans views have been a problem for many years, but while the more obvious forms of transphobia remain a danger, a more insidious style of transphobic arguments have been gaining traction for some time now. I am referring to the way in which certain so-called feminists stoke up fears of trans women being predatory and a focus on the importance of some idea of ‘biological sex’ as the most important aspect of womanhood and entry into women’s spaces. This is the rise of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs.
Now, to some this may seem entirely reasonable. Even when accepting trans people as the gender they identify with, is it really so wrong to be cautious of letting them into spaces set aside for that gender? And the answer is yes, it is wrong, for many reasons.
Firstly, the whole idea of biological sex is an outdated way of thinking. Even supposing chromosomes were the only determinant, there is far more variation there than many realise, from XXY to just Y, and even XX people who are nonetheless genetically male, and XY people who are nonetheless genetically female. Some pure biological sex is a nonsensical idea.
More worryingly, attempts to exclude trans people, and especially trans women, from spaces designed for their respective genders, only increase the risks for trans people, who are far more at risk of being the victims of assault and sexual assault than they are likely to be the perpetrators. The idea that trans people are a threat is simple prejudice and has no basis in reality.
For trans women especially, society is typically hostile, and to be excluded from women’s spaces by the same people who claim to defend women’s rights is simply barbarous. Furthermore, the way in which these TERFs will reframe abuse of trans women as simply defending women’s rights, and criticism of TERF rhetoric as silencing women, is a horrific attempt to exclude trans women from the aims of feminism, especially for trans women of colour, who are even more at risk. TERF ideology is a faux feminism, a terrible pseudo-medicalised, exclusive feminism, propagated by predominantly white women against the very people they should be fighting for. It is not just harmful to trans women either, trans men are infantilised, seen as helpless foolish victims of the patriarchy, tricked into trying to become men, and the focus on biology as a marker of womanhood, and especially on the ability to give birth, is further harm to those cis women who cannot have children for whatever reason, and gives further ammunition to the patriarchal view that pregnancy and childbirth are the most important parts of a woman’s life.
I shall leave you with this final thought, if you fear people using trans acceptance to enter women’s spaces and abuse them, then you fear predatory cis men, not trans women.