When TERFs pop up on your feed

It’s supposed to be a time of self care for me, following the shooting in Orlando and the various pressures that have been riding my back for some time. I try to control where I dip into the news, focusing on blasting the Dickweed Party, because they’re low-hanging fruit and not particularly difficult to refute. But this morning, I was dismayed to see this pop up on my morning feed, from another friend’s “like” on a stranger’s post. Let’s call the author EL.

Content Notice: Every transphobic dog whistle under the sun.

At first I thought this must be a joke… It’s a JOKE, right?? Nope. For quite a few years now women have been shouted down by certain people in the trans community that “TRANSWOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN”, and we women are “CIS-WOMEN” (some of the nastier transactivists actually call us “cis-scum” and “truscum”, but anyhoo)… As if telling us women *they* are ‘real’ and we are not wasn’t bad enough, these same self-entitled narcissists are now *telling others* that wearing women’s clothing (or as this writer calls it, “props”) is ENCROACHING ON *THEIR* TERRITORY. Give me a fucking break. This latest whine by Katie Glover, entitled “Jaden Smith as a new face of womenswear might seem progressive – but he’s on transgender territory”* would be funny if it wasn’t such a colossal load of horseshit:

“(T)o help make it plain for anyone to see which gender you are, you put on a uniform. Men put on trousers and have men’s haircuts, and women put on dresses and skirts, feminine tops and tights and women’s shoes to show their femininity and declare to the world that they are female.

“They have women’s hair-dos and they put use cosmetics to make themselves look nicer and more presentable and to reinforce the female uniform a bit more.

“So, when some people come along and want equal clothing rights, that upsets the apple cart a bit.

“The danger for trans women is that if wearing what are traditionally women’s clothes becomes the norm for men too, then trans women will no longer be able to rely on these props to help them display a female gender identity – and for many, that could be a serious problem.

“Of course it will take time – a long, long time even – for things to change to the extent where men wearing skirts and girly stuff will be totally acceptable.

“But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory. They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion. All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?” …

? No. Just no.

Every one of us on this planet came from female & male, and we ALL have feminine & masculine qualities. No one is truly gender-binary, and everyone is ‘gender-fluid’ on the spectrum. Most people are too afraid to express both sides, for fear of being gay-slurred or worse. For the past 50 years feminists have been battling the pink/blue gender-binary that tries to put us in one box or the other, much of which is now being undone by people who insist on adopting, co-opting or flat-out inventing “gender identities” for themselves, usually at the expense of women, who are expected to just step aside and accommodate (as usual). No. Just no. For fuck’s sake, women in North Korea are still *not allowed* to wear trousers in public, but now we have transwomen telling boys they can’t wear ‘girly’ clothes? Do transmen tell girls they can’t wear pants? (No.) So who’s putting people back in boxes now? (I can assure you, it’s not women.)

I for one fully applaud Jaden Smith in wearing *whatever the hell he wants to wear*. The world will be a better place when we stop putting boys in the blue-box and ‘allow’ them to express themselves without worrying about being called sissies, or pussies, worse. It takes guts for boys in this world to embrace their feminine side and not deny their *perfectly natural* gender-expressions, without also denying their biology & lived experiences – something that certain people in the trans community could learn a lot from.

Here’s a good article by Fred McConnell in the Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/…/jaden-smith-skirt-gender-ster…

*Here’s the horseshit article by Katie Glover: http://www.independent.co.uk/…/will-smiths-son-as-the-new-f…

It’s like a repeat of the Ophelia “Not a TERF” Benson nonsense.

  • Complains about the exact phrase that got O “NaT” B in hot water–trans women are real women–and how OB spent the sum of a novel-length number of words to dance around her opinion of gender variance.
  • Complains about being called cis. Really? Do you complain that straight people are called straight? White people white?
  • Complaining about “die cis scum,” as if a heavily marginalized community either shouldn’t feel justified in being prejudiced against the majority who are antagonistic or apathetic to our rights, or that we have the power to do anything about our prejudice (hint: we don’t).
  • Complains about trans women insisting we’re real women. Muffin.
  • “We’re all male and female!” Which is Not Even Wrong territory. Bio sex is too complex to be reduced to a binary, you’re not breaking the binary by saying we’re all ‘both,’ because that would require recognizing binary conditions where in many scenarios it is a spectrum. Spectrum =/= both, because spectrum = near infinite permutations onto which social constructs of bio sex are projected.
  • Insists no one is binary. Okay then. A moment ago you were talking about bio sex and now you’re talking about identity using the same terms. I don’t dispute that gender fluidity or gender queerness are subject to erasure from even trans folk–but we’re not all perpetually fluid, and many of us, cis or trans, would not describe ourselves that way. Some of us wake up as femmes and go to bed as femmes and that’s true regardless of what we were assigned at birth.
  • Most people afraid to express “both sides.” Okay, not accurate in all contexts, and the universality of the assertion screams of White Feminist, but I’ll concede that there exist conditions in which AFAB girls and women do not get to express any form of masculinity, if sincerely held. But there’s also a share of fear for AMAB boys and men to express any form of femininity, so much so that violence is used to police it out of them.

This next one gets its own space:

co-opting or flat-out inventing “gender identities” for themselves, usually at the expense of women, who are expected to just step aside and accommodate (as usual)

I love this. This so perfectly encapsulates the sheer privilege, the sheer inanity of holding trans women to a double standard whilst blindly accepting one’s own identity as true and valid. There’s nary a hint of cognitive dissonance: she simply is, while I am “invented, co-opted.”

Scare-quotes are used to bring attention to the use of the term inside them. By putting gender identity in such scare-quotes, EL makes apparent their prejudice that they don’t consider gender identity to be a valid term. Yet they go on, in the next sentence, to assert that [cis] women are expected to step aside and accommodate, ironically doing no such thing by refusing to acknowledge that EL has a sincerely held identity–which El just indicated with their use of the word woman as a self-identifier.

“Identities are fake, I’m a real woman!” EL says, perhaps blissfully unaware of the contradiction in their own statement. Either/or statements are mutually exclusive, EL. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.

women in North Korea

Dawkins called, he wants his Dear Muslima back.

now we have transwomen telling boys they can’t wear ‘girly’ clothes?

I’ll grant that Katie Glover’s argument is untenable, in my opinion. The problem is that EL has expressed their disagreement of Glover’s argument by attacking the validity of Glover’s identity. No doubt the cries of “you’re trying to censor me by calling me a TERF!!” will come, but here’s how you respond to Glover’s argument without being a prejudiced asshole:

It’s not a bad thing if trans women can’t rely on clothes to communicate their gender. If such a society ever comes to exist, everyone will be asked what their identity is, or people won’t assume, because we’ve learned to stop reading gender cues in clothing. This is not an inherently bad thing unless people feel the need to police your answer.

There. How to disagree with Glover without stating their identity is “co-opted” or “invented.”

Do transmen tell girls they can’t wear pants? (No.)

First of all, citation needed. I don’t dispute that some trans folk engage in gender policing, and there are trans men who advise trans men to adopt toxic masculinity in order to pass–one of the behaviours includes, you guessed it, gender policing!! So yes, in fact, there are probably trans men who do tell girls they can’t wear pants, and who tell guys they can’t wear dresses. That’s a thing. But EL wouldn’t know that, because they are forming opinions about trans people without actually talking to us.

So who’s putting people back in boxes now?

I have a feeling this is about to get ironic.

(I can assure you, it’s not women.)

DING DING DING! Irony meter’s in space again.

By saying “it’s not women” who is “putting people back in boxes,” EL has performed a pirouette of transphobic bigotry, all at once implying that women don’t police gender (um, what has EL been doing this entire time?) and that Glover, having policed a man’s gender, is not a woman.

I for one fully applaud Jaden Smith in wearing *whatever the hell he wants to wear*.

But only as long as Jaden Smith continues to do so as a cis man.

It takes guts for boys in this world to embrace their feminine side

Right, I agree, now–

not deny their *perfectly natural* gender-expressions, without also denying their biology & lived experiences

Oh for fuck sake. What do you think you’re doing to trans women when you invalidate our identity like this? You are denying our biology, the body of medical evidence that supports gender dysphoria is a Thing that Exists, and you deny our lived experiences when you call us men and not women. My body is not a commentary on your body, stop politicizing my fucking gender.

something that certain people in the trans community could learn a lot from.

Because clearly, you’ve spent a lot of time actually listening to trans folk.

Fuck off, cis scum.



  1. says

    I’ve been fortunate not to be the target of a TERF thus far, not even here on FTB. But I’ve seen enough of them (e.g. Greer, Brennan, et al) to wonder what is so wrong with them, that being trans* bothers them so much? A TERFs is in many ways worse than a religiously-motivated transphobic bigot in that they of all people should know better (see also: Maya Dillard Smith).

  2. says

    not deny their *perfectly natural* gender-expressions,

    What the fuck is a “perfectly natural gender expression”? Apart from “boys will be boys”, of course…
    This person cannot argue their way out of a wet paper bag, but they sure can argue their way deep into bigot territory

  3. says

    Natural gender expression? I’ll assume the writer means “you aren’t in the right fucking box!” I remember getting in a lot of trouble as a child for expressing my “natural gender expression”. Seems to me that someone wants Jaden Smith to get in trouble for that, too.

    Fuckin’ A, I’d be so happy if clothes ceased to be signifiers of the binary box.

  4. says

    Also seems very focused on American ideas of gender appropriate clothing. I’m a folk dancer, and have two kilts myself. Other male dancers were clothes that could be considered a type of skirt (Greek or Albanian) My Bulgarian clothes have quite a bit of embroidery. I could go on and on.

  5. says

    Step 1: Insult the minority group, belittle their problems and generally treat them like crap, to make their lives as frustrating as possible.
    Step 2: Marginalize and ignore speech from the minority group, so they can’t raise issues or have their concerns addressed.
    Step 3: When eventually a member of the minority group gets so frustrated that they resort to hyperbole, paint that sentiment as representing the entire group and the totality of their opinions.
    Step 4: Declare that this demonstrates why their concerns are illegitimate to begin with and justifies further marginalization and mistreatment.

    This is exactly the same strategy employed against all minority groups, to fight their inclusion into society as full, equal members. It’s bigotry, plain and simple.

  6. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    Oy vey. I have no trouble presenting as female in jeans and male-cut silk shirts; I suspect many trans women could do the same. I’m sorry you have to deal with this crap.

  7. Siobhan says

    Some potential misreadings might be happening–it was Katie Glover who argued that Jaden Smith is “encroaching on women’s territory” by choosing to wear feminine-coded clothing as a man. Glover goes on to argue that trans women rely on feminine codes to have their identities validated by others, and that a gender neutral future when clothes are no longer gender-coded, trans women would lose one such tool for validation. I disagreed with this argument, in part because nothing will ever, ever make everyone validate trans identities. I am of the opinion that you do you for your sake, because trying to please everyone else leads only to misery.

    My problem with EL was not that they disagree with Glover (in that sense, EL and I are alike), but that EL, instead of saying literally anything correct, started reading off a TERF bingo card as a means to discredit Glover. Which I’m not cool with.

  8. says

    Which is an interesting and important discourse.
    As long as gender is performative*, glitter, pink and frills can serve as a shorthand for “woman” to the outside world and I understand how trans women can find great value in this and feel threatened by the prospect of disappearance of these shorthands. I can therefore understand Katie Glover’s point, but as you say, I can still disagree with it.
    It’s a complicated mess. Perform femininity to a satisfying degree and nobody will give a fuck about your biology (i.e. passing as cis), but as any cis woman who ever toed the line can tell you, fail to perform and your biology doesn’t matter fuck either, which is why this whole “biology argument” is crap to start with.

    But I can also imagine a world like you do: where the divides are broken down, where you perform personality instead of gender and where therefore trans people have a much better time because people no longer try to put folks into boxes depending on whether they’re wearing pink frills or not**

    *Which is not the same as “artificial” or “put on just for show”

    **Funny enough, male attire worn by all genders is somehow “gender neutral”