We're TERFS - and proud of it
Rebranding a slur
1. Trans Educated Rational Female (female form)
2. Trans Educated Rational Father (male form)
3. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (archaic)
During the recent controversy about Dave Chapelle’s Netflix special, The Closer, the term TERF was in the news although, as is common when it comes to trans issues, the mainstream media reporting was melodramatic and contained inaccuracies. Dave referred to himself as belonging to “Team TERF”, and made various jokes which were perceived to be transphobic.
The term TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) is widely used by trans rights activists as a slur. It appears that it was originally coined to describe people who do not believe that men who wish to be women, and who claim that they were “coercively assigned male at birth”(?!), are in fact women, and then proceed to “discriminate” against them as a result by declining them access to female only spaces and entitlements.
We are reliably informed that these TERFs are a small minority. These activists seem to be blissfully ignorant of the fact that the vast majority of the eight billion people on the planet could be classified as TERFs, since most people (for some strange reason) do not believe that people can change sex at will.
The use of the term has since broadened to apply to anyone who dares to question any tenet of trans ideology. This of course includes parents such as myself who attempt to protect their kids from premature medicalization when they suddenly claim a trans identity, and instead try to obtain appropriate care and support for them. Even a parent who eventually agrees to allow their child to transition will be vilified as a TERF if they question the pathway laid out for their child by the ideology in any way at all.
TERF is such a silly term – and the way it is flung around reminds me of the immature name calling which (in a more dignified former time) was restricted to the schoolyard. Yet these days, supposed adults use it freely to vilify anyone who disagrees with them, in an attempt to disguise the fact that they have no valid or rational arguments to present to support their position.
So much of the discourse of trans activists is so childish that it is tempting to simply ignore it. For example, we have the use of euphemistic baby talk such as “top surgery” (for mastectomies and breast implants), and “bottom surgery” (for genital surgeries) in place of the correct medical terms. Not to mention a variety of irresponsible, histrionic pronouncements, such as the claims that being “misgendered” or prevented from competing in sports competitions set aside for the opposite sex, may cause gender questioning kids to quite literally die.
The need to manage our distressed teen offspring, who have an intense desire to permanently alter their bodies in the name of an ideology, does at times become a bit overwhelming. So I confess that we parents do allow ourselves the occasional giggle at some of the more bizarre pronouncements of our adversaries, which provides much needed comedic relief. The solemn assertion that there is such a thing as a female penis is undoubtedly my personal favourite.
However there are very many activists who issue the most vile, offensive insults and threats against those they consider to be TERFs . Feminist Meghan Murphy suggests that the term TERF is not just a slur, it is hate speech. I tend to agree.
In the current political climate, it appears this behavior can occur with impunity. The use of the term TERF, accompanied by insults or threats of violence, is enabled or supported by institutions such as universities, local councils and even libraries. Needless to say, none of this is in any way funny.
It is also true to say that, because of the frightening power that this movement seems to have somehow gained over society, accusations of being a TERF often achieve the desired effect of silencing critics.
Recently, however, something has changed. Activists are losing access to one of their favourite silencing tactics. People critical of gender ideology are reclaiming the term TERF. After the Chapelle Netflix special, #Team TERF began trending on Twitter. You can now buy feminist tshirts emblazoned with the phrase. Others have come up with much improved versions of the acronym such as the delightful “Tired of Explaining Reality to Fools”.
We also have TRE (Trans Rational Educated) Voices, a brave, no holds barred cry for sanity with regards to child and youth transition from trans people themselves.
Well, we parents would also like a piece of the action. People within our networks have come up with much needed improvements to the term TERF. We already have Trans Educated Rational Parents (TERPS).
Now it is time for us to embrace the term TERF, to repackage it and to use it with pride. Mums (and indeed all adult human females who fight gender ideology) are “Trans Educated Rational Females” and Dads are “Trans Educated Rational Fathers”.
We parents often joke that we have PhDs in gender ideology, and in what passes for “medicine” in the care of gender questioning kids. We have educated ourselves extensively in the service of helping our beloved kids. We have read the studies. We have talked to the experts. We are clear that there are only two sexes, and that it is not possible to change sex. We know that no one is “born in the wrong body”. We understand that there is a social contagion going on. We know there is no evidence base for the practice of transitioning children and young people being beneficial in the long term.
Once educated, we then proceed to act rationally. We attempt (often against the odds) to guide our kids, to nurture them into adults who will be happy with their natural sexed bodies, un-mutilated and un-medicated. We seek to obtain help for their many issues (anxiety, ADHD, autism, depression, eating disorders, internalized homophobia) before considering drastic permanent steps. We refuse to be coerced by activist tactics such as exaggerating the risk of suicide, or pretending that there is evidence that transition will be beneficial in the long term for our kids.
So next time I am called a TERF for questioning gender ideology or attempting to care for my child, I will inform the name-caller what the term really means, and thank them for the compliment. I suggest others begin to do the same.