Am I a TERF?

Welcome back to part 8 of the 2016 POV series.  This month it’s not so much an opinion as it is an exploration of trying to explain myself and to understand a topic that is terribly popular in social justice circles.

Is Gender a #social_construct?

I’ve been guilty of using the phrase that gender is a social construct and to some degree I still think I’m right but looking a little closer the opinion of Greg Stevens express that something can be both a construct and biological. He’ll do a better job explaining that I,

What we think of as “gender” is a very complex interacting network of traits and behaviors, and both sexual and non-sexual characteristics. Some of these characteristics are highly constrained by biology, some are only marginally constrained by biology, and some are purely social. (1)

Ok, good.  So gender can be both which neatly allows for genderfluidity and people who don’t feel like they are the gender that their naturally born sex characteristics determine.

Part of why I disagree so strongly with the social construction of gender is that it pigeon-holes people into ‘neat’ categories.  Only boys are good at sports; all girls must love babies.  I’ve covered how this bleeds into toxic masculinity before. But I also have come across a large social media presence of people who are a little militaristic in their belief that a feminist isn’t really a feminist if they might possibly be a TERF.  Quick sidebar.

What is a TERF?

TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.  Also known as Gender Critical Feminism. A key part of both is that they believe (Like I Do) in sex essentialism, to a point.

The one thing I kinda have in common with TERFs is that I do believe that sex is a biological binary; you’re either born with a penis which we call male, a vagina which we call female, or intersex in which case it’s buyers choice of what happens down there.  I do not believe that intersex individuals are broken.  I do believe that you generally get one sex or the other when you’re born.  This does not preclude choosing a different gender expression.  And this is, I think, where we all get a little fussed.  Because we, in well-developed, christian-founded, counties have such a strong divide between what must be male and what must be female that we don’t allow for a different gendered expression within sex determined groups that there is such a strong reaction against transsexuals.  Trans Advocates’s article on TERFs and their problems is helpfully clear on what they believe are the problems with sex essentilism and gender critical fems.

I don’t agree with refusing to use a Trans persons pronouns or devaluing their choice telling them they must transition back.  I just note that we are biologically born with characteristics and it’s a lot of work to change them.  It’s important for medical professionals to know your history but not all that important to disclose it to anyone else if you don’t want to. I’m aware that to people who study this sort of thing and have Firm Opinions that I’ll sound like I’m justifying TERFs or trying to accept their philosophy without claiming their title but there has to be a middle ground somewhere. Bleeding Heart Libertarians notes that,

The first bit of good news out of the TERF war (sorry) is that how one experiences gender is particular and uniquely personal. The recognition in recent years that people experience gender and sexuality in very different ways has allowed many people to live more authentic lives and to avoid some of (but not all of) the societal pressure and even violence that can accompany nonconformity. Such noncomformity is, of course, disruptive, and changes the way people interact with one another. But it also creates room for new ideas and ways of being. All that is good for freedom. (4)

I’m rather perturbed that we must all, as feminists, fit into one all-inclusive group.  Disagreement breeds new thought and further intellectual development. I’m working on a lot of understanding.  I don’t want genderless blobs for everyone I just want people to make their own decisions and for there to not be political or social consequences for not subscribing to the status quo.


Because I occasionally like to tie in some religious themes, the little vid below also ties in that there is research being done on how the Bible may have something to say on the topic.

Additional Resources

The Meaning of Socially Constructed Gender – Greg Stevens

TERF Wars – Lucy Mangan

Gender Critical Feminism – Trans Advocate

Some Thoughts on a TERF War – Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Understanding the Complexities of Gender –  It’s Pronounced Metrosexual

2 thoughts on “Am I a TERF?

  1. TERF ideology is a tautology that seeks to construct ontology through reductivism. In TERF circles, the nuances of “sex” are reducible to a slogan, one’s sexed attributes are constructed to be indistinguishable from the body itself, and a socially enforced binary body system is not only viewed as not being gender, but is dialectically positioned as being the path to liberation.

    Nevermind that Radical Feminists of the Western materialist and existentialist traditions have questioned that ontology (at least) since Herschberger’s 1948 Adam’s Rib. Nevermind RadFems from Wittig and Dworkin to MacKinnon and Delphy rejected that ontology. Nevermind that RadFem organizations from Cell 16 and Olivia to Sisters and The Tide rejected that ontology. TERFs have worked hard to represent to a very eager media that Radical Feminism and TERF ideology are one-in-the-same.

    If you embrace TERFlogic reductionism, rhetorically construct the body as being indistinguishable from a sexed attribute, claim that the institutionalization of a binary body system isn’t gender, and crow about how such cultural systems will liberate women, then you might be a TERF. If that’s not the arguments you make… and especially if you don’t invest hours into “debating” (ie, trolling) trans and intersex people, in effect, demanding that they justify their existence to you, then no. You’re probably not a TERF.

  2. I agree. I’m somewhere in the middle leaning a bit more towards that gender is binary. Studies show strong indications that transsexual brains are more corresponding to the perceived gender. Trans women havw more white matter and Trans men have more grey matter which is simmilar to the opposite sex. There were also studies about connectivity between the brain halves which corresponded to the perceived sex. So yes. I believe that biology plays a part of why people are born with gender dysphoria because their brain tells them I’m female or male. This is something terfs completely disregard.
    In my opinion there’s room for having a middle ground.
    This doesn’t make any of us terfs.
    I also believe in freedom of speech. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it shouldn’t be policed that includes terfs. This comes from a Trans woman btw.
    I believe you make some sound arguments and agree with a lot of what you say.

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