Radicalism Behind TERF – Valerie Kominer

Radicalism Behind TERF

Throughout time, people have clung to the idea of normalcy. People often treated normalcy as a standard, a sort of ingroup sense of belonging. While this may seem like a positive attribute in society, the reality is the completely opposite. Normalcy, as an idea, was set by the straight white wealthy man. As a result, it was in their favor to set the norm to fit their template. Therefore, anyone who did not fit that same template was left not only in the outgroup, but facing all sorts of discrimination. One community that has faced and continues to face scrutiny is the transgender community. For years, the trans community was not able to even be considered a thriving part of society, with their existence marked as unworthy of a seat at the table. From a twenty-first century progressive perspective, it may seem insane to think that people were seen as “not human” simply because of their sexuality, yet transphobia has been and continues to be a huge issue in our society.

In Julia Serano’s article, “Thoughts about transphobia, TERFs, and TUMFs,” Serano goes into great detail discussing the various types of transphobias and how they affect society as a whole. That being said, it was shocking to hear how the very movement that credits itself with societal progression, is the one that is feeding into transphobia. TERF is “an acronym for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists,” a subgroup of radical feminists (who sometimes self-identify as “gender critical” feminists) that are strongly opposed to transgender identities, experiences, and rights” (Serano 7). It was very interesting to hear how their reasoning for their inherent transphobia juxtaposes the one used by the alt-right community. Rather than using religion or societal norms as their justification, they reinterpreted progressive ideals to fit their own narrative. They believe that gender is a man-made class system that thrives through the oppression of women. While the toxic nature behind gender is an idea that is common in the progressive community, they managed to twist it to make trans people the oppressors rather than the victims. They believe that the transgender community reinforces the class system, specifically trans women who infiltrate the “women’s spaces” (Serano 4).

I have always known there are exceptions to every rule. We, as a society, do not have a definitive mold on how a group of people think. The right can have left-leaning views and the same can be said vice versa. However, the ideology behind the TERF movement was so bothersome to me, as it was yet another example of how people act high and mighty strictly for the sake of pushing their viewpoint forward. It is so disheartening to hear how women who stand up for gender-based injustices are not willing to do the same for people who go through the same issues. You would think that there would be some sort of compassion towards people who are clearly suffering, especially in the progressive circle. One mainstream feminist even went as far to say, “trans women are not women,” it is not because they adhere to a unilateral radical feminist perspective that asserts that the goal of feminism is to bring an “end to gender,” and that trans women (as well as sex workers, feminine women, sex-positive feminists, etc.) are “reinforcing gender.” (Serano 5). As discussed in class, there is a spectrum of thought when it comes to progressivity. However, saying that trans women are any less of a woman due to their genitalia goes against all ideas of inclusivity. Additionally, making these claims about sex workers and feminine workers is ironic given that these women are embracing their femininity/sexuality, which is exactly what started the feminist movement to begin with.

Reading this type of material only reinforces the idea that victims of inequality, such as the transgender community, face hardships that are very difficult to overcome. When you are scapegoated by the public from every side, it is difficult to find a safe haven to belong to. Therefore, it is important to remember that despite radical opinions, a human being needs to be treated with the utmost compassion and respect, no matter the genitalia.

Work Cited:


Serano, Julia. “Thoughts about Transphobia, Terfs, and Tumfs.” Medium, Medium, 23 Oct. 2019, https://juliaserano.medium.com/thoughts-about-transphobia-terfs-and-tumfs-b77a18c1a225.

2 thoughts on “Radicalism Behind TERF – Valerie Kominer

  1. Hilarie Ashton


    Your first graf is really engaging and draws the reader immediately in — you dismantle a commonly held assumption about what normalcy is and you use it to introduce your topic really elegantly. In your second, be careful with a sentence like “the very movement that credits itself with societal progression, is the one that is feeding into transphobia” — because as Serano makes clear, TERFs aren’t actually feminists, but a reader who hasn’t read her wouldn’t know that. I do think excavating that myth is part of the great work you are doing with “they managed to twist it to make trans people the oppressors rather than the victims.”

    You make a similarly great point with “We, as a society, do not have a definitive mold on how a group of people think,” although be careful with the right vs. left framing after it — transphobia exists on both sides of that aisle! Your points would be strengthened in this graf by a return to Serano’s text.

    After all of this careful thought, your conclusion feels a bit too brief. Think about how you could use that space of the conclusion to more specifically tie up your ideas.

    Overall, though, great work! I’m looking forward to your final project!

    Prof A

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