Is TERF a slur?

An image of a hand holding a sign that says "black trans power".

TERF stands for Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist, and refers to people who call themselves feminists while advocating for: the exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces, curtailing of the rights of transgender people, and increased fear and disgust of transgender people. While some TERFs own the label, others prefer to be called “gender critical”.

TERF is not a slur. It’s an accurate description of a group of people with radical ideals who describe themselves as feminist and focus on the exclusion of trans people.

Some have argued that conceding them the label of “feminist” is inaccurate, since feminism is focused on seeking equity for people of all marginalized genders. Alternative labels that have been suggested but not gained popular traction include: TEP (Trans Exclusive Person) and FART (Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobe).

“Gender critical” ideology

1. There are only two biological sexesBiology is much more complex. It is more accurate to say that biological sex is determined by a constellation of factors that may or may not align with being assigned male or female.
2. There are only two binary genders.The heterosexist gender binary is a construct of white supremacist colonialism. Many non-white cultures have had vibrant nonbinary / third gender traditions for thousands of years.
3. Only gender assigned at birth is real.No it isn’t.
4. Trans people are violent sexual predators.No they’re not.
5. Affirming trans rights requires harming women.No it doesn’t.

Extensions of those core beliefs:

Often, TERFs and “gender critical” activists will use the following arguments when promoting hatred of trans people:

  • Cisgender men claim to be trans in order to assault women.
  • Trans bodies are disgusting, and women with penises especially are disgusting.
  • Being trans is a cult; trans people are harming children by indoctrinating them, especially online and especially Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
  • Trans men and AFAB non-binary people are being “stolen” from women’s spaces and are “erasing” women. But also, trans men are “traitors” for “escaping” sexism and “choosing” patriarchy.
  • The trans suicide crisis is overstated and gender dysphoria is not as distressing as “trans activists” want you to believe.
  • There is no epidemic of violence against trans women.
An image of lesbians with signs supporting trans rights at a Pride march reading: "trans rights now" "dykes 4 trans rights" and "sex work is work"

In reality, all of these arguments are easily debunked and can be traced directly back to the core TERF / “gender critical” beliefs that trans people are dangerous and deluded sexually violent predators.

In particular, there is no evidence to support the claim that cis men pretend to be women in order to assault women in public washrooms, and lots of evidence showing that binary washroom laws lead to increased violence against trans women and non-binary people. Also,, educating people about trans and non-binary genders will not “make” someone trans who wasn’t already trans.


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