With all the concern about men in women’s bathrooms, how come no one seems worried about the converse?
TERF Wars: How Radical Lesbians Are Braver Than You Are
While you watch Fox News, radical leftwing lesbians are fighting your culture war.
An epic battle is being waged on the left.
It’s not between Medicare for All nuts and Obamacare nostalgics.
It’s not even between the Green New Dealers and the Slightly Less Green Dealers.
It’s between feminists and transgenderists.
Radical, leftwing ladies—the “feminazis” of old—are mostly progressives, pro-abortion, and against basically everything mainline conservatives believe in. But! They are risking life and limb, career and reputation, for one simple reason: they’re not willing to surrender their own identities as biological women.
The pejorative term for these fearless females—I apologize for using it!—is TERF: trans-exclusionary radical feminists. Trans-lation: biological women who want to bar “transwomen” from traditionally female spaces.
Yes, there is a painfully long history behind the name. Yes, multifarious splinter factions have been skirmishing over it for the past few decades. Yes, I will spare you the details. Gender studies graduate students have produced enough paper on the subject—enough to fill a Dunder Mifflin warehouse.
The so-called TERFs refer to themselves as “gender critical.” Whatever the term, the definition is simple: these are women who believe (know!) that someone born female is different (wut!) from those born male who identify later as female (or who try to retcon themselves as female “all along”). They are women who claim a specific lived experience that maleborns do not and cannot have, no matter what they call the bits they want you to wax.
And no one is fighting harder against this madness than this small Sapphic army of radicals. They are on the front lines and taking fire. Last week, Canadian writer Meghan Murphy, a leading voice and editor of Feminist Current, gave a talk at a Toronto public library. Murphy has already been banned by Twitter, and despite hysterical outrage, the library allowed her to speak. The response was predictable. Video of the scene looks like the violent aftermath last month at the Minnesota Trump rally. The female attendees—mostly older, Lands-End-catalog types—were forced to run a frightening gauntlet as masked Antifa-type protestors screamed vile insults at them. In Canada!
Or take Camille Paglia, who is what my Grammy Hall would call a “real lesbian.” Camille, famous as the author of Sexual Personae, is an OG TERF—and was my cultural hero in college. As outraged younger (straight) feminists screamed at her for arguing that wasted girls at frat parties bore some responsibility for their actions, I sat rapt at several of her talks, in awe, vowing to temper my underage drinking. I didn’t succeed, of course—but Paglia never quit making heads explode. In 2017, she told the Weekly Standard “the cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life.” This year, students at the college where she’s been teaching for decades rioted to get her fired.
Paglia is one reason why I withstood full-immersion progressivism while many (okay, all) of my classmates succumbed. Nowadays, as a grown-up Catholic straight, I may not be able to officially endorse or approve the full blown lesbo lifestyle. But today’s gender-critical lesbians demand respect: as nice straight ladies have caved in or gone woke, Paglia and company have become the thin pink line between our young daughters and the approaching horde of muscular Ma’ams coming to claim their sports scholarships, NCAA awards, and safe spaces.
One of the biggest online refuges for these women—gay and straight—is Gender Critical on Reddit, with over 45 thousand members. Spend a few minutes on it and you start to wonder if you are at a conservative Christian message board, if conservative Christians had anything to say about the culture.
On one top thread, users share their “Peak Trans” stories, which is their term for the thing that finally red-pilled them on the movement:
“Peak trans” is the event that made you say “no more.” You started out being supportive, or maybe just neutral on trans issues. You tried to understand, to digest, to ask questions…and then it happened. PEAK TRANS! Was it the first time you heard of the cotton ceiling? Was it being called “a “T*RF” for asserting that women are adult females? Was it the frenzy over Caitlyn Jenner’s heroism and bravery?
The “cotton ceiling” refers to the supposedly bigoted, “transphobic” refusal of lesbians to engage in penile intercourse with pre-op transwomen. “Cotton” (sigh) refers to women’s underwear—it must be “broken through,” just like the glass ceiling for corporate women. In 2012, Planned Parenthood Toronto (Oh, Canada!) actually held a workshop called “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women.”
Which is ironic, since transwomen aren’t exactly clamoring for Planned Parenthood’s primary service. Take it away, Peak Trans:
Many of us accepted the claims of trans activists, wanting to be fair and non-exclusionary, until we really listened to what they were saying, and compared it to our own knowledge and experience. Can “woman” be just an identity, divorced from biology? Can penises be female? Should girls who don’t like dolls be treated with double mastectomies and lifelong hormones?
To many women, the idea that they are somehow the oppressor for refusing to agree to be essentially raped was the red pill. For this thought crime these women are threatened with violence online and IRL—harassed in public, spit on at Pride parades. Yes, a common threat maleborn transwomen make is to “rape TERFS.” I guess this proves women really are the same as men, since now women can rape you using their own penises. Imagine getting rape threats from a group of people you’ve been taught for years to support!
St. Agatha, Pray for Us
Looking for someone to blame for this sad state of affairs? Ask your wife to hand you a mirror. Feckless conservatives—know any?—utterly failed to conserve a culture in which girls and women could grow and thrive. If your teenage son refuses to satisfy the pre-op prom queen, enjoy watching every college admissions officer tear up his applications. If your teenage daughter sets the statewide sprinting record and fails to applaud the transwoman who strips her of the title, enjoy the character assassination to come. This is just the beginning. The locker rooms and the sporting arenas and the Olympic podiums and the scholarship spots—except for the ones rich celebrities reserve for their female offspring—will eventually be handed over to the maleborns.
In my darker moods, I admit, I salivate over this. I can’t wait to see all women’s sports, at every level from high school to pro, dominated by transwomen. What will mainstream liberals do when Serena Williams is sent into retirement by a white transwoman? Imagine the gold medal-heavy women’s U.S. track and field team, majority African-American, replaced in its entirety with transwomen, many of whom will likely be white. What will the left actually do when a superstar black female athlete is kicked off the podium by someone born a white man? Will “social justice” at last occupy the intersection of cognitive dissonance and self-owns?
A few sports may be immune: gymnastics, ice skating, things scored partially on high levels of feminine grace. But perhaps those sports will simply be cancelled as transphobic.
This is our near future.
Unless we rise to the standard set by the TERFS. Pray for these brave ladies! Support them. They need all the help they can get. Until further notice, they’re our only hope. Wanting a patron saint, I nominate Agatha of Sicily—breasts sliced off by an angry male mob for refusing to submit her mind and body to their demands.
O St. Agatha,
who withstood the unwelcome advances
from unwanted suitors,
and suffered pain and torture
for your devotion to Our Lord,
we celebrate your faith, dignity, and martyrdom.
Protect us against rape and other violations,
guard us against breast cancer
and other afflictions of women,
and inspire us to overcome adversity.
O St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr,
mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice,
may receive your intercession.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.