I’ve identified as a feminist for almost eight years now and, whilst I believe my feminism has always been intersectional to some degree, I have proudly labelled myself as an intersectional feminist for five of them.
I uncovered the real meaning behind intersectionality in my first year of university whilst stalking a newfound friend who emblazoned ‘Intersectional Feminist’ across every one of her social media bios. She was edgy, dressed really cool, and had a lot more confidence than I did to stand up for what she believed in. She taught me a lot about the ins-and-outs of intersectionality and allowed me to broaden my feminist horizons, opening myself up to an entirely new kind of activism. Rather than highlighting the feminism of the past, which was incredibly white-washed and heteronormative, intersectionality puts focus on all social categorizations including race, gender, sexuality, and social class. It promotes the importance of inclusivity and contextualising each individual experience, allowing the feminist movement to make a real difference to the lives of women and other marginalised groups on a global scale. Intersectionality truly encompasses us all which begs the question; what feminist wouldn’t want to identify as intersectional? I’ll tell you who – the TERFs.
So, what the heck is a TERF? In its simplest form, the ‘TERF’ acronym stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’. In its less simple form, the term represents a large group of feminist-identifying women who believe that trans or gender-variant individuals have no place within the feminist movement. At their very core, TERFs are exceptionally transphobic and are hellbent on creating a harmful environment for trans and gender-variant people who are, quite literally, just trying to safely live their lives. TERFs have been pervading the feminist movement since its very conception but, with the prevalence of mass media and modern human connection made so much easier through the internet, TERFs have become ever-more powerful and influential.
Take J.K. Rowling as an example. Someone with millions of followers all across the world who has spent decades building a loyal patronage suddenly starts spreading harmful narratives surrounding trans people? Say hello to a hoard of individuals with transphobic views who have basically just been handed a safe-space to spread hate and violence. And, sadly, this is just one isolated scenario among hundreds.
In July of this year, the BBC quietly removed all trans-related links from their website. Recognised as one of Britain’s largest and most influential broadcasting networks, this complete erasure of helpful resources for trans people and their loved ones was yet another public display of brazen transphobia. Even when placed under scrutiny by various LGBTQ+ groups and MPs, these links still have yet to resurface on their website.
Although not explicitly linked with Rowling’s timely display of trans hatred, the sudden acceptance of transphobic narratives within the public sphere have undoubtedly contributed to other public figures and media companies feeling safe to also express their harmful views. As more and more influential people step forward and express these kinds of views without any repercussions, the trans community becomes increasingly unsafe. Which is exactly where intersectional feminism comes in.
As intersectional feminists, it is up to us to step up and protect those within our movement who find themselves in a particularly vulnerable position. Whilst we cannot eradicate TERFs or suddenly change their minds with a click of our fingers, we can educate those around us and raise better awareness over the harm ensued through isolated scenarios such as the ones mentioned above. Supporting the rights of trans people and non-binary individuals is an integral part of feminism and it is so important that we create positive narratives surrounding their positions within our community and the world at large. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans rights are human rights. And they all deserve as much respect and support as anybody else. With that being said, always remember that if it ain’t intersectional, it ain’t feminism. Now, go forth and keep on fighting the good fight!
FIVE WAYS THAT YOU CAN SUPPORT TRANS PEOPLE
- Put gender pronouns in your social media bios – this helps to normalise the gender spectrum and makes it easier for people to identify you.
- Share useful links and resources surrounding gender – this not only gives trans and gender-variant people easy access to helpful resources but will also help to educate those around you.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up – if someone you know is outwardly transphobic, it’s important to call them out on it and politely explain why their words or actions are harmful to the trans community.
- Support trans and gender-variant charities – whether it’s through directly donating or creating a fundraising scheme, supporting these charities will make a real difference to the lives of the trans people that they help.
- Educate yourself and listen to trans voices – put in the work and read plenty of literature, watch TV shows and documentaries, and support trans voices on the web and within your private life.
HELPFUL LINKS & GROUPS
Mermaids UK – https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/
Gender Trust – http://www.gendertrust.org.uk/
Gender Identity Research & Education Society – https://www.gires.org.uk/
Stonewall – https://www.stonewall.org.uk/