TERF. Feminazi. Dyke. These words are not all interchangeable but they are all used by the same person, an individual who hates strong women having their own independence from their male counterparts. Each word is harmful in it’s own way even if they have different meanings to the speaker.
A male calls a feminist a feminazi because he feels threatened by her power. In his world view women belong to men and it is the male responsibility to protect women. Women who “go against nature’ as he’ll claim, are broken and in need of abuse to break them down in order to put them back in their place. On the flip side in reality she is a strong woman because she as abused. Most likely she’s had enough of men telling her what to do. She’s tired of being treated like a piece of meat to be paraded around and traded by men. She isn’t fighting to suppress or supplant men, just to be treated with human dignity.
Dyke. This one carries a much stronger venom. It’s not just directed at females in the lesbian community, although it is intended to diminish their worth. At it’s core this word reminds the woman her value to the man. Her vagina is off limits therefore she is of no use to him. He calls a feminist a dyke with the intention of painting her as a man-hating lesbian who can’t get laid. In his mind it is pulling the rug out from under her. He feels threatened by this person because he can’t control them. He rarely lobs it at actual same-sex women rather choosing to use it to hurt cishet females. It’s homophobic and misogynist at the same time.
TERF is a strange one. It is most often used by trans women, trans men and their allies directed at a brand of women who mistreat trans individuals on the basis of their genitals. It is meant to put the woman on guard. But this is the only of the three terms I am discussing that is not directed at actual feminists who wish to empower women. Instead this one is often used to brand women who some classify as betraying womanhood. While I, a transwoman, am appalled there are women who share these feelings, I hesitate to use the term towards a woman who thinks she is protecting herself from men. I am not a man, and she needs to understand that I am not a threat, but I was not born the same as her and I need to accept that too.
There is a line in the trans community we often overlook in our endeavors to push back. It is the one thing we do share in common with cis females, and transmen for that matter, as in we are judged by our sex organs. Our value is based on our ability to reproduce. This is something we share in solidarity with our cis sisters. And I hope we can stand united under that wall of oppression as a means to fight back. At it’s core we’re both facing the same enemy and that enemy is quite skilled at the phrase divide and conquer. Remember it is men after all that created war and all it’s horrors in the first place. They know how to conquer, it’s in their fucking DNA.
SO what about being trans makes my experience different? I am not and will not be told I am a man emulating a woman. I was a woman born with a defective body and I was conditioned erroneously to think I was male. This caused not only intense psychological harm to my self image, it left me in a world alone without any meaningful connections with other humans.
I have had deep conversations with woman who were born with vaginas. Their experiences are different than mine. I have seen, with my own eyes, perverts lusting after my 7-year-old niece like she was dessert. It made me sick. Women do grow up in a more hostile world than transwomen do. We have to remember our privilege. We suffered, in silence and agony and woman might not fully understand that.
The best illustration is Jane Goodall. She was a human woman who lived among apes, as though she was herself a ape. She experienced life among the gorillas. That is what trans women do from birth. We are forced to disguise ourselves like the other gorillas because the world hasn’t accepted we are really unicorns. Once we shed our ape costume and find our inner unicorn, we often find solace among our unicorn sisters who were free to be beautiful from birth. So we are taken back whenever we encounter a unicorn that feels threatened by us. They see us as a wolf in disguise. One of the enemy using a tactic they created. Espionage. To the paranoid female it does appear as though her oppressor is sending in soldiers in disguise to trick them, to make them vulnerable then finish defeating them, pushing them back to where they once were.
While I do recognize men and women have fundamental differences I know much of that is cultural. The parts I can’t fully experience are things I have to grapple with. Likewise, once the cis woman realizes I am not a man trying to infiltrate her sacred space, but rather a sister that was taken by the men and was abused and forced to act like one. That is when she will see we are in desperate need of her nurturing love and support. Then we can begin to heal the rift between trans women and terfs who are most likely misinformed, but in some cases, justifiably skeptical.
I never fully understood white privilege until I have up my male privilege. I remain white but I am now an enemy to the men in power. I threaten their sense of manhood. Their understanding of women as lesser than men. They dismiss me and take pleasure in getting other women to turn on me and my vulnerable sisters as well. Remember there are women out there who throw these terms at other women too. Women who bought into the male dominance narrative and accepted their masters way of life. They are no less women than we are. They are no less oppressed than we are.
WE all need to stand together in order to defeat the enemy. I hate to say it but it’s an enemy that is stronger, better equipped, armed to the teeth and has thousands of years advantage over us. The real conundrum is what to do with our transman friends. I say we love everyone and just stop fighting. End the war by all parties saying we’ve suffered enough.
Until that time I will gladly fight, as a woman, as a feminist, as a proud queer, to end our oppression. As a woman, if it means taking on additional burden to make other women feel safe, we can talk but only politely so, and in the safety of our own community separate from the men who hate us.