Being the social media addicts that we are it is obvious that the JK Rowling controversy came under our noses at least once.
In December 2019 disheartened Harry Potter fans went on having fiery debates on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram and used the term ‘’TERF’’ for the well-renowned author. The acronym refers to transgender exclusionary radical feminists.
A layman at the sight of the very first word would stop reading further simply because (i) nobody knows the definition and considers ‘’trans’’ as a slur rather than asexuality (ii) topics like such are deemed immoral or unnatural to discuss (iii) it isn’t seen as crucial. So before digging into the origin and relevance of the entire idea, let’s pay attention to what transgender means.
When one is born the doctor congratulates the family by saying it’s a boy/girl. However, if a person’s gender identity or expression doesn’t match with what it was assigned at birth then that would mean they identify themselves as transgender.
Given the background let’s divert the focus towards TERFs. The credits for the coinage are given to Viv Smythe a trans-inclusive cisgender radical feminist blogger who used it in 2008. Notwithstanding, the logic dates back to the 1970s.
This acronym is used in the context of transphobic feminists. On the other hand, this minority group prefers to not use the term and calls itself ‘gender critical’. As they stand on ‘’feminist’’ (F) grounds they believe in the idea of gender equality and since they are ‘’radical’’ (R) they aim towards changing the society in such a way that male supremacy ceases to exist.
Ideally, to do so it is vital to be inclusive of all people who regard themselves as womxn but this group is ‘’exclusionary’’ (E) i.e. rejects the assertion that trans-women are women. Hereby being biased towards the ‘’transgender’’ (T) community.
The primary reason why this branch of feminists choose to alienate trans-people from the sisterhood is an apparent ‘’threat to safety and security’’.
Their collective viewpoint states that men are traditionally oppressors of women. In correspondence to this view, they think of trans women like men whose ultimate goal is to make women inferior. Highly selective cases of the violent approach of the trans people may have given birth to this insecurity.
But, this can’t divert us from the proof of discrimination the transgender community faces on a day-to-day basis. Not only are trans women looked down upon at the workplace but also in general they are hindered and unable to express their true selves.
Taking an example of the recent uproar at the Tokyo Olympics we see how for years trans-women were denied participation due to physical differences such as height, weight, and testosterone levels.
A lot of deliberate and thorough conversations have taken place over this topic of biological distinctions affecting performance in sports.
The resistance has mainly taken place to reduce the chance of advantage of a trans woman over a cisgender one. It was historical and absolutely revolutionary at the Tokyo Olympics to have the IOC approve a trans woman to take part.
Laurel Hubbard became the first trans woman to be active in the weightlifting category. Unfortunately, a lot of derogatory comments and hate speech came her way even though the IOC had confirmed that all requirements were met. On the bright side, her debut has surely made room for inclusivity for the trans community.
J K Rowling jeered at phrases such as ‘’people who menstruate’’ which threw the netizens wild.
An American non-profit organization WoLF also complies with the TERF theory.
Transgender identities are strongly advocated as invalid and womanhood are defined by biology instead of gender identity.
This leaves us with a question. As we are progressing and trying to make the world a better place for all the people, are we actually meticulous and careful enough to keep in mind all the sections of society? What is the purpose of a developed world when some groups of people do not even feel welcomed? In my personal opinion equality is a subject still open to a lot of revamping and improvisations.
To reach the aim of a safe environment for all people irrespective of gender, identity, or sexuality, a more in-depth research is needed in order to frame laws, produce policies, and maintain decorum suitable to all.
As students, we didn’t receive the sex education that was truly desirable. When the world was discussing the term TERFs, the unenlightened youth could not make sense out of it and hence neglected the idea altogether.
The very reason why today not many people are acquainted with such notions is lack of knowledge and ignorance towards concepts of importance in the gender-sexuality realm.