From the sidelines of the TERF War

Alex Seymour ’17
Contributing Writer

TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. This was not a word I knew existed until last year. It didn’t become relevant to my life until then — when conversations about whether trans women should be able to attend Smith began. The TERFs, as I understand it, think trans women should not be here because, having been socialized as males, and in some cases perceived as such, they have male privilege. Others, known by some as the “Trans-cult,” argue that the womanness matters more than femaleness, and thus, trans men are the ones who have to go. This has become a heated debate — prompting intense bullying in some cases.

I asked myself. “Why is this such a big deal — especially to people not directly impacted by it?” After a while, it occurred to me that, in the context of Smith, it is politically incorrect to even be male. A guy friend of mine came to visit me on campus last spring. Now, he is someone who quite literally would not hurt a fly — a fruitarian who wears things like teddy-bear sweaters. When he appeared on campus, a student yelled at him, “Get outta here, you rapist.” So, the fact that he was there, and he is male, was enough for the student to assume “rapist.”

On one hand, it is true that most rapists are men, but that does not mean that all men are rapists. To yell “terrorist” at a Muslim or “Nazi” at a German would follow the same logic, but that’s not something anyone at Smith would do. It did not just happen to my friend. Other people’s boyfriends and brothers have been similarly treated.

So getting back to the TERF-war — both sides of this debate are hyper-focused on maleness, whether physical or otherwise. To me the solution to this is not removing one of these groups from of Smith — it’s working on everyone’s attitude toward maleness.

There is no logical reason to distrust trans men or trans women. Trans women have given up being fully accepted by the boys club that so much of America is. Trans men are potential allies from the inside of the patriarchal structure. Both groups just want to be here without their presence being questioned all the time. We want to be on the right side of history, and that has never meant supporting bullying or hatred. It means listening to each other as well as talking.

With that, I declare, that I am team “you do you.”

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