CW: lots of swears, lots of terfs
(A quick aside on the word terf because I’m going to use it about a thousand times. It’s not a slur. Here’s a doctor telling us why it’s not)
Ok, so there have been some really shitty things going on at the Pride Center of the Capital Region in Albany, NY. Full disclosure, I volunteer there and facilitate our Trans Pride events that meet twice monthly. Now, the Exec Director of the Center is one Martha Harvey and she took it upon herself to post an article on the Center’s public FB page. Here is the article that was posted with the caption: Interesting article. What do you think?
Of course the post was taken down rather quickly after a massive outcry from the local trans community. Now, mind you, this is on a public page for the organization of which she is the director. An organization that is supposed to support ALL the letters (LGBTQI) of our queer little corner of the world. And the ED posts an article that denigrates trans women for existing and basically poses our existence as a debate to be had. Terfs take the stance that trans people existing is just one side of the coin because if some think we don’t exist than obviously we can post bs like this under the banner of ‘healthy debate’
Let’s take the article for a second. I must say that having read a bunch of articles like this in the past it pretty much follows the terf template for writing. First talk about how lesbians have been and are being discriminated against. Ok, that’s bad. I agree that’s a really shitty thing and am completely against it. Then wade into deeper waters describing some awful patriarchal practice. This time ‘corrective rape’. Ok, that’s really fucking bad. Heinous. I am so against that. Then get to the ‘fun’ part where all of a fucking sudden. Right after describing the horrors of corrective rape they bring up trans women. Here is the exact segue from the article:
I see what you did there lol. (hint: trans women are the bullies) It continues:
Seriously this is such a bait and switch and a great example of terfiness while writing: Base your entire argument on what a couple of trans women post on the internet and a Cosmo think piece. Pretty scientific, right? Also did you see that little jab in there? Riley’s in a relationship with a cis woman “which you’d be forgiven for assuming is simply a hetero sexual relationship”. This is the terf party line, misgender us, mis-interpret us, and cast doubt on our very existence. Now, let’s look at the entire quote from Riley J. Dennis and see if she actually is advocating that “lesbians must have sex with trans women!”
First off let’s point out that Riley says ‘if the fact that some lesbians might be attracted to these women offends you’ Ok, that’s kind of an important point. It’s as if she isn’t telling anyone to have sex with anyone and that she’s saying ‘Hey, let some lesbians like trans girls if they want’. It seems as if Riley is alluding that trans women exist, we are women, and maybe we should just examine how and why overarching sentiments like ‘all trans women are making lesbians have sex with them’ are completely untrue and really, really harmful to the trans community.
Let’s take a quick look at how Riley finishes her vlog post. I don’t think this made the article lol.
It’s like she’s just sticking up for trans girls and not trying to make anyone do anything. I’m going to sum this up in a very glib fashion but I think the entire point of her post is: Hey, maybe y’all shouldn’t go out of your way to be such assholes to us. Pretty simple, right?
Literally the only point of all of the gender critical writing I’ve seen is to deny the existence of trans people. Trans women aren’t women because we’re ‘men in dresses with a fetish’. Trans men aren’t men because ‘they’re just lesbians tricked by the patriarchy’ and non-binary people don’t exist because sweet mother of everything that’s holy ‘WTF is a non-binary?’ That’s it. That’s all it’s about.
Let’s get back to the Pride Center of the Capital Region. A day after the article was taken down we got this fauxpology:
Ok, sounds conciliatory, right? I mean it’s a ‘growth opportunity’ right? I guess my first thought though is that if you’re ED of the Pride Center you should probably understand more about the trans community than ‘what terfs think’. And as the ED how did you think that was a good idea to post that article in the name of debate? And Martha, my existence as a trans woman is not up for debate.
A couple of other quick things about the fauxpology: She did not make herself available and pretty much locked herself in her office after the incident. And I have on good authority that when she was pressed by members of the trans community she WOULD NOT even say ‘trans women are women’ Like she flat out refused to go that far. And this is the woman who is supposed to be looking out for my best interests? WTF?
And that’s when the terfs came at us.
Well not after me personally but terfs from far and wide heard about this incident and decided to show their support for Martha in their usual polite and even handed fashion but we’re not going to get into that.
Let’s just say that comment spamming is done by all groups when they get worked up enough. Be ye terf or trans, Yankees or Red Sox, at some point there is a pile up of insults and insinuations in the comments section of any purposely provocative article and subsequent facebook posts linking to said article. This one is no different and terfs came en masse to chastise the evil trans folks who are well within our rights to demand that Martha Harvey resign. This is not unusual and I’m not going to dwell on what some (all?) terfs think about us. Their vitriol is palpable but it’s also very boring so there’s really nothing new to talk about here. However, when certain commenters are part of the story, say a member of the Board of Directors of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, I think we can dig a little deeper and see if there is an underlying current of ‘not giving a fuck about trans people’ that permeates the Center. Well let me tell you, Cynthia Bott is one such member.
Actually her comments are seemingly not that incendiary and it truly seems as if she is trying to add an air of intellectualism and mediate calm but let’s dig a bit deeper. Knowing that the article in question, ‘Trans Women Are Evil for No Other Reason Than I Hate Them Because I Said So’ (I think that’s the title lol, but really it’s Lesbianism is Under Attack etc. etc.), is pretty much entirely based on one quote taken completely out of context from a trans woman’s vlog and one single tweet from another trans woman and Cosmo. This article has been completely debunked (see above). I think we can safely say that no trans woman said ‘I’m going to make all lesbians have sex with huge wangs’. Ever.
Cynthia has decided to frame this whole mess into a debate where everyone ‘has a voice’ and that ‘we (must) make a space for everyone in the community’? Actually it sounds ok, right? Like why wouldn’t I want all voices heard? I’m an open minded Midwestern girl. I like hearing what others experience. However, what if the starting point for these debates is whether or not I exist? Kind of puts the onus on me, doesn’t it? Like I’m pretty sure I’m trans, I’m a woman, and I exist. And I’m pretty sure the rest of the LGBTQI community exists so why do I have to listen to others that don’t think I exist in the name of ‘community’? Shall we just start debating about a flat Earth? Fake Moon landings (ooooh that’s a good one)? Should we start giving Nazis a platform at an ACLU convention?
This may seem like hyperbole but seriously I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PROVE MY EXISTENCE TO ALL Y’ALL! All the latest science (science-y stuff) (more science-y stuff) and countless personal anecdotes prove that trans people exist and we are the gender we say we are. All this truth is out there and some just choose not to believe it. Which, honestly, I couldn’t give a shit about. I don’t care if you, noble reader, think I exist or not. What I do care about is that at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, a center that is supposed to welcome me with open and accepting arms. A Pride Center I’ve dedicated precious time to and have met many wonderful people of all genders and orientations. This Pride Center just made me an other. Martha Harvey made me an other because she posted that article. Terfs have made me an other because, frankly, that’s what terfs do. I sit here not knowing what to do next because the official line of the Pride Center is: We don’t believe you.
I do understand how some on the outside may think ‘It’s just one little article. Martha made a mistake and apologized. What’s the big deal’? Well the only thing I can say to that it is a big deal. As the executive director of an organization whose mission statement includes …to promote the well being of all lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and queer identified people and those affected by discrimination based on gender identity and expression… and then is flabbergasted by the outcry after she posts some shitty terfy article? Like how did she get the job in the first place? If I was the Surgeon General and I posted an article entitled ‘Smoking: Is it Really Bad? on the official surgeon general website I should probably get fired, right? It’s the incompetence of just posting that article that should make us think that Martha is probably not right for the job. Like even if she totally believes all this terfy nonsense shouldn’t she have the sense not to post that article on the Center’s FB page. This wasn’t posted on some personal blog or on her own facebook it was The Pride Center’s facebook. Is the whole idea of terfs denying trans people’s existence completely new to you, Martha? Was that the first terfy article you’ve ever read? Because let me tell you, there’s A LOT more where that came from.
So no matter what I’m going to keep fighting for my community. I’m going to keep fighting for my right to exist. I’m going to keep fighting for everyone’s right to self identify. And I really hope this fight includes the Pride Center as one of our allies because if not we have a lot farther to go than I thought.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.
-Teela Jewel Wild