Terf wars: Trans Issues in Feminism

From Tuesday, November 10

Language etiquette 

Pronouns: Always use the pronouns that person currently uses



Xe/xir/xem // ze/zir/zem

Even when talking about them in the past

Terminology: never ‘when she was a man’

Uses of AFAB, etc. These should generally be avoided because its’s transphobic af to refer to a trans person by their birth sex, it should really be used for a description of how they were socialized when growing up. Unless you are a doctor who deals with a lot of trans patients, there’s really no need to know someone’s assignment.

Under the “does this even need to be said?” genitals. Never ask about a persons genitals, it is not your business unless you are sexually involved with them or you are their doctor (and even then be VERY respectful). Asking about a trans person’s body objectifies them by reducing them to their physical bodies, whereas gender is all about how you feel inside.

Transphobic language


  • It
  • She-man / she-male
  • He-she
  • Transvestite
  • Misgendering
  • “confused”
  • Using a dead name

These words are really harmful emotionally to trans folks because of their history and their connotations. They were made with the intention of dehumanizing and hurting trans folks

non binary identities

  • Agender
  • Genderqueer
  • Genderfluid
  • Demigender
  • Bigender
  • Trigender
  • Third gender
  • Hijra (South Asian) – only legally recognized in India but used around South Asia
  • Mahu (Hawai’i) – identity in Hawai’I that has evolved into a slur. Translates into ‘the middle’
  • Two-spirit (Native American) – Lakota and Navajo tribes are examples of tribes that use this

Disclaimer: This is a limited list. Genders are as infinite as the universe


  • Stands for Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism
  • TERF is branded within its community as “gender critical feminism” *groan*
  • Feminism’s problematic herstory
    • MichFest
    • The gender police
    • Passing and “realness”
      • “Real” is used to describe cis people
      • Trans people are often policed more than cis people, which leads to passing as a form of survival
      • Creates a hierarchy within trans community
    • Petition to remove the T from LGBT
  • Violence against trans women
  • 28 trans people have been killed this year
  • Failure of news outlets to cover these properly and respectfully
  • How can we combat these issues in feminism?

What TERFs look like

  • Outing a trans or nb person to their employer
  • “Trans women can’t be lesbians”
  • Assert that cis people aren’t privileged
  • Believes ‘cis’ is offensive
  • Uses normal in place of the word ‘cis’
    • Also assert cis people aren’t privileged in a world that’s hostile to trans people

Instead of using unnecessarily gendered language, you can use this alternatives!

  • Girl // boy // man // woman à human // person
  • Girlfriend // boyfriend à partner // date // datefriend // datemate // babefriend // person // significant other
  • Ladies and gentlemen à distinguished guests // folks // y’all // yinz // guests


  • Original meaning was peculiar
  • Came to be used as a derogatory term
  • Reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community
  • Usage varies

Media Representation

  • What are some examples of good representation? How about bad representation?
  • Transparent
  • Orange is the new black
  • Laverne Cox
  • Janet Mock
  • Sylvia Rivera
  • Marsha P Johnson
  • American Horror Story

PGH resources

  • Rainbow Alliance
  • Transgenderresourcespgh.blogspot.com
  • Gay and Lesbian Community Center
  • Transpridepittsburgh
  • Project Silk
  • Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • The Name Change Project



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