Nasty and Nice: The F-Word covers the Transsexual ‘debate’

May 14, 2012

Recently the F-Word, with much trepidation, interviewed Sheila Jeffreys and Lee Lakeman, for their feminist analysis and insight into the issue of transgenderism. They also interviewed Barb Besharat and a man called Susan Stryker, who are both involved in transgender activism. Sheila Jeffreys was brilliant and incisive in expanding the understanding of the historical development of transsexuality as a medical diagnosis to cure/treat homosexuality and also the truly scary situation that we as women and radical feminists face with the political and social ramifications of the queer and trans activism upon our movement today. Her interview was hopeful and inspiring but very conscious of the desecration of lesbianism and women-only organising that has been wrought by the trans activists. Lee Lakeman provided a diplomatic overview of the situation that Vancouver Rape Relief faced in being taken to court by a man who refused to respect women’s right to safe, separate space.

I couldn’t actually listen to the interviews with Susan Stryker and Barb Besharat. Neither of them seemed to have a feminist analysis of the phenomenon of transsexualism and it wasn’t clear at all to me why they were interviewed or the point of their interviews. But what bothered me personally the most was the concluding discussion by the members of the F-Word collective; Nicole Deagan, Meghan Murphy and Ellie Gordan-Marshall.

First off Ellie begins rambling about how best to be an ally to transsexual people without specifying how that has anything to do with being a feminist. She doesn’t make any points relevant to feminism or women’s liberation so I will spare you the details.

Next Nicole and Meghan have a conversation on the difficulties in even talking about transsexualism within feminist circles.

Nicole: “These reactions are so strong that they essentially feel like we’re banned from having these conversations, and it becomes like censorship.”

Meghan: “Yeah, totally and that happens on both ends of the debate. I wouldn’t put that blame on either end or far end of the debate…There have been some really serious attacks on feminists who are critical of anything to do with transgenderism, you know even threats of violence and death threats… I’m sure on both ends. And then I’ve often felt like from the radical feminist end of the argument there is little room for discussion too.”

It really disturbs me to see that the women from the F-Word collective are making false implications that radical feminists are threatening and behaving violently towards transactivists. I have been involved in discussions with feminists on the issue of transsexualism for years and I have never seen any evidence of this. It would be good if the F-Word collective could substantiate these claims with evidence.

We do, however, have copious evidence that transactivists and males who identify as women are threatening women and feminists with violence on a regular basis. On the issue of threats and violence, this is a one way street, with males in drag being the instigators and women being the victims. Why is the F-Word inaccurately portraying this as though women are equally responsible for the violence and threats that are directed our way when we stand up for our rights to organise as females? How does this further our quest for women’s liberation?

Meghan expresses that she is unhappy with having to choose a side or take a position on the issue of transsexualism. “I’m attacked or others are attacked for not taking a position and not taking sides, for not wanting to engage in the conversation.”

Unfortunately, if you call yourself a feminist, you have already taken a position. Your position is on the side of women and in opposition to male supremacy. To blame feminists for the threats and violence they receive at the hands of men in dresses with unfounded accusations of equivalent behaviour is an anti-feminist position.

The discussion then delves into the name calling which Meghan and Nicole are quite upset and offended by. This is not the first time radical feminists have been tut-tutted for our tone. To be honest, I don’t think any of us really cares about being respectful to men in general. And I really don’t understand why there is a different set of rules about behaviour when we are talking about men in dresses. I have never seen any feminist involved in radical feminist politics berate women for being disrespectful to any other group of men. For example, it would be ludicrous to suggest that radical feminists be respectful when talking about, or to, groups of MRAs. So why are lesbians and radical feminists told off for being disrespectful towards this particular group of men (transsexuals) who have harmed us and our communities in very real and horrific ways? I really don’t get it.

Also, it is blatantly untrue that all conversations within feminist discourse about transsexuality are overrun by name-calling, abuse, hostility, anger and aggression. There have been numerous discussions on the Rad Fem Hub, in radical feminist facebook groups and on individual blogs that critically analyse transsexuality from a feminist perspective and the conversations are civil and respectful.

On the glitter-bombing of Germaine Greer, Nicole says, “I don’t think we should be violating each others’ physical space like that. And you know I also don’t think we should be calling someone a man if they define themselves as a woman or vice versa, I find that equally offensive. I think these kind of things cross the line into denying someone’s freedom to choose their name or pronoun and its really disrespectful and it’s just like crossing the line into someone’s physical space around their body, I think, it’s really disrespectful as well.”

And Meghan agrees, “Yeah, definitely. And as I said earlier, that stuff happens on both ends.”

Again, Nicole and Meghan are claiming that radical feminists are compromising the physical boundaries of transactivists without a shred of proof or evidence. When, where, how and who is what I would like to know, because I have never seen or heard evidence of this. When have radical feminists ever stalked and hounded transactivists? When have we ever thrown anything at them… other than logical arguments? As far as I am aware this has never happened.

As for refusing to participate in some man’s delusion that he is a woman being just as disrespectful as throwing glitter onto someone, well I guess we are going to have to disagree. Using the words, ‘he’, ‘male’ and ‘man’ to describe a male human is simply an accurate representation of reality, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing disrespectful in stating a fact.

In actuality, the fact that men think they have the right to define themselves into womanhood and in the process redefine what it means to be a woman is HUGELY disrespectful of every single female on the planet. Moreover, it is an act of colonisation. Radical feminist resistance to this doublespeak needs to be nurtured, supported and applauded. It is clear that we disrespect this system that men have created to erase us and our collective right to self-determination. And this can only be a POSITIVE thing for women.

The interviews with Sheila and Lee produced a wealth of insights into the issues, both ideological and concrete, that impact us as women, as lesbians and as radical feminists in relation to the contemporary product of male supremacy called transsexualism. The F-Word collective could have chosen to have a relevant and meaningful discussion on the way that the phenomenon of transsexualism has impacted upon our lives, our politics and our communities. It is nonsensical to me that they chose instead to make false implications about the way that radical feminists conduct themselves towards transactivists. And unbelievably call on us to be nice and respectful to men who threaten our lives because they disagree with our politics!

This ain’t the way that feminism works, and as our sisterhood grows stronger, so will our resistance to the trans pushers and the genderists. Our disrespect for men who try to invade and destroy our communities is directly proportionate to our respect for ourselves and our sisters.


  1. This is an excellent post, Allecto. 🙂 I agree with everything you said here. I really liked how you responded to these presenters’ concluding arguments. Thanks for letting us know about Sheila and Lee’s interviews, btw. Will listen to them when I get the chance…

    As for the male-to-trans people, seriously, who the fuck are those men to think that we should “respect” their ‘rights’ to call themselves women, to colonise our sex class? Transgenderism is pure nonsense. If women in our society weren’t being so colonised & brianwashed by patriarchal madness, they wouldn’t even be taking the Trans Cult so seriously either. Alas, the malestream media bombards women everyday with patriarchal lies saying that men can “become” women. It is indeed standing up for women when we insist that women-identified women must be the only ones allowed to define our own biological sex class. We shouldn’t let men or male-identified women try to tell us what a woman is. Sex matters, gender is bullshit…

  2. Hi Allecto,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m concerned that my comments were misunderstood, though. Perhaps I was unclear. In saying “this comes from both ends” I was hoping to counter the idea that it is radical feminists who are doing all the attacking. Generally my experience has been that conversations and critiques around transgenderism are shut down by accusations of “transphobia”. Most feminist blogs (Feministing, Feministe, Ms Magazine’s blog) won’t even entertain radical feminist critiques of transgenderism because of the bullying that happens when you even allow radical feminists to comment in that regard. The Germaine Greer/glitter bombing thing was bullshit. I hope I at least managed to make that clear. If not, well then I’ve failed at communicating clearly on air and I’ll have to work on that.

    Thanks again for your thoughts. Much appreciated.


    • I definitely appreciate that the F-Word collective was very brave in giving Sheila and Lee a platform to speak. I understand that the context of this discussion is a very difficult one and that the majority of popular feminist sites are blatant about their contempt for radical feminists. Thank you for at least attempting to fairly represent us. I am sorry that you feel that I have misunderstood or misrepresented your actual views. Thanks for your clarification.

      • Allecto I don’t see an attempt to fairly represent us. I do think Meghan has decent intentions, but it was not done by Meghan, but by Nicole, who is unapologetically biased, and almost obsessively focused on how we aren’t nice enough, even in the face of vicious, stomach-churning trans hate directed at us.

  3. I also have NOT seen any evidence of radical feminists threatening death to trans people. So I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I had. I will have to listen to our conversation again in order to figure out where I implied that. I do apologize that that was how my comments came off.

  4. Reblogged this on You think I just don't understand, but I don't believe you..

  5. Thanks for the synopsis. I couldn’t bear to listen so I didn’t. I’m a meanie that way.

  6. Where Meghan trivializes approval of death wish Die cis scum as ‘alternate opinion:”

    “Barb: “(I) am familiar with die cis scum and i understand the kind of day-to-day marginalisation, frustration, and anger that may lead someone to want to take up that slogan. i can respect someone’s decision to voice their opinion and frustration.”

    Meghan: “I’m personally glad to have some alternate opinions in this thread. That said, comment policy isn’t up for debate.”

    • Good lord. I wrote that in response to the demand that I delete barb’s comment. At that point I wasn’t deleting any comments and I don’t appreciate being told how to moderate the thread. I said nothing that implied I was in support of barb’s “die cis scum” comment, as I stated in the thread. Her other comments did bring an “alternate” perspective and she had been behaving in a way that adhered with our comment policy. I post comments regardless of whether or not I agree with them. All that said, Nicole decided she wanted control over the thread and I had to respect that request. So I did not have control over the thread after all that. I apologize for the totally chaotic way it all went down, that the moderation was such a shit show, and the the comment section was closed down after all that and so many comments were deleted. It was not my choice.

      • So really, what is going on behind the scenes is not what is told publicly. Early on the thread, Nicole was waffling on about how she wasn’t moderating, yet by the end she takes over moderation?

        I actually do have a problem with Nicole, whom I had never encountered before that thread. She is misleading, hides her agenda and pretends to be neutral, when she is anything but.

        We radfems are used to dealing with all sorts of anti-radfems, so we pick up on it. The tactics may not be obvious to outsiders, and passive-aggressive techniques are difficult to spot online, but Nicole was a master of the technique. For example, the ‘surprise’ that radfems receive such a volume of death/rape threats (claiming ignorance of the situation, when if as a neutral journalist as she claimed, a bit of research would have highlighted it). Then, somewhere near the end of the thread, if it is still there, she basically minimises the constant abuse that radfems receive. That is so totally anti-feminist, it is well known to rape/dv counsellors not to dismiss or minimise harms done to the victim – so yeah, I also stand by my comment that she was totally unsuitable to be working in any kind of victim support (which is probably one of the comments sanitised).

      • In the case of sanitising that was going on (and this comment was semi-sanitised during, showing as in moderation, yet there were replies to it). So here it is.

        But I do find some commenters here to be just plain aggressive – unfortunately, it reminds me very much of abusive men who I’ve spent my life working (alongside many incredible feminists) to protect women from.

        Really? We are ‘like’ abusive men, just because we are blunt and state our opinions without lots of prissy little social graces?

        The thing of it is, gruff feminists are nothing like abusive men, the main difference being we aren’t going to hunt you down and bash your face in. So the comparison is quite disingenuous.

        As well meaning as you may be working with the females of domestic abuse, it seems you lack enough knowledge to be effective in this area. Abusive and controlling men come in many forms, and whilst some may be quite obvious to spot, others are not because they are psychologically manipulative and are adept at passive aggression and gaslighting. So if you cannot spot passive aggression, you really should not be counselling these women. DV is my specialty area btw.

        Passive aggression is harder to spot online. When used, prentendy-politeness is the tone, and techniques like disbelief/denial and claiming ignorance of topic/situation. Sometimes outright aggressiveness is used in a mix as well. You have done all of that, hence my PA assessment.

        Frankly it is difficult to maintain any civility with the amount of crap that has been hurled at radfems here. From “high strung” to wishing us all to die off so that 20-somethings can “take over” radical feminism and change it to suit themselves, to not really believing the threats against us, to Barb B thinking “die cis scum” is a-ok because trans are frustrated or whatever, etc.

        So yeah, we may be abrupt and make no attempt at social niceties – but as for being on a par with abusive men? No fucking way. Nor are we manipulative by trying to guilt people into taking our side. Even just comparing us to abusive men is trying to manipulate us into either shutting up or politely putting up a pretence of middle ground.

      • Continuing my rash of serial posting here – how come Nicole, who admits/says she doesn’t have a full understanding of trans vs RF, gets to moderate a thread about it anyway? Seems that someone more knowledgeable should be doing it.

  7. I retract my earlier comment here saying I think Meghan has decent intentions. I had not seen Meghan’s “alternate opinion: post at that time. This is unbelievable.

  8. Thanks for this post. I have been thinking a lot about what has gone on in that post and at some points it starts to make my head hurt a bit because the issue is actually kind of complex.

    I mean, in some ways, it’s totally simple—the tone argument is bullshit. period.

    But in other ways, it’s not really that simple. It does matter how we feminists talk to each other. AND that doesn’t just mean how something sounds on the surface. Really cruel things can be said in saccharine sweet ways. Like: “You’ve got such a pretty face; if you just lost a few pounds you’d have men knocking down your door.” Or: “That Obama, he sure is articulate, isn’t he?”

    There are always multiple levels to conversation. There is substance and presentation. And both can be disrespectful, cruel, hateful. Nicole seemed to want everything to be gentle and nice, and claimed that because she had “sounded” nice in her post then everyone was just a big meanie for not being nice back. But you can put frosting on bullshit and it’s still not something I want to eat. The *substance* of what she said was what was disrespectful, not *how* she said it. And with her latest actions (closing comments, holding fast to the claim that she’s been unfairly attacked) I don’t think there’s really any hope of her getting it, at least not in this go-round.

    It leaves me wondering how best to address these issues. I mean, I’m genuinely wondering, what was productive about that conversation? Was it just a colossal waste of time for all of us?

    By the way, I did try to say most of this in a comment over there, before she announced that she was closing comments, but it appears to have been deleted.

    • Arbitrarily closing the comments, then announcing AFTER the close that the thread would be ‘sanitised’, is completely unethical – no other word for it. It was bad enough to put up with the moderation going on during the active thread.

      • yes, I completely agree. There were even comments of Meghan’s that were deleted, and I can’t see any reason for that other than that they weren’t 100% supportive of Nicole’s assertions that she’d done nothing wrong and inexplicably we ALL managed to “misunderstand” her in exactly the same way and how *mean* is that?!?

        closing the comments and refusing to take any responsibility at all was the cowardly way out.

    • I meant to add, the time-wasting abilities of the ‘tone’ argument was shown very much in that thread.

      Generally the ‘tone’ argument is used by libfems when what they really mean is “shut up, I don’t want to listen to what you have to say, so I will make this bullshit excuse that it isn’t sugar-coated enough”.

  9. The problem with conflict avoidance, as we are so clearly seeing, is that it often leads to a lack in awareness and emotional investment (an investment that otherwise would have existed had the issue NOT been avoided). I understand radical feminists wanting to avoid the trans fray but once they DO decide to jump in they (!)really must(!) account for all that time they spent *looking the other way* while other women stood in the line of fire.

    What’s more, the F Word should be well-versed in in this tactic of conflating radical feminism with male violence by now (a la “radical feminists are literally raping sex workers with their Nordic model” bs). These accusations should have been met with zero tolerance in the comments thread as they would have in discussions around abolitionists’ work.

    As with any form of female resistance, you really don’t understand what you are up against until you say NO. I would urge the F Word to take up their NO on the side of female-only spaces for a while. They might find out they have more to fear than a mere debate.

  10. it was the “it happens on both ends” that did it, meghan. and all the variations on that. the false equivalencies were literally everywhere and i cannot frankly believe you dont see it. its stunning. this whole thing has made me very angry, and i think that is justified. and yeah, its going to come through in my *tone*. i have the right. we all have the fucking right to express our outrage at what you and nicole and the f-word did here.

    • I didn’t say anything about your “tone” FCM. The “it happens on both ends” comment was, as I mentioned earlier, in response to the insinuation that it is radical feminists who are the “bad guys”. I think your critiques of the conversation are perfectly valid and true and I do believe you have the right to express your anger. I’m not sure why you think that I would argue otherwise.

      • but it doesnt happen on both ends meghan. i cannot believe you dont see that, and that you keep repeating yourself. it happens on ONE end, or more specifically FROM one end towards the other: from trans towards radical feminists. its unilateral. you keep saying BOTH but its just ONE.

      • You’re right, FCM! Death threats don’t happen on both ends. But I wasn’t talking about death threats. I was talking about shutting down conversation. Which does happen on both ends, whether or not you choose to admit that. I was responding directly to Nicole’s comment which said that there’s no room to talk and that you “either have to agree with side A or side B” and that, “reactions are so strong that we are banned from having these conversations”. I responded and said “that happens on both ends of the debate” and that, actually, there were more than two “sides” to this “debate.” I never mentioned a thing about death threats and have mentioned, several times over, that I have never seen death threats coming from radical feminists. Ever. I was talking about just even having conversations about transgenderism which, as I’m sure you’ve noted, is EXTREMELY difficult to do in online spaces without it turning into a shit show. My entire thesis in the conversation was that feminists were prevented from even mentioning critiques of transgenderism and that we couldn’t even ask questions or have conversations that didn’t tow the party line without being bullied into silence or labelled hateful or “transphobic”. In fact, my actual quote is: “When feminists try to bring up critiques or even questions, whether it be around transitioning, surgery, hormones, gender essentialism, woman-only space, etc. You just ask questions or bring up any kind of critique and there’s an almost instant application of the “transphobic” label. I’m not sure that conversations equal “phobia” – that doesn’t make sense to me.” I’m not sure what it is you are arguing at this point nor am I sure why you appear to be so committed to misrepresenting my perspective and my intent.

      • wrong again meghan. radfems do not “shut down discussion” anymore than any self-respecting or feminist woman “shuts down discussion” when they are being mansplained, or demanded to educate someone on radfem 101. we have already stated our position hundreds of times, and shown our work, and our positions and evidentiary proofs have not changed, and are correct and based in theory that transcends time and place. most fun fems and other anti-feminists have not ever even read a single radfem book, yet they feel free to declare that we are all wrong. but how would they know that, when they dont even know what we are saying? they cannot even correctly identify our arguments. thats their problem that no other group of people (except radfems!) would ever be expected to solve for them. not to mention the fact that we patiently “educate” these people all the time, and for what? so we can reinvent the wheel every second of every day, because none of them ever read anything and radical feminist views are systematically erased by the fact of not being read, among other even more nefarious erasure strategies.

        trans and indeed all liberal feminist bullshit wants what seems like a basic consideration — not to have to “educate” people — and yet they have yet to put their positions down on paper one time and let them be subjected to serious scrutiny. the burden is on THEM to prove their idiotic “theories” that are not based in reality, or evidence, and they cannot. like usual, they are using the language of social justice — educate yourself, check your privilege etc — without understanding what that means, or why and when and to whom it applies. it applies when one has done the work, and has demonstrated tangible harms and class-based oppression, and they havent.

      • tl;dr

        our refusal to capitulate (and/or educate when we dont feel like it, even though we do that all the time just to be nice) is not the same as shutting down the discussion.

  11. and, what lysandra and pisaquari said.

  12. Thanks for this post!
    What saddens me is to see radical feminists put next to men-in-dress-activists in a “debate”.
    Putting women’s advocates for liberation from men next to men who want to maintain women’s subordination and naming this “equal debate” is a strategy commonly used by patriarchal media/press to wash down the entire meaning and purpose of radical feminism while passing as pro-feminist/progressive and blaming anyone who might object. This is a harmful brand of tokenism, whether intentional or not.

    In patriarchal media, you can be sure that if you have the chance to hear radfem arguments or voices, it’s either distorted, attacked and smeared, or in the case of tokenism, simply drowned by the shit that’s put around it, in a “free speech” and “taking the time to listen to both sides”. This method of mock-equality is of course enforced onto us and we may be punished if we don’t comply (ie receive threats from men). I do not blame women who do it because none of us benefits from being colonised by male ideology but it’s important to name these strategies and inform of their consequences.

    The whole point of radfeminism is to be free from male violence, colonisation and control. it EXCLUDES any discussion with proponents of male violence, because their views are utterly incompatible and antagonistic to ours: the fact that male supremacy in all its forms must end is not to be discussed, questioned or contradicted. It is the most basic premise under which any feminist discussion must take place and which all members of the debate must share, for the debate to be feminist, at minumum. If a space is given to supporters of women hatred, their views are taken seriously, listened to with attention and their claims are seen as equally relevant as those of radfems, then anything radfeminist that might be pasted next to it is reduced to being an empty, meaningless token. Because then our space is trashed, trolled, stifled, a feminist debate cannot take place and men have effectively colonised this space.

  13. Assault can NOT be equated with “refusal to agree”. and that is just one example of the false equivalency given above (glitter bombing vs. not using pronouns insisted upon). In my personal experience it has gone further than that, when even one gives in and uses the pronouns desired but explains patiently, as if to a child, that a social role does not confer upon one an actual biological change in sex and women who are biologically women and have always lived in the social role of women since birth need their own space sometimes without these “nouveau women” being invited, one is STILL called hateful, practically a murderer of these poor, poor, oppressed people, a “cissexist”, wirthy of being murdered, threatened with rape. There is no degree to which one can give in to transactivism and yet hold back even a corner of one’s mind for logic or sanity, one finds in the end.
    And Nicole acts surprised at the anger of radical feminists commenting who already know this, having found out from cold, hard experience. “I didn’t know!” she cries. Well as a “journalist” she didn’t do her research very well, did she?

  14. I am sick of women getting pounced on when they are attempting to do *something.* It’s a lot easier to say what was wrong about the way it was done, then to credit what was right. Or to, say, do your own radio show.

    Was I shocked to hear Stryker on the show? Yes. Yet, I was also disappointed to hear the F-Word give time to pro-pros arguments. However, I also know that there is evidence that when speaking to people who are at least somewhat informed about an issue, when more than one view is presented, people tend to take more seriously the message.

    I also know I wouldn’t have been shocked to see Stryker or pro-pros advocates appear on any other show…which says something about the committment to bringing feminist voices The F Word has. Even if we think we could do better, would we? No one will know until one of us actually tries.

  15. I went to go read this and the post is gone? Did they remove it because of pressure?? I just thought I would let you know, you probably already know this, More so I just wanted to let you know your blog has been very enlightning and educational for me. I am young and a boy, and still learning! But you and your peers speak the truth, you don’t candy coat it, your belief and strength and determination is inspiring! I have a long way to go and so much to learn! But I just want you to know, you are making a difference! Even just me some random 15 year old boy in Canada. I understand as a male I am part of the problem, no matter how “pro-feminist” I am or might become in the future. I understand the inherent nature of males, of myself, even though I consider myself a “good” person, it’s still there in my DNA. I see it every day, the assholes on the football team, fucking hateful people at school, at stores, on the flippin street! You begin to hate yourself for being male! God, I just hope that true radical feminist voices become so damn loud they can never be drowned out! I will be fine with whatever comes after that. Thank you for sharing your voice, intelligently and with truth! So much respect! Eddie

    • Hi Eddie… Thanks for your very sweet comment. It isn’t often that I get males on my blog who appreciate my voice. Just so you know, most radical feminists don’t really believe that there is something inherently wrong with males or their DNA… we just think that our society is fucked up and teaches males from birth to hate women.

      Also, yes, I was aware that the blog post had been taken down. There was some major issues with the collective which produced the radio show that eventuated in it closing down. If you are interested though, the interview with Sheila Jeffreys on the issues of transsexualism was transcribed and can be read here: http://bugbrennan.com/2012/05/18/811/

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