TERFs like their co-ordinated campaigns but generation Z is showing we can take the online fight to trolls and win.
There are few people left who truly support gender equality who have not been targeted by trans-exclusionary radical feminists. TERFs, as they’re otherwise known, are obsessed with perpetuating the oppression of trans women. This can range from mild ignorance to full on trolling. Trans people have been harassed online and even doxxed. Cis allies have been targeted too, including Owen Jones, as any attempt to progress gender rights is stomped on by so-called feminists.
Trans rights are gender rights, and it’s clear from TERF rhetoric that they want to take us back to a time where women were defined solely by their ability to have children. Hardly progressive. The rhetoric can often be extreme and dehumanising. This is usually done purposefully, so that people on the receiving end will lash out and then can be reported to the specific social media platform. It’s a clear attempt to silence anyone in support of trans rights.
However, in recent weeks it is clear that young people are able to articulately and carefully counter hate online and cause the extreme right to lose support. TERF ideology often overlaps with the hard right, and there are steps that can be taken to try to fight back online – without getting into trouble yourself.
It’s okay to log off.
No trans person especially should ever feel forced to log off. It’s people spreading hate who should be forced to leave platforms. However, being on the receiving end of non-stop abuse can take its toll so we emphasise that yes, it is okay to log off if you need to. That is not handing TERFs victory, that’s looking after yourself. Managing yourself so that you’re okay and can fight another day is a key strategic move. It’s not about conceding anything. It’s about prioritising self-care, which is exactly what TERFs don’t want you to do.
Step forward if you can.
This is especially important of allies to do. People are often piled on and it can be hugely overwhelming. Step in, argue, show solidarity to the trans community and stay with it until and unless you start to feel it having an impact on your own mental health. This isn’t about changing TERF minds. They will never, ever change. It’s like asking an alt-right troll to see the error of their ways. This is about trans people who feel isolated and alone. It’s about people who could make change, but have yet to see the need for a truly progressive trans rights agenda. If TERFs are allowed to push back without anything to counter that then trans rights could quickly become in jeopardy. It’s not just about legislation but about attitudes. Since Brexit, queer hate crimes have risen sharply. The fight for progress also includes fighting for attitudes to change.
Take control of the conversation. Don’t lose your cool. Be as smug as you like.
TERFs love to poke for a reaction so that if someone kicks off and starts swearing they can then report that person. If you feel yourself understandably losing your cool then step away. It’s not worth you risking getting banned from Twitter. However, when you can engage then feel free to laugh at it all. Their arguments are utterly ridiculous and clearly haven’t moved past the first chapter of any biology book. Be smug, know you’re in the right, and put it on them to explain themselves and their hate. You don’t have to be Google for them (but it is fun to send lots of factual evidence and research and watch them get even more annoyed at evidence). You don’t have to answer anything they put to you. Some will get bored and move on, some will slip up and give you insults so that you can report them, and some will just seem so hilariously insipid that they’ll help win support for trans rights. The key though is to never insult them, or even swear.
Collect evidence and send it to those who have stood in the way of trans rights to shame them.
Recently, one event at Parliament saw trans people being called ‘parasitic’. There is a political push to make trans people lose rights. However, many of the people pushing for this are associated with extreme comments they’ve either made themselves or people close to them have. People should know exactly what this wave of anti-trans activity looks like. It should be highlighted clearly and sent to anyone either in opposition to trans rights or on the fence.
Are these the kinds of people they really want to be associated with? And how exactly will they look to party donors too?
Make your support for trans rights clear.
Trans rights can only advance and be protected if there is a clear will with it – democracy moves at a snail’s pace but it also means that there often has to be an overwhelming support for a motion for it to pass (don’t get us started on Brexit though). This means that MPs need to know there is huge support for trans rights. You can easily write to your MP, you can also call for action specifically against transphobic abuse on platforms such as Twitter and push for a bigger crackdown on hate speech.
We shouldn’t always have to be campaigning for rights to be protected but if we have to then we must. It can take a few minutes and when democracy is more accessible in the era of social media then we should try to do all that we can to advance a progressive agenda where people are free from hate.
When your mentions are being bombarded with hate, ridicule and anti-trans sentiment, it can feel as though there’s just no hope. That isn’t the case though. The louder a bully gets, the more threatened they are. They know trans rights are winning support but it’s important to keep pushing because such vocal attacks on trans people create an incredibly dangerous climate. No trans person should ever fear logging online so we must do all that we can to stop the spread of hate by TERFs.
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