“Let’s Talk About TERFs”–An Important Conversation on Feminism and Transphobia

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BY: KATE ALMQUIST, KATE.ALMQUIST@GO.MNSTATE.EDU

MSUM’s Rainbow Dragon Center, SPECTRUM, and Women’s Center came together to hosted a webinar called, “Let’s Talk About TERFs.”

The conversation featured four expert panelists who shared their thoughts on trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), a term for those who argue that trans women in women’s spaces, like sports, erases the rights and experiences of cisgender, straight, and queer women. The discussion focused on what’s at the root of this transphobic ideology and how feminism and women’s rights are used to weaponize against the trans community.

Women’s Center Coordinator Dana Bisignani wanted to bring this conversation to MSUM because it’s a very timely and relevant issue that affects all women. There are currently a number of anti-trans bills moving through 28 different state legislatures, which includes North Dakota and Minnesota.

Many of these bills are in support of the anti-trans arguments that TERFS make. One of those arguments states that if trans women are included on women’s sports teams, they will be unfairly disadvantaged because of their male biology.

“TERFS are drawing these arbitrary and unscientific lines between what is natural and what is not,” Bisignani said. “It’s not a neat and tidy line, but they often use these arguments to defend these transphobic bills.”

Bisignani reached out to community members that she felt would be able to share more information on this topic and why it’s important.

“When we’re having this conversation, we want to center the voices, especially of trans women and of trans people,” Bisignani said.

The panelists included Anthony Birklid and Katrina Koesterman, two members of Tristate Transgender, a local organization and support group that spreads awareness and support for transgender people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Another panelist was Jennifer Kupferman, a women’s and gender studies professor at MSUM who worked with United Nations for many years, advocates for trans people, sex workers, and women in general. Bisignani wanted her expertise on why it’s so important to center the rights of trans women and trans people in feminism, and what that looks like on a global scale.

The last panelist was Faye Seidler, a local trans activist and educator who works with the Community Uplift Program, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk LGBTQ+ community members, secular individuals, and people of color.

While MSUM was supportive of this conversation, the university has received several messages from people who are displeased with this event and argue that calling someone a “TERF” is a slur. Bisignani strongly disagrees with this statement and believes there’s no argument to be had here.

“Calling someone a TERF is no different than identifying someone as a white supremacist,” Bisignani said, “We’re just identifying a set of behaviors that are rooted in discrimination and hate. It’s important to hold people accountable for what they say and what they promote.”

“We want people to come and learn,” Bisignani said, “We expect that a lot of people might not have heard of the word TERF or know what that is, so we very much welcome people to come and learn.”

The webinar was held on Thursday, April 8 at noon.

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