Can a transperson be accurately labeled a TERF?
I know, of all the things in the world to worry about, why has my brain latched upon this one worrisome point? Maybe because of all the things in the world to worry about. I needed a distraction and an anonymous poster but fire to the flame and lit my curiosity.
I wrote a piece in praise of Richard O’Brien and their LGBTQ+ masterpiece The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I noted the writing, casting, and production they’d produced and that transitioning seems a major part of it all. O’Brien commented at one time that it was an exploration of their emergent sexuality.
Many people responded favorably to my words, but one poster angrily denounced O’Brien as a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) because in 2016, when asked for an opinion, O’Brien said that trans women could only “be an idea of a woman”. When asked for clarification in 2020 following J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric, they doubled down by insisting, “You and I have to be very careful here,” he said. “We’ve seen what’s been happening with J.K. Rowling.
I think anybody who decides to take the huge step with a sex change deserves encouragement and a thumbs-up. As long as they’re happy and fulfilled, I applaud them to my very last day. But you can’t ever become a natural woman.”
“I think that’s probably where Rowling is coming from. That’s as far as I’m going to go because people get upset if I have an opinion that doesn’t line up with theirs. They think I’m being mean-spirited and I don’t want that at all.”
O’Brien has identified as transgender since 2009, claiming a third, or gender-fluid identity. “I believe myself probably to be about 70% male, 30% female… I think of myself as a third sex and it makes things easier.”
Okay, so who would be O’Brien’s authority for their gender identity? They claim and live life as ‘transgendered’ by their own definition. Can they really be trans-exclusionary? I mean, I’ll accept that they’re a feminist. I’ll even consider their point as radical. But I balk at the labeling of a transperson as anti-trans.
Now, I know I’m a cis-gendered lesbian of a certain age. I know who I am because I live as authentically as possible. I believe each of us who’ve had to find a label to authenticate our existence have searched far deeper into self-exploration than those considered ‘the norm’.
I also accept and admit that because I am not trans, I cannot speak in the voice of transfolk or claim knowledge outside of sensitive reasoning. BUT in this instance I must insist that anyone who willingly identifies as a member of a certain group cannot, by definition, be anti-that group, or exclusionary of it.
It’s taken me three weeks to mull this over from every aspect of which I’m capable and I’ve reached this conclusion:
Richard O’Brien is free to identify in whichever way is appropriate for them and within that identity to search for answers, seek definitions, question their existence and that of others. Period, end of story.