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What is a TERF?

After protesters walked out at the start of Manchester Pride this past weekend and began to walk part of the parade route, people were understandably upset and worried for their own safety. We also saw plenty of social media posts about this as well as some confusion around who these people were, and what they were trying to achieve. People soon began calling them “TERFs” and it’s common to hear the phrase “No TERFs on our Turf” especially in LGBTQ+ friendly areas, and especially during Pride. This led us to do our own research into the true meaning behind the term and what it is they believe.


TERF is shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” and are sometimes simply referred to as ‘radical feminists’. This is terminology that has become synonymous with a minority of feminists who are vocal about their particular views and opinions that other feminists would consider transphobic and inappropriate. This is feminism that intentionally excludes trans people and has actively contributed to hatred and violence against the trans community simply for being who they are. In short, they believe that by giving rights and equality to trans women, society is taking away the rights of other women. You may even see some of them refer to trans women as “not real women” – largely because they can’t naturally give birth to children. Newsflash, there’s a lot more to being a woman than reproduction! Plenty of cis-women either can’t or don’t want to have babies and that doesn’t make them any less female.

What do they believe?

TERFs believe that the sex they are assigned at birth is what determines a persons gender and there is no changing that. They believe that gender identity cannot change. They believe that only women can have vaginas and only men can have penises; similarly ‘men’ are oppressors and ‘women’ are the oppressed and this is why women need more protection of their rights. They see trans men as women, trans women as men and non binary people are whatever gender they were assigned at birth. This is, amongst other reasons, problematic at best and dangerous at its worst as it is ignoring the fact that race, sexual orientation and disability can also lead to people being oppressed. Oppression is more complicated than just genitals.

Is it a slur?

To some, yes. It’s important not to confuse feminists with TERFS – TERF-ism is an extreme branch of feminism. A slur is typically something that discriminates against race or gender etc, whereas TERF is a descriptive term that describes their beliefs. What they believe excludes trans people, hence the term ‘trans-exclusionary’ TERFs don’t like to be called this as they disagree with the ‘trans-exclusionary’ aspect as they don’t see trans people as being valid at all. They may call themselves “rad-fems” or “gender critical”. They ultimately see themselves as being superior to trans women.

What Were They Doing at Manchester Pride This Year?

These anti-trans protesters hijacked the start of the parade this year and their messages left some women fearing for their safety. They were part of the group GetTheLOut and handed out a number of leaflets on their way  round causing more concern and upset among attendees, especially since they appeared to have a police escort. Frustration for many was compounded by the fact that it took Manchester Pride days to respond to the actions of these TERFs and the lack of action and responsibility on their part. Standing up for trans rights does not take away from cis-rights, it simply makes the world a better place for everyone in it. Disapproving of TERFs is actively supportive of trans women and therefore women as a whole.
Nikki Halliwell (She/Her)

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