Aspiring scholar explains in the simplest of terms why ‘the UK became TERF island’
An aspiring scholar on TikTok has broken down why transphobia is rampant in the UK and why it’s now being called “TERF island” online.
One TikTok user asked if anyone knew “why the UK became known as TERF island” which prompted Daniel – who goes by the username danieltalkstoomuch on the video-sharing app – to share his insightful response on the topic.
The initialism TERF stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” and refers to people who describe themselves as feminists but who exclude the rights of transgender people
Daniel opened the video by sharing his list of impressive credentials including that he did a dissertation project on transphobia, is starting postgraduate studies looking at “transphobic dehumanisation” and plans to further his studies with a “PhD on TERFism”.
So he knows his stuff.
Daniel then spoke about a 2020 essay that he loved called “Empire and Eugenics: Trans Studies in the UK” by Ezra Horbury and Christine ‘Xine’ Yao. He said the study’s authors point out that trans studies are a “marginalised discipline” in the UK, a bit more so than in the US where it is “to an extent, institutionalised”.
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“What that means is that when we talk about trans issues in the UK, we’re not consulting trans studies’ scholars – we’re consulting TERFs,” Daniel explained.
“And it’s very easy as a result of this for TERFs to say that trans studies’ scholars have no evidence and when evidence does come out, it’s also very easy for them to ignore it, deny it exists or claim that it’s biased despite no actual evidence to substantiate that claim.”
Alongside the discipline “just not being taken seriously in the UK”, Daniel said Horbury and Yao point out that there is a “massive problem with intersectionality” in the UK.
He explained, although the UK is the “birthplace” of the British Empire and many prominent eugenicists, many people “refuse to recognise that and refuse to recognise even to this day that there is racism and implicit bias in our society”.
“And as a result of this, we have a lot of upper to middle-class white feminists in our public discourse in academia who a) have never spoken properly to a feminist of colour and b) have never had to look at something through an intersectional or post-colonial lens,” he added.
He continued: “And then when we have something like TERF-ism, which is a branch of white feminism that exploits narratives of white female vulnerability and has bioessentialism that has been likened to eugenicist racism, it does really well in this country under these conditions.”
At the end of this amazingly thought-provoking explanation of Horbury and Yao’s work, Daniel also threw in his own “conspiracy theory”. But he cautioned that he had “no evidence to back it up” so said, “please take it with a grain of salt”.
He pointed out that British people have “such a fixation with politeness” culturally that it can be “really hard to call people out for their transphobic prejudices and biases”. And therefore, it’s difficult to get “anybody to learn” because it’s “seen as really impolite to accuse someone of being transphobic”, he said.
“It’s also not really polite to be a bigot though so people will find ways to express their prejudice in such un-implicit ways and they will lie to themselves about why they hold those biases,” Daniel added.
“And if you can substantiate your transphobic beliefs with feminism or concern for the safety of children, that is a great way to make yourself feel better about holding those biases and to prevent people from criticising you.”
Daniel isn’t the only one to point out that this anti-trans bias exists in the UK.
If you look up “TERF island” on Twitter, several people can be seen tweeting about the rise in anti-trans sentiment and hate in the UK.
Additionally, a damning report by the Council of Europe recently singled out the UK for its “baseless and concerning” anti-trans rhetoric. The UK is mentioned throughout the report and referenced the rise of anti-LGBT+ hate speech on social media.
The extensive report – which also named Russia, Poland and Hungary as areas of rising hate against LGBT+ people – also described a “marked increase” in anti-LGBT+ hate speech and hate crime.
The council, which is Europe’s leading human rights organisation, vehemently condemned the “extensive and often virulent attacks” on LGBT+ rights in the community.
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