Anti-transgender rhetoric under the guise of radical “feminism” has been popping up in Madison, highlighting issues of bigotry and misinformation as well as what constitutes free speech vs. hate speech.

On March 19, community radio station WORT 89.9 FM broadcast its usual Monday night Access Hour, but that night’s content quickly fomented protest and outrage, as the show promoted anti-transgender and anti-sex worker bigotry.

The time is meant to be an open forum to make the airwaves accessible to as wide a range of people and views as possible. That’s a laudable goal. That particular evening’s subject matter, however, has prompted heated accusations that the commitment to free speech ended up giving a platform to hate speech. It was also a painful reminder of the continued presence of an anti-transgender vein of thought running through even liberal Madison’s queer community.

The host, Thistle Pettersen, used her time to broadcast interviews with noted anti-trans activists Julie Bindel and Meghan Murphy. Both women are prominent figures among the so-called “radical feminist” movement, specifically a segment that focuses much of its energy and ire on sex work, pornography, and transgender people.

Both Bindel and Murphy have made careers of accusing transgender women of actually being predatory men, and arguing that all men are dangerous. They also don’t believe that non-binary and bisexual people exist, and accuse those who argue otherwise of playing into “patriarchal” views of the world.

Pettersen has made past appearances on the Access Hour, and similarly used her time to broadcast anti-transgender rhetoric and misinformation. WORT staff warned her not to do so again, and her application for the March spot indicated that she would focus her time on covering feminist music and a recent radical feminist conference. She did neither.

Instead, the interviews and discussion centered largely around removing agency from sex workers (Bindel), and claiming that transgender women are “men who are simply more comfortable with feminine stereotypes” (Murphy), among other things. Murphy would go on to dismiss the harms of misgendering people, claiming that she, a cis woman, would just find it “funny” and that “it’s impossible to misgender someone.”

Though people like Bindel, Murphy, and Pettersen claim to be “radical feminists” trying to dismantle patriarchy and make the world safe and equitable for women, their work and rhetoric relies on biological binaries and misunderstandings of gender identity vs. gender expression vs. sexual orientation, ultimately reinforcing the systems they purport to oppose.

Those who recognize the true nature of this line of thinking refer to them as TERFs, or Trans-Exlusionary Radical Feminists.

Free speech vs. hate speech  

The issue has also reignited a community conversation about the limits of free speech, and what the purpose of the Access Hour is and should be. A WORT board meeting just days after the broadcast included comments and concerns from both the public and station volunteers about the content of the show, and generated ongoing discussion about providing clearer editorial guidelines and oversight for what goes out over WORT’s airwaves. 

The station is no stranger to controversial Access Hours. Republican state politician Glenn Grothman recently applied to host a show during the open hour, though he proposed only to play classic rock, which is exactly what he did. In 1977, protests erupted when a WORT program host attempted to interview Michael Wilson, then the state co-chair of the National Socialist Party, U.S.A. (the Nazi party).

The thinking goes that the Access Hour is not actually a WORT broadcast, but a free and open forum to make the airwaves accessible to as many community voices as possible, regardless of whether the opinions expressed align with the majority of regular WORT staff, volunteers, or listeners. The question before the board and the station’s members at the moment, then, is how to determine when that content becomes hate speech, if such speech should be allowed on the air, and how to enable staff to make decisions regarding what applications get approved and if any should ever be rejected.

The station’s mission says, “WORT shall be committed to radio programming with a human perspective—respecting all peoples and their environments.” Does programming that dehumanizes and spreads misinformation about a marginalized group adhere to that mission statement? Does intentional misgendering fall under state statutes that prohibit defamation?

Strange bedfellows  

For more background, Bindel is perhaps one of the most notorious “radical feminists” in the world, and has been banned from speaking on several campuses and elsewhere for her consistently transphobic, biphobic, and anti-sex worker views. On transgender women, Bindel doesn’t even view them as women, once saying, “I don’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women, in the same way that shoving a bit of vacuum hose down your 501s does not make you a man.”

Murphy is the founder of and frequent author for the TERF publication “Feminist Current,” where she espouses a version of default womanhood that is largely white and cisgender. During her interview on the Access Hour, she accused transgender people of forcing others to “accept this desire or delusion.”

Pettersen has a storied history of lashing out at the transgender community in Madison, including on previous Access Hour stints. She was disinvited from a reoccuring gig at the Crystal Corner Bar after the owners were made aware of her actions. She is the founder of Women’s Liberation Radio News, which has ties to a TERF organization called the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF).

WoLF claims to be a radical feminist group focused on lobbying for pro-choice legistlation and women’s autonomy, though there’s little evidence of efforts on either front. Instead, the group is almost exclusively focused on fighting against transgender rights, going so far as to partner with a far-right, anti-LGBTQ hate group called Family Policy Alliance in a countersuit to Gavin Grimm’s now-stalled Title IX suit to allow fair access to bathroom facilities in schools.

WoLF also accepted a $15,000 grant from religious right group Alliance Defending Freedom, a huge evangelical Christian non-profit law firm which “seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” The organization was founded by James Dobson, also founder of the wildly anti-LGBTQ Focus on the Family, and Alan Sears, author of The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat To Religious Freedom Today.

It’s an unholy alliance that doesn’t end there. Religious rights organizations and rightwing politicians have begun cribbing language from TERF outfits like WoLF, all with an eye toward banishing transgender people from public life. 

If you’re curious to learn more, you can read what TERFs themselves claim their aims and goals are at TheTerfs.com, a watchdog site that monitors the anti-trans hate movement representing itself to be radical feminism.

Meanwhile, Madison and WORT continue to grapple with the presence of anti-transgender activists even within its own LGBTQ community. When does free speech become hate speech? And does a community radio station owe its platform to that speech? 

It will be up to the community to decide.

To host a show on WORT’s Access Hour, fill out the online application at wortfm.org/access-hour-application.

[Edited 5/23/18 to reflect that Murphy is also the founder of the Feminist Current publication]

84 comments on “TERF Wars
  1. Emily, you are wrong on so many counts here, I don’t know where to start. Radical feminism is a valid political stance and has provided the critical analysis for the women’s movement that led to so many gains for women. If some of its leading proponents have something to say, I would listen, as I hope many did.

    • Hey kids – 30-years-out lez here… The “L” is at the beginning of your tagline up there, but y’all act like only the T matters these days. You also labeled it an “article” when it should be called an editorial. Women my age have watched for 20+ years now while our young butch sisters have listened to loud voices convincing them that they must really be dudes. Meanwhile dudes keep insisting that they’re female (same male entitlement, often same genitalia, different dress…), and want to crash our safe female spaces. Your oppression does not trump mine! If you think that the trans suicide rate (inflated statistic) and violence against trans is so great, welcome to being female in this effing culture! We survive male violence DAILY. White males have led this trans movement while infiltrating our queer EVERYthing… and apparently it’s still not enough. They (and you young’uns, their minions) need to read your queer herstory books, and stop disappearing us, your foremothers. Before it’s too late.

      • Did you just all lives matter in a discussion about trans lives? I’m confused here. You call us men but acknowledge that we are facing the same violence and oppression that women of history faced, all while standing asthe very vile enemy that is oppressing and fueling violence against us. That’s very patriarchal of ya. If you wanna talk history, should we discuss Michfest? How about the silence of rape accusations brought against other women in “women’s only safe space”. Have you read about trans history and how our current predicament in the trans community is rooted in the constantly disproven thesis of Janice Raymond? I mean shoot, even if you wanna call us males you realize Sylvia Rivera Marsha P Johnson, and Miss Majors were all women of color that led or movement right? Or that Sylvia ws the only one speaking of our LGB brothers and sisters locked up at Stonewall while your community was booing her. If what we experience is oppression and neither trumps the other, then would it not be logical to claim that if our activism is supposedly oppressing you and vice versa, that neither of our oppressive behavior should reign over the other?

        • Rivera and Johnson never claimed to be women. How about you do a bit of very simple research before you go turning gay men into trans women? How about you show some respect for them?

          • Marsha P Johnson self-identified as a transvestite at a time when the word “transgender” did not yet exist. She went by a female name, lived her life as a female, and fought for trans* and gay rights. How about you stop trying to twist history and other people’s lived experiences to fit your bigoted viewpoint?


            Likewise, Sylvia Rivera identified as a woman and lived her life accordingly, becoming one of the first activists for trans rights in the country (if not the world). https://www.glsen.org/blog/womens-history-month-heroes-sylvia-rivera

            We owe much to both, the least of which is to honor their identities and lived experiences in the way they themselves defined them, even if the words were not yet there/the same.

        • I’m staying COMPLETELY out of the trans/women disagreement, but I do feel it important to tell you that lesbians in the 60s and 70s mostly didn’t pay any attention to Stonewall; it simply wasn’t important on the radar. This is because male and female “gays” had extremely different agendas and even fairly separate communities until the ’80s, when AIDS brought us together. The men were all about sexual acts without consequence (research what was around the corner from Stonewall, which was why Stonewall existed in the first place; hint; 18-wheeler truck to fuck strangers in) while lesbians were into developing a women’s community which because so successful that both straight women and transwomen wanted in — music, arts, cafes, and above all bookstores, which were the internet of the time. If anyone knew history, they’d know that the gay and lesbian movements have always had a real suspicion of each other (not everyone, like your #notallgays will say I suppose). The transgender issues which have emerged are directly related to that history, and would be a bit enlightening. It’s only much younger feminists who think their liberation began at Stonewall. It began with Michigan, or even earlier (and much smaller) concerts, and the first night we all met in something which wasn’t a gay bar on “dyke night.” Reading history might help you understand why Stonewall was incredibly liberating to gay men, and nobody cared really who threw the first brick; it was the riot which was important. Not to slam anyone as an individual; they were either brave or crazy, or both — but again, individualism is such a neoliberal concept. It was the solidarity that made Stonewall resonate.

        • I’m staying COMPLETELY out of the trans/women disagreement, but I do feel it important to tell you that lesbians in the 60s and 70s mostly didn’t pay any attention to Stonewall; it simply wasn’t important on the radar. This is because male and female “gays” had extremely different agendas and even fairly separate communities until the ’80s, when AIDS brought us together. The men were all about sexual acts without consequence (research what was around the corner from Stonewall, which was why Stonewall existed in the first place; hint; 18-wheeler truck to fuck strangers in) while lesbians were into developing a women’s community which because so successful that both straight women and transwomen wanted in — music, arts, cafes, and above all bookstores, which were the internet of the time. If anyone knew history, they’d know that the gay and lesbian movements have always had a real suspicion of each other (not everyone, like your #notallgays will say I suppose). The transgender issues which have emerged are directly related to that history, and would be a bit enlightening. It’s only much younger feminists who think their liberation began at Stonewall. It began with Michigan, or even earlier (and much smaller) concerts, and the first night we all met in something which wasn’t a gay bar on “dyke night.” Reading history might help you understand why Stonewall was incredibly liberating to gay men, and nobody cared really who threw the first brick; it was the riot which was important. Not to slam anyone as an individual; they were either brave or crazy, or both — but again, individualism is such a neoliberal concept. It was the solidarity that made Stonewall resonate.

    • You realize this wave of feminism came out of the seventies through the now shunned (within the scientific community) work of Janice Raymond? These aren’t suffragettes combating the trans movement, but willfully ignorant minds that are closed in fear. Everytime I’ve attempted civil discussion on the matter it instantly devolves to disrespectful name calling, hate speech, and claims of being the victim of a “violent” oppressor. I’m nothing if I’m understanding, and I myself at times gave up withdrawal from conversation that is toxic to me, but i listen despite how hurtful it has been, and still through it all I allow myself to wander back to the discussion, in hopes perhaps of nothing more than coexisting with individuals that outside of this matter I would find to be exemplary activists and people. The problem is this is hateful bigotry that endangers our lives, and i can’t overlook that. I implore you, read through my comments on here discussing further the speculative points brought against this articleand my community.

      • You have no community. Trans is fake, a hoax, a fad, a fashion statement. Transgenderism has been weaponized by rich male elites to eliminate women’s civil rights and sex-based protections. The CULT OF TRANSGENDER IDEOLOGY is the enemy of women. Mental delusions are not civil rights. Transition society not your gender.

        • Woof. This about sums up the TERF ideology, right here. Not based in reality, but in fear/hate/trauma/conspiracy.

          I mean, I still get people who try to tell me that being bisexual is “fake, a hoax, a fad, a fashion statement.” That’s just as much of a bullshit lie as when applied to someone’s gender identity.

  2. I am very disappointed with your negative summations of Ms. Bindel and Ms. Murphy!
    As if, their great good work in support of Women has no value because a tiny vocal population of trans are not getting enough support and attention.
    Terf is a slur.

      • TERF is a slur, frequently directed at any feminist who continues to use the pronoun “she” or who dares to speak of the trans exclusionary biological function of menstruation. A little hyperbole here, but not much.

  3. Thanks for your support for our community. To my siblings- cis, trans, non-binary, genderqueer- stay strong, speak up, support each other!

  4. I’m grateful that you called attention to this. As a non-binary sex educator, I can say that none of these women is qualified to speak on these issues.

    To everyone else making snide comments, learn this: when someone is saying “Ow, you’re hurting me” and you ignore that to continue standing where you want, you’re complicit in harm and suffering we endure.

    • Every person who does not conform to sex-based stereotypes wholeheartedly is by definition non-binary. You confuse the biological fact of male and female with socially constructed gender stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman. It is troubling that we are erasing women, words used to describe women, and women’s spaces in order to accommodate the feelings of men. Because that’s what we’re talking about here: male feelings. But feelings do not decide your sex any more than they decide your race, height, or eye color. Your chromosomes decide. And no amount of harmful surgeries or hormones are going to change what is in fact a psychological condition and in some cases a fad. Also, stop pushing this on children. Puberty blockers are dangerous to brain and bone development and in many cases, there’s no going back. Sex researchers have repeatedly shown that the majority of gender non-conforming kids grow out of dysphoria by puberty and grow up to be well adjusted members of the LGB community. Stop encouraging gay youth to harm their bodies and stop encouraging them to emotionally blackmail their parents into harming their bodies with threats of suicide. Because trans activists often make veiled or not so veiled threats of suicide when rational minds say no to their demands.

      • I feel your comment requires a list to break down.
        – chromosomes are not black and white. There are cases of varying hormones in those defined or designated male or female. There is the existence of down syndrome and countless variations we know to exist. Your science here is outdated.

        – if you’d like to claim hormones or surgeries are harmful, then trans or not, we’re all screwed there.

        – if being trans were a fad, you wouldn’t have history defining our existence in past civilizations. Not only that but it’s multicultural and spans language barriers. That does not make a fad.

        – your verbiage not only suggests ableism but a lack of understanding and empathy for any mental condition. Your belief that suicide is a tactic and not a sign of distress truly illuminates your selfish ignorance and your lack of empathy for the struggles of other, all i might add while preaching your own.

        – no one is encouraging anyone against their will to do anything transition related. I feel anyone who feels gender dysphoria should seek help resolving that pain through therapy, especially when it’s present in youth. It’s the duty of the therapist to help guide those seeking their help to a peace of mind, and should the joint decision of the therapist, child, and parent be to seek hormones through a doctor, then that is their right. It’s not anyone’s right to deny or gatekeep anyone from transition related care if that is what they feel they need.

        Don’t buy into the hype of fear mongers. Get to know people, coexist, and take it from those who live it. We listen, we care, and we are empathetic. However any hostility you might feel from us is our strength in standing up for ourselves and our rights despite your bigotry. One cannot expect the freedom to speak exclusion without harsh responses in return.

      • I agree wholeheartedly that “it is troubling that we are erasing women, words used to describe women, and women’s spaces…” I am nor sure that it is to accommodate “men”. But it is to accommodate trans women to the detrimate of women born women.

    • Radical Feminism is saying “Ow, you’re hurting me”. It is a response to sex based oppression enforced largly through gendered socialization. Women do not want to be “standing” where they are, in that state of oppression. And these women correctly agree that men who come to stand along side them by adopted those oppressive gender stereotypes for the sole purpose of personal validation are doing the exact opposite of helping them out of their oppressed state. If that hurts transpeople then they should go complain to the men who created and enforce these oppressive gender stereotypes in the first place, and stop telling women who ARE doing that and have been doing it for generations that they “aren’t qualified” to do so.

    • Ow – you’re hurting ME! Your insistence on taking away my rights to talk about my body and to claim the sex-based protections from sex-based oppressions ir hurting me.
      Why is it that trans identified men want to occupy women’s spaces, places, scholarships, sports, political quotas? The LGB community never claimed to be straight when fighting for their rights. People of colour never claimed to be white when fighting for their rights.
      And while we’re at it, what are these rights that trans people are supposedly being denied? Can you name them?

      • I’m not sure if these instances of trans women exposing their genitals in gym locker rooms and the like are true , but I can tell you that I have no desire to see anyones genetalia in any setting outside the bedroom. Reminds me of the horrors of high school gym class or the Navy. How bout keeping your bits covered, trans straight bi or gay.

  5. Woman is more than a feeling a man has. We are not subjugated on the basis of gender, but BY gender. We are subjugated because of sex, not because of identity or feelings. Women who wear dresses are as oppressed as women in pants, and it’s completely ridiculous to claim otherwise. Radical feminism is the only real feminism, and supporting trans ideology that says “a woman is anyone who claims to be!” is religion.

      • Humans are classified as either male or female based on whether they have the reproductive organs to produce sperm or ova. Babies sex of being either male or female is observed at birth based on if it has a penis or vagina. A man is an adult human male. A woman is an adult human female. A man and a woman are free to express their individual personalities as they like. You can be either a typically masculine man or feminine man or some variation as a man, a typically feminine woman or masculine woman or some variation as a woman. The mind does not change the reality of having either the male reproductive system or the female reproductive system. The mind does not change you from the male sex to the female sex or vice versa.

  6. Not one of these women is an ‘anti-trans activist.’ They are all feminists, and activists for women’s liberation. They have all been attacked by the trans-lobby over and over again, for simply stating facts, for working for the end of patriarchy. We are not oppressed on the basis of our ‘gender’ but on the fact of our sex. Worshipping ‘gender’ only re-enforces gender stereotypes. This isn’t bigotry, it’s the truth.
    And by the way, feminists have been telling trans-activists for YEARS that IT HURTS when you call us slurs, that we do not wish to be referred to as ‘cis,’ but that hasn’t made any difference.
    Who is the bigot?

    • Cis is a scientific term and TERF is an acronym. Likewise we’ve spoken out for your community to stop referring to us as men, something that the radical feminist community refers to as fact despite my previous statement regarding scientific terminology and an acronym defining your brand of feminism. Calling us men brings statistical violence against us, violence you only receive as a repercussion of your speech and ignorance. So, if you’re only interested in believing in some of the facts, be they outdated, and consider scientific terminology to be a slur, then why be selective? All i see is a three radical feminist community coopting the patriarchal method of oppression and fear mongering with wild accusations and misinformation. Prominent rad fems have aligned with the very groups that haveand continue to oppress them. You’re working with the wrong folks if you’re looking to combat toxic patriarchy. Instead of attempting to understand our lives you speculate, instead of trying to work to coexist with us you stand by outdated and often ignorant beliefs, and when we attempt to have a conversation we are immediately accused of predatory behavior, of violence, of misogyny, all while being called men and having our voices silenced as if you don’t think we understand the oppression that came before us, the very ones your predecessors fought against for their rights. These are the signs of stagnation that is rampant within bigotry.

      • Cis is a scientific term in Chemistry. It is not a scientific term in the way you are using it for gender. The acronym TERF was created within trans discourse back in 2008 by two women, not by science

        Biology is science. Male is a science term denoting a person with male reproductive system. A man is an adult human male. A transwoman is a feminine man. There is nothing wrong with being a feminine man. What you are not is an adult human female, aka woman.

  7. This is shameful. Thistle Pettersen has done nothing but contribute positively to her community. “Gender identity” ideology is about erasing women and girls, and you know it. Stop defaming feminists who are simply standing up for the rights and privacy of women and girls. Your characterization of Thistle, Julie Bindel, and Meghan Murphy is nothing other than rank misogyny.

  8. There are countless ways to break this down. Claims of the trans community committing to predatory behavior are baseless outside of perhaps a handful of isolated instances that may exist. The fact that there are folks claiming that trans activism is a “religion” of sorts all while blatantly over looking a prominent radical feminist organization’s ties to actual regressive religious groups is baffling and infuriating. If you’re unable to accept the rhetoric you put forth to have negative consequences and absolve yourself of perpetrating hate speech but choose to align with old testament believers then it’s the resurgence of the dark ages for feminism, literally. It’s a choice to remain ignorant, but what’s even more distressing is the choice to align with one’s own political enemy to attack another while claiming it’s for the benefit of your rights, rights i might add you willfully decline to extend to others just like the hate groups and patriarchal beliefs you’ve aligned with. History repeats itself and if you can’t make the simple connections alone with your own reflection and take time to better understand those around you, you will find yourself on the wrong side of it all.

    • Why would any penis person need to use a women’s restroom? Seriously why? Please think deeply about that and get back to us.

      • It’s frowned upon to urinate in public, so a restroom is generally the preferred location for bladder relief.

      • You keep talking about penises as though they determine sex. Lots of women have penises! Some of our penises are sewn on; others live in drawers some of the time.

        More seriously: We still don’t know what determines a person’s gender, but we do know that bodily configuration and even genetics are not it. The male/female duality covers only the two most (apparently) common configurations. Meanwhile, science is learning more about gender all the time. I mean, what about people with multiple forms of genitalia? What about women with really big clitorises? There isn’t a clear line to draw.

        Historically, radical feminists have asked difficult and important questions for society and for feminism. I respect that tradition, and yet I cannot respect your bigotry and hatred towards trans people.

      • Why do we separate restrooms at all? Having been to many places that have unisex restrooms, I’ve never encountered any issues. Ever.

  9. I’m gonna go with the answer to pee. Didn’t have to think to deep about that really. It would’ve taken longer to go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory and stigma that is the belief of predatory behavior, which is also baseless

  10. It should surprise none of us that the TERFs have taken to the comment section to further spout their special brand of exclusion and hate. It’s such a transparent ideology. You are fooling nobody but yourselves.

    • same could be said for those males who claim to be female. They are indeed, fooling nobody, perhaps not even themselves. Humans can’t change sex and women can, and will discuss the effect that claiming they can will have upon us, our rights, our lives, our language.

    • How about you try posting a comment that attempts to refute what any of us has said USING FACTS, okay? Because your comments are about as useful as a Trump supporter who shows up just to call names and contributes nothing of any substance to the conversation.

  11. Excellent piece, Emily.

    I find it impossible to be coherent or respectful in the face of TERF bigotry. I’m so grateful you can do that for those of us who cannot.

    • You are not respectful of other’s opinions Jessica. And only you are using words like ‘hate’ and exclusion and calling people names.
      Should there be no discussion about this?

    • And why’s that? Because if you’re looking to supposedly protect women and children and you would like to claim trans folks are predators, once again this is still irrational fear based beliefs and baseless, you’re effectively not only condoning public urination but also suggesting a separate but equal stance that the lives of some are more important to you than the other. Site for me conclusive evidence that would suggest that your stance has anything to do with facts and not fear mongering misinformation from a group of people that supposed radical feminists actively avoid actually conversing with to better resolve the matters and concerns at hand. Think deeply about that.

  12. What part of the “fem” in feminism is unclear? I stopped reading your magazine when you stopped caring about women and lesbians and, in fact, decided to align to trans activists who among other things assert that lesbians do not have the right to self identify and say no to sex with men. According to trans activists, lesbians do not have the right to insist that lesbians are females who are attracted to other females. According to trans activists, it’s hate speech for a lesbian–no, literal violence!– to insist that if you have a penis and are attracted to women, that you are not a lesbian, but a heterosexual male. Look up cotton ceiling. It’s about ways to violate lesbians’ rights to say “no” to sex with dick. It is rape culture and you’re promoting it. What’s fascinating is that no one is insisting that gay men start liking vagina or they’re bigots. But that’s misogyny for you. Erase women, words used to describe women, and our right to women-only spaces for the comfort of men.

    • If anyone is “forcing” someone to have sex with them that’s not ok, that has not changed. Much like anyone identifies as a lesbian, we identify as trans. We are who we are, but here you are asserting we are men, that weare violent, despite civil conversation where the only violence is in your claims of who we as trans individuals are and a speculation that our fight for our mere existence is an attack on yours. It’s your interpretation and i can’t say you’re not entitled to that, it’s just disappointing how blatantly ignorant you are to revolve within a hivemind group that refuses discussion or understandingon a matter you do not live. The mere fact that we are open to hearing your concerns, with respect, and giving respect in return while elaborating to your ignorance on our existence. Feminism is about equality for women at the level of men, not dominance, not exclusion. Scrutiny is important both to exude and to receive and the so called radical feminist community is only in the business of giving. Even in light of facts they willfully over look, even through their selective decision for whos rights are worthy of existing, and their outright tribal mentality dividing us as a whole your community refuses to acknowledge it’s shortcomings and errors, despite aligning with regressive anti LGBT religious organizations or having their rhetoric coopted by the GOP. How can one so willfully pursue a battle belief that leads to the oppression of others after not only rising up from that very same oppression but also allowing an alliance with those who opposed them and still continue to do so? It’s literal reality versus speculation rooted in the ignorance to not trust that someone is living their life for themself and instead living for some presumed ulterior motive based only in fear of history repeating itself (despite the coverage and uprising of people speaking out about abuse and the metoo movement) all while you are literally repeating history where you have becomethe oppressor out of your own fear and hatred.

      • You are not a woman which is an adult human female. You are a “feminine” man, a “feminine” adult human male. Nothing in the world will change this biological reality. Do not expect others to participate in your fantasy. Wear what you like, cut your hair as you please. Choose a new name if you want. That is ok and what everyone should be free to do. But you will never change from the male sex to the female sex.

        • The argument isn’t that anyone is changing. It’s that they were that way from birth, and doctors/society misgendered them based on their genitals alone.

          There’s interesting science about this, even! https://www.bustle.com/p/the-brain-structures-of-transgender-teens-align-with-their-gender-identity-according-to-a-new-study-9177244

          Also, not to mention that all of these arguments ignore / erase / demean the existence of intersex people and those with different chromosome configurations as well.

          • Doctors do not observe gender which is a social construct. They observe biological sex of an infant, which if of the male sex will have the male reproductive system, and if of the female sex will have the female reproductive system. Your sex is important for doctors to know as disease presents and treatments are altered based on if you are male or female. Intersex people are not trans. Chromosomal abnormalities are not a new sex.

        • Your claim is purely “biological determinism” based on faith in a fantasy called “the sexual binary.”

          • It is biological reality that cannot be changed. Sex is binary. A human being is created through sexual reproduction when sperm and egg combine. Biological fact not fantasy. There literally is no other way to create a human being other than with a sperm and egg, combining the chromosomes of the male (sperm producer) and the female (egg producer). Your chromosomes are not only in your reproductive system, but in every cell of your body. There is no way to alter every cell in your body to become the other sex.

            Plastic surgery and cross sex hormones can artificially shape your male or female body to best appear like the opposite sex but you still never actually change your sex. And you will need to keep injecting your self with cross sex hormones for the rest of your life to maintain that facade, since your opposite sexed body does not naturally produce those amounts of cross sex hormones.

            Everything else outside of your biological sex is your individual personality. Biology does not limit your personality. Everyone is free to dress as they please, keep their given name or change it, put make up on or not, style their hair as they like, choose any profession they have the ability and skills for, do any activity and sports they are capable of, buy what they please etc…

  13. It is appalling that you defame women such as Megan Murphy, Julie Bindel and Thistle Petterson who are dedicated, as radical feminists to challenge patriarchy which is responsible for the oppression and abuse of women throughout the world. It is clearly apparent that you are unable to identify with the true experiences of women

    • We experience trans womanhood, something you will never experience, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities. The fact that these women and like minded organizations they revolve around have sided with oppression anti LGBT religious groups for their own endeavors and yet trans individuals are the oppressors. Or perhaps the fact that they preach misinformation and fear like their oppressors before them, and yet because they choose to be vile and unsympathetic and lack understanding, we wind up being the villain. Baseless fear mongering. One does not get to speak with such hatred and ignorance towards another and expect to not receive a harsh response. You can throw stones and play victim when you get them in return.

  14. In 70 years on this planet I have NEVER seen the amount of hate spewed at women as I have seen from the most obnoxious male to female transgender activists, some “transmen”, and their supporters. I mean they are making the guilt trips of the “shut up and be a good girl” patriarchal strategy of the 1950s and early ’60s look tame in comparison! Back then men only ridiculed you if you weren’t girlie enough. Now they ridicule you for wanting to mention you have a vagina, menstrual periods, breasts for feeding babies, or because you don’t want to be dismissed as a mere cisgender who gets all the same “privileges” as a “cis” man. Every day thousands of women hit peak trans. I’m sure this article brought a couple dozen more over to realizing that the transgender movement is a 1984 type recreation of reality where we say males are females or else we get kicked out of school, lose jobs, get fined and even in some countries go to jail. IT IS INSANITY!!

    • You do realize that not a single comment here suggests any of what you’re saying is being put on you. I stand beside you top stand up for yourself, as i would anyone fighting for their rights, we all do or at the very least should. What we are saying is to seek understanding and listen topthe stories of others. It’s interesting to me because all of the historical discrimination and even the 1984 style speculation is literally the kind of environment trans women are dealing with. We don’t have basic protections under the civil rights act in most states and are being barred from safe spaces under the premise we will make them unsafe. It’s one again, baseless. In fact the current administration has been rolling back Obama era protections we fought for, including how prison systems house ismost recently. Statistics regarding our suicide rate generally brought on by lack of acceptance in our environment, rape, harassment, and homicide rates are documented. No one has told you to sit down and be quiet and no one will. But perhaps if you don’t want to listen to fact or reason, you should listen to your own words towards us. You belittle us, claim wild accusations both of our intent and our communication with you, you’re standing against us and our fight for our rights and if our conversation sees our frustration and becomes even slightly uncivil, you’re the victim. Women had to fight for their rights and they didn’t take no flak, so why do you think we are so avid in our own endeavor. Your choice to avoid up to date scientific studies, the repetition of history for other marginalized communities, or to simply subscribe to hate fueled rhetoric rooted in fear mongering and extremism only weighs you down. We are living our lives whether you want us to be a part of yours or both is completely up to you.

  15. Thank you for writing this piece. I have had to ask one of these women to leave my place of business for yelling about how trans women aren’t women. I don’t understand why their feminism focuses so much on being hateful and cruel. To all trans women (and trans men) friends please know that you are loved, respected, and supported by those of us with our heads on straight. thank you again for this piece, Emily.

  16. FYI that we’re approving most of the even really out-there transphobic comments here so everyone can see exactly the kind of sad, misinformed, and often twisted logic being used by TERFs to justify their hate. I am sorry to anyone having to read it for whom it may also be incredibly triggering. It is your right to disengage at any time.

    For the record:

    Our Lives has and continues to be committed to representing the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ lives and experiences – first and foremost all the positive and amazing stuff, but we can’t ignore the problems lurking in the shadows, either, especially when they can and do often cause harm to others within the community.

    If you doubt our efforts, I encourage you to click on any of the topic links running along the top of the website that cover a wide range of identities and themes. Or reach out with suggestions for people/orgs/ideas we ought to include in future issues!

    Beyond that, I will once again simply state that if your ideology relies on demonizing and questioning the reality and experiences of an entire group of people based on your own fears and ignorance, it’s probably long overdue that you check in with yourself and your life priorities.

    Supporting and listening to the unique needs and experiences of transgender people does not diminish my identity as a cisgender woman (just as doing the same when it comes to people of color does not diminish me in any way). Indeed, it does the opposite – improving and expanding my life, costing me next to nothing, all while having the potential to do enormous good for others who already have to spend far too much of their time defending their very existence. Why would I strive for anything less? Why would you?

  17. It’s remarkable… and remarkably telling… how the people who are most hateful toward transwomen, regardless of their gender, are those who just simply don’t know us. I’m sorry… not for the way you try to make me feel but rather sorry for whatever caused the poor relationship with your own self worth that produces such harmful behavior or feelings toward others.

  18. If the author of this piece had an ounce of journalistic integrity, they might’ve included some quotes in this poorly-written hit piece.

    Instead, we’re just asked to believe that her assessment of Thistle Pettersen is fair and truthful based solely on the fact that she doesn’t like Pettersen’s position on gender identity.

    I look forward to the time where blind accusations of transphobia and exaggerated claims of hate speech won’t be enough to silence dissenting voices. With the dramatic increase in people now noticing the glaring logical inconsistencies promoted by gender enthusiasts, I think that time will come sooner than we expect.

    For now, I stand with Thistle Pettersen and every other woman who speaks up on behalf of women being silenced and threatened.

    • The accusations are blind if you willfully ignore the very real toxic rhetoric she has put out over the years. Accusations based on oppressive and repetition of vile activity are what are fueling the me too movement. If you’d like to claim we need hard evidence, of which is broadly overlooked as free speech by a community actively silencing and oppressing my community, then you are just echoing those silencing abuse allegations and rape. Thistle hasn’t lost venues because of slander, she has lost them because her own beliefs and rhetoric were presented to the establishment and they decided they do not want to be affiliated with her. Women have been through this kind of struggle for years, even recently. It’s not silencing someone else it’s speaking and standing up for yourself. Silencing would be if we were actively ignoring your concerns or exiling you from civil conversation regarding the matter, or simply deleting your comments (something you should note isn’t happening in this comment section). Thing is, that’s kind of what you’re doing to us. Talking over us, invading our space to mislead and spew hatred all while claiming to be saviors and protectors. You’re just playing the victim because despite our listening and communicating on your baseless irrational beliefs, the concern and empathy we’ve tried to offer, you realize we aren’t backing down, we aren’t disappearing. All of your arguments are drying up with the outdated science and oppression they are built on and we are just moving forward with the evolution of the world. The difference is we live with our irrational fears and hope for the best and you’re pushing yours on others and hoping we don’t overcome.

    • Well said Sam. I also stand with Thistle Petterson and radical feminists. It’s interesting to me how quick everyone is to demonize and threaten and harass women because we will not be complicit with being pushed to the side-lines in our own movement for liberation from gender stereotypes and violence.

  19. “The mission of Our Lives Magazine is to clearly, candidly and openly reflect the diversity and optimism in our community. We are dedicated to improving our readers’ quality of life by celebrating the people, establishments and events that encourage us to embrace our identities as individuals and as an LGBTQA community.” No, you clearly DO NOT reflect diversity. There is an agenda about to silence LGB voices that do not conform to gender stereotypes about sex. Emily Mills is apparently unfamiliar with radical feminism whose mission is to get the boot of the man off the necks of women and children. This hateful diatribe does NOTHING to advance the rights of transexual men who would love nothing more than to get this ridiculous misogynist agenda (of saying that any man is LITERALLY a woman just ’cause he says so) off the front pages so they can live their lives in peace and solidarity with women who love them. Women who have been critical of gender stereotyping since time immemorial will not go away no matter what violence and hatred you throw at us. We have truth, love, compassion and critical thinking on our side. If you believe harassing women and trying to shut us up is in the interests of ANY community, you need some schooling in actual thinking. Put down the post-modernism rhetoric and learn to think for yourself. Solidarity with my gender-critical sisters, a lesbian woman – Peace.

    • You’ve clearly never read the magazine, nor bothered to browse the website, if you think Our Lives is somehow working from an “agenda about to silence LGB voices that do not conform to gender stereotypes about sex.”

      I’m a bisexual, cisgender woman, for the record. Believe me when I say it’s part of my core mission as Editor here to insure that 1) bisexuality is not only not erased but showcased in its myriad forms, and 2) my transgender family are reflected in all their colorful and diverse forms and given a platform that supports and showcases their experiences and reality.

      Transgender women are women. Transgender men are men. So many of you commenting here in absolute outrage over this article totally fail to engage with any of the points I’ve made, or that any transgender person is making over and over again, and instead cling to a false reality where trans people represent some monolithic body that adheres to strict gender stereotypes and also wants to somehow oppress women, harm children, and uphold patriarchy.

      The exact opposite is true, which is what makes the TERF position especially heartbreaking. We should all be allies in the fight against patriarchy, violence, and needless gender role stereotypes.

      For the record, because this is getting misunderstood and mis-represented time and again in these comments, too: GENDER IDENTITY AND GENDER EXPRESSION ARE SEPARATE THINGS. Transgender people can and do present in a wide variety of ways, from high femme to hard butch and everything in between, REGARDLESS of their gender identity. Just like cisgender people do/can! Just like we want for everyone. That’s the exact opposite of this weird idea that too many of y’all have about trans people somehow reinforcing gender stereotypes.

      All of which is to say, I’m willing to bet most of you know very few actual transgender people, and/or haven’t bothered to really get to know them and hear them out re: their experiences, thoughts, etc.

      To sum up, and to quote someone far more thoughtful and right-on than me: “My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.” High time y’all took that to heart.

        • Person who identifies as male. Person who identifies as female. Person who identifies as neither, or both, or somewhere in a spectrum.

          Really, it’s easy: I trust people to define their own gender identity, own gender expression, own sexuality.

          I do all that, and it’s meant a wonderful and fulfilling life lived in a community of diverse people with diverse experiences who are constantly blowing/expanding my mind about what’s possible and just how thoroughly we as humans can and should dismantle the barriers holding us back.

          Biology is not destiny, though it certainly has its role to play. Just turns out biology, and humans generally, are a many splendored thing.

          • A male sex is a human with the male reproductive system. This either is your biology or it isn’t. This is not something you can “identify” with the male reproductive system to get. Your female biology remains.

            A female sex is a human with the female reproductive system. This either is you biology or it isn’t. This is not something you can “identify” with the female reproductive system to get. Your male biology remains.

      • Again, what part of the “fem” in feminism isn’t clear? Intersectional feminism is about females: girls and women of all colors, shapes, sizes, religions, abilities, and disabilities. It is not about promoting the feelings of men over the rights of actual women.

        Our Lives magazine has put the rights of men over women and lesbians in large part because of your editorial choices. You might as well drop the L,G, and B from who you claim to represent. Many local women see this and are disgusted, but are afraid to publicly take a stand and call you out because we can see how this has led to the repeated harassment of Thistle Pettersen.

  20. I listened to the access hour and you are really mis-characterizing that discussion. It’s not hateful to ask questions and have a reasoned discussion. People rightfully have questions about the trans movement, and the answers they get from trans activists is that they’re bigots and need to shut up. So – they take their questions and concerns elsewhere. If you do not have a reasonable and internally-consistent ideology, that’s on you.

    • I completely agree, Natasha. I encourage everyone to actually listen to the program Thistle did for the access hour and decide for themselves.

  21. How about you try posting a comment that attempts to refute what any of us has said USING FACTS, okay? Because your comments are about as useful as a Trump supporter who shows up just to call names and contributes nothing of any substance to the conversation.

  22. It’s interesting how trans lives are constantly up for debate but radical feminism is always deeming itself to be in the right and justified in their words and actions. If you wanna talk about your concerns then present them, however all i see here, like everywhere in this rad fem community, is such investment in their own ideology to accept that others exist as they say, and know themselves to. If it’s expected of us to concede our existence to address your concerns then it is not civil conversation, it’s one sided oppression. It is not our duty to present the easily searchable facts when you actively avoid doing so or choose to believe as you continue to do in light of them. Your choice is willful ignorance and your concerns are wildly irrational and for us to spend our time and efforts on civility that the rad fem community is continually found incapable of holding themselves to is a waste.

  23. Thank you for the story, Emily. I listened to the WORT broadcast, and more effort is needed to stop Thistle and people like her. I am so sorry to every trans person who has to feel the hate in these ignorant comments. I am sorry that these people can’t let you live your lives as the beautiful individuals you are.

  24. What a poorly written article. Where are links and citations to support your broad statements and accusations? Most especially, where is your evidence that Julie Bindel seeks to “remove agency for sex workers” or is “anti sex worker”? You can’t provide any because there is none.

    Calling critique of a billion dollar world-wide industry that brutally exploits primarily women and girls “anti sex worker” is akin to calling critique of Amazon’s brutal treatment of employees in their distribution centers “anti worker.”

    Do you know or care that millions of people, mostly women and girls, are trafficked into prostitution every year? That 50% of females trafficked into prostitution are minors? That girls and women in precarious economic and social circumstances are deliberately targeted and groomed for the trade? (Read here for a pimp explaining his recruitment tactics: https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/12/18/accused-pimp-describes-ways-women-get-lured-into-human-sex-trafficking.html )

    That many are lied to about the work they will be doing, transported to another country, and have their passports and other documents confiscated from them so they cannot leave? (See this comprehensive overview at the NIH website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3651545/)

    That a common practice today is to brand these women and girls like cattle with tattoos? (See NY Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/24/opinion/kristof-she-has-a-pimps-name-etched-on-her.html )

    There is little “agency” for Bindel to seek to remove, should she want to. For readers seeking information (sadly lacking in this article!) upon which they can make their own judgments, here is an excerpt of Bindel’s latest book on truthdig.com (https://www.truthdig.com/articles/pimping-prostitution-excerpt/). Bindel also regularly publishes in the Guardian. Here is another of her recent articles: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/30/new-zealand-sex-work-prostitution-migrants-julie-bindel. I challenge Emily Mills to point out where Bindel attacks prostituted women (I use that term because women who have escaped the trade and speak out against it hate the term “sex worker”) or seeks to remove their agency.

    For her Access Hour program, Thistle Pettersen interviewed Bindel about her latest book on prostitution. However, it is true that Bindel, and Pettersen’s other guest, Meghan Murphy, are highly critical of transgender politics. While the program presented a controversial perspective on transgender issues, Pettersen did not attack anyone, maintained a civil tone, and invited the public to call in with their own questions and comments. I encourage people to listen to the program themselves and make their own judgments.

    However strongly one feels about Pettersen’s political position, free speech should not be squelched. Hate speech is not political speech with which one strongly disagrees; it is speech intended to incite imminent danger or violence.

    One final note: I don’t think it’s a good thing that Glenn Grothman’s Access Hour just involved him playing music. How is suppressing someone’s political views progressive, let alone a useful tactic? I would much rather he be allowed to say what he really thinks, let people hear for themselves, and then hold him to account with viewer calls and letters. I myself would have LOVED to call in and let him have a piece of my mind. Limiting him to playing music merely softens his image – why let him do that?

  25. I am completely in favor of free speech, even “hateful speech.”

    The speech or behavior of others, contrary to popular opinion, does not “make” me or anyone else angry or sad or ecstatic or any other emotion. Our individual training and expectations do that.

    In an open society with free expression, each of us needs to put up with some level of irritation, disappointment, offense, betrayal, etc. when experiencing the free expressions of others. Invariably, people will express things that we will interpret as intimidating, hurtful, or another negative way. But answer me this: Is it better to know what those attitudes are and what organizations promote them, or is it better to be ignorant of those same?

    Please note: I am not condoning or justifying those attitudes. I am not attacking those offended by such attitudes. I am saying that free speech has a range of prices and the price is sometimes hurt feelings. It is simply unreasonable to expect to go through life sheltered from every kind of disagreement or wound. Each of us is far too complex for that.

  26. This show and these people – the ones described in the article, and many of the ones commenting here – horrify me. None of them reflect how many of us feel in Madison.

    They may be free to share their one note, blistering rhetoric about a subject that consumes their attention. We, however, are not obligated to validate their attentions nor give them ours.

  27. “Anti-transgender rhetoric under the guise of radical “feminism” has been popping up in Madison, highlighting issues of bigotry and misinformation as well as what constitutes free speech vs. hate speech.”

    Funny how it is just fine to use TERF and accuse people of using hate speech when the only speech that is hateful is what is in this article. DISAGREEING with people is not hate speech. Neither Thistle, nor Bindle nor Murphy said anything about harming or killing people who identify as trans, said nothing about depriving trans of their human rights.

    But it is morally bankrupt to lie and blatantly spew misinformation as has been done in this article. I suggest that if people actually thought that women and their allies who disagree with trans ideology were actually seen as wack jobs, no one would pay attention. That trans and their allies spend so much time attempting to silence women and erase them says something, doesn’t it? That trans and their allies use the same fake info tactics that were used against Jews in Nazi Germany. aS hITER SAID: “”Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (…) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (…) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (…) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.”[5]

    As to the methods to be employed, he explains:

    “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”

    This article has just gone and done precisely what it accuses Thistle, Bindle, and Murphy of doing: spewing bigotry and misinformation.

    You do not need to hide MY name.

  28. “When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.”
    -President Obama

    Anyone who is unwilling to accept the scientific position of the AMA, the APA, the WHO, among others, is as sound a thinker as climate change deniers who also refuse to accept the overwhelming majority position of scientists in the sphere. They are spouting willfully uninformed positions and can be ignored just as easily.

    As far as WORT goes, there is absolutely some anti-trans sentiment among some of the programming staff, to the point where I don’t always feel safe in the building.

    TERFs are the incels of feminism. They should be taken just as seriously.

  29. I’d like to add one thing: some male identifying as trans said that he had to kick Thistle and Julie Bindel out of his place of business because they were yelling. Here is a classic example of the lying that trans do: Julie Bindel does not live in the United States–she lives in the UK and has never been to Madison, WI.

    • Who was this? Where and when was the claim made? You’ll forgive me if I’m unwilling to take your assertion, without any context or citation, at face value.

      Even if it is true, one person’s actions hardly represent an entire, diverse group of people. Negative stereotyping of whole identity groups like that doesn’t have a particularly positive track record in the world, Miriam. You of all people should know that.

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