Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

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RobberBurns88
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Oct 30 2017 11:04

You can't go to an anarchist bookfair knowing trans folk might be present, hand leaflets to folk you assume are Cis women then expect to be greeted with applause or with anything other than absolute fury and disdain. Then for folk to defend this, to protect this and to allow this is extremely telling about where our supposed anarchist movement is at.

Anarchism is not for anything goes. Anything goes opens the door to fascists,cops, reformists, authoritarians of all types.

Are we for trans/non binary people or not? This is the fundamental question and everything else is hot air.

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 11:09

edit - a paragraph responding to something specific about rb88s post removed - cross posted and thread had moved on, and wasn't hugely relevant to the rest of the post

If you're actively organising as a TERF, then your politics are beyond the pale. It's not about thought crime as some people might like to make it out - it's not about being wrong on an abstract theoretical issue, or even just having the wrong ideas on an immediate one.

TERFs are literally and directly organising to cause immediate and real harm to trans people. They are - right now - fighting for things that will kill and immiserate trans people, and fighting to uphold a status quo that already does these things. It's absolutely not just about having the wrong ideas.

This is why the calls that there needs to be a debate are bullshit. If some prick was leaflet ing the bookfair calling for restrictions on immigration, and a migrant group organised to tell them to fuck off, and the response was for movement luminaries was to physically defense do their rights to be there, and to suggest that the migrants needed to debate why they shouldn't be kicked out the country, then you'd hopefully see how gross it is. No fucking way should anyone from a marginalised group have to debate whether their lives are valid. We need to treat this the same way.

People need to stop acting like HS was picked on here just for being "wrong" - she actively inserted herself in this situation, defending the bigoted TERF leafleting, after a significant role period of publicly pushing TERF politics. It's not about wrong ideas, it's about harmful behavior. Fuck, according to some of her defenders she ever approached someone who was at Speakers Corner to have a go? (Didn't see this, but several ppl defending her have stated this). So we not only have someone actively defending harmful politics, but attacking someone else hold been at a recent events where trans women had been attacked by her allies. Again, imagine any analogous situation, and hopefully you'd see how absolutely fucked her actions are. It's a shame trans peoples lives are so devalued right now that i need to resort to analogty to assert their worth, but there we are. (any trans comrades reading this who think it's not cool, apologies in advance, was unsure about using it each time, so sorry if I've made the wrong call).

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Serge Forward
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Oct 30 2017 11:30
RobberBurns88 wrote:
You can't go to an anarchist bookfair knowing trans folk might be present, hand leaflets to folk you assume are Cis women then expect to be greeted with applause or with anything other than absolute fury and disdain. Then for folk to defend this, to protect this and to allow this is extremely telling about where our supposed anarchist movement is at.

Anarchism is not for anything goes. Anything goes opens the door to fascists,cops, reformists, authoritarians of all types.

Are we for trans/non binary people or not? This is the fundamental question and everything else is hot air.

As has been stated earlier in this thread, Helen was not handing out those leaflets but defended someone who was. It appears she then became the convenient next best target when the person(s) distributing the flyers disappeared. If Helen holds TERF positions, then she is wrong and should be challenged on those views. However, how she was challenged at Bookfair was also totally wrong and should never have happened like that. Lumping her in with cops and fascists is not only sick, it's cult-like behaviour and very worrying to see.

Oh, and I forget who implied that "older anarchists" probably didn't "get" trans politics, but you need to realise the whole trans thing goes back a long way and some of us have been well acquainted with such "issues" for a long time, you patronising bugger.

Fleur
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Oct 30 2017 11:36

That would be me, Serge, a Gen Xer who has had it with my fellow generational "feminists" stuck in an outdated, exclusionary ideology. It was shit back in the 80s and it's shit now.

Anybody who thinks transphobia is a subject "up for debate" or something marginal not worth getting their knickers in a twist over, have shit gender politics. It's real people's Ives they are fucking over, not some boutique bit of theory.

Fleur
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Oct 30 2017 11:37

Rat

Apology accepted smile

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 11:40

I'm not sure it makes a huge difference whether she handed out the leaflets herself - I suspect she didn't, as she's probably politially savy enough to know how it'd go, and don't think she particularly would have wanted to provoke a big kick off.

What is not in dispute is that she chose to physically insert herself in a situation where bigots were putting out hate speech, after publicly preaching it herself for months. This was a deliberate political act, just as much as handing out the leaflets was. If you're physically defending someone handing out hate speech, you have joint culpability.

And if she did, as her own supporters have stated go after a woman who was at Speakers Corner, then that takes it to a whole new level.

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Serge Forward
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Oct 30 2017 11:46
Fleur wrote:
some boutique bit of theory.

You say that, Fleur, but I'll take that over the politics of playground bullying any time.

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 11:50

A group of marginalised people taking collective action against someone organising to directly cause them hard sounds more like solidarity than playground bullying.

Putting up stickers in the toilets saying the marginalised group are gross, otoh...

Fleur
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Oct 30 2017 11:57

Exactly. Solidarity.

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Serge Forward
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Oct 30 2017 11:59

Course it was playground, right down to setting off the school fire alarm. The only thing missing was fucking stink bombs.

Hmm... "collective action" against Helen Steel. Well done. That'll certainly boost class confidence.

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 12:09

Collective action again transphobic organising which, as stated before, she inserted herself into the situation.

What should they have done, stopped immediately when she got involved? Fucked off home because an Important Activist told them to stop?

She made the decision to involve herself in the defence of transphobe organising. If that puts her in the firing line, then that's on her.

Since you're so keen on avoiding playground politics, you should know that "just ignore them" doesn't fucking work.

potrokin
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Oct 30 2017 12:13
zugzwang wrote:
potrokin wrote:
I do ,however, have different views on porn than him and believe that porn, in all it's forms, to be a form of patriarchal oppression. We have a different set of personal morals.

It's a bit of sweeping claim to say that all porn (which includes literature, drawings, etc.) is oppressive toward women, including porn that doesn't even represent women.

You obviously have a very different idea of what porn is to me but without patriarchy it wouldn't exist and how ever you define it, in general it is patriarchal aswell as unnecessary, that should be obvious to anyone who considers themselves to be anti-capitalist let alone libetarian or anarchist.

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Serge Forward
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Oct 30 2017 12:20

Fallback, will you knock the straw man shit on the head please? When did I ever say "just ignore them". I've said on numerous occasions that Helen should be challenged over such views. But acting like a gang of stroppy divs is not the best way to do it. In fact, if anything, it's more likely to more deeply entrench any terf-like views she may hold. Meaningful action comrades... and that wasn't it.

And Potrokin, how about you start another thread about your views on porn because it's really got fuck all to do with the bookfair or anything that happened there.

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 12:40

I offered it as a hypothetical, the question was only semi rhetorical.

So I'll ask you explicitly - a group of women are confronting a TERF who has been distributing hate speech at the bookfair. HS intervenes to defend them, and then (apparently) goes after a woman because she was at an event when a trans woman was assaulted by TERFs.

You've said continuing the confrontation (now involving HS) was wrong. You've also said they shouldn't have just left it. You've also stated they shouldn't have ignored it in the first place. So, ball in your court, what should they have done?

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Fall Back
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Oct 30 2017 14:53

Empty Cages collective just posted this on Facebook.

(Contains emojis so copy might not work right, see link for original)

https://www.facebook.com/EmptyCagesCollective/posts/869908503160124

Quote:
This Saturday, the Empty Cages Collective tabled at the London Anarchist Bookfair. We met tons of great people on the stall and our workshop was well-attended. A partner of a 13-year IPP sentenced prisoner spoke and it was incredibly moving.

However, the day was ruined by some TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) spreading their disturbing transphobic hate literature. They did not have a formal stall or workshop but instead tried to leaflet the crowd. The leaflets argue against updates to the Gender Recognition Act, which allow for more autonomy and self-determination of gender. So the TERFs want the state to keep control of assigning gender. This is against both anarchist and feminist principles. They claim to be the voice of lesbians. This does not represent lesbians' voices. They argue for the 'right of female prisoners to be housed separately from male prisoners'. But not updating the Gender Recognition Act means the opposite of this: that trans women prisoners will continue to die in male prisons.

On hearing of their presence, we tried to speak to some members of the bookfair collective flagging it up and asking that we collectively stop them leafleting and remove them from the event. What was most saddening is that the response was a defence of their views or their "freedom to leaflet". Which is contrary to any other anarchist positions, for example if fascists had turned up, no one would tolerate them spreading racist propaganda. Yet somehow literature dehumanising, othering and oppressing trans people was allowed.

We then had our workshop and when it finished we came downstairs to see the situation had escalated. A small number of people were protecting and defending the TERFs and a friend can confirm that a trans person was punched.

One of the people being protected is a well-known activist who has been subject to police and state violence. While we feel solidarity with anyone in this situation, this does not make them immune to criticism when they are supporting the spreading of such vitriolic ideas. People with social capital in our movements have long been protected even if they perpetuate abusive behaviour. This has to end.

It is clear to us that this debate is not about 'free speech' but about how we understand feminist solidarity. What is deeply upsetting is that trans folks are being scapegoated and subject to continued transmisogyny and transphobia meanwhile patriarchy and capitalism rage on.
Women's lives and women's services are in crisis in the UK. Defending these services, for example, would be a better use of feminist energy. Defending state control of gender is oppressive to all women and all people.

As survivors ourselves, we understand living in a world where being scared and feeling unsafe around men is all too often a daily reality. And although spaces for survivors and oppressed genders are important they have to be inclusionary or they mean nothing. There are some impressive examples of inclusionary organising, such as Sisters Uncut. TERFs have zero valid arguments and giving them a platform threatens the actual real safety and visibility of our trans friends and comrades, as well as reducing the power of the anarchist and feminist movements necessary to dismantle domination.

As a queer anarchist collective, we will not tolerate this erasure of trans identities. We demand that the Book Fair Collective are held accountable for Saturday, and that they make all future events safe for trans activists. We send love and solidarity to the trans community affected by these events.

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 15:11
Red Marriott wrote:
There is a decades-long ‘anarchist’ attendee of the bookfair who (from a populist ‘pro-indigenous working class’ view) for years expressed his anti-immigration views on urban 75 forums. He’s a long-term otherwise-lefty-‘good comrade’ too. (I think he stopped his anti-immigration stuff since he got into supporting Rojava and linked up with local Kurds).
[..]
The libcom admins knew about all this but never called for his attack, nor banning from the bookfair, never shunned him, seemingly never mentioned it on here or publicly criticised him, he has freely posted on here on occasion etc

I can think of someone who used to post on Urban75 and here who have expressed some anti-immigration views (very similar to the Paul Mason/Len McCluskey position on closed shop unions etc.). The first time I noticed this from them was a few months ago on twitter, and when I saw it from them I challenged them on it. If there's been a change away from this position it must be pretty recent though, since this wasn't that long ago I had that exchange with them.

I've met the person I'm thinking of several times about ten years ago and earlier (although don't think I ever discussed immigration with them in person), but not really since, either way very much prepared to accept they had these views for years, expressed them in discussions on U75 years ago when I was posting there, and I just didn't pick up on it until recently. These days if I see the words 'closed shop union' I automatically assume it's a racist dogwhistle (not necessarily that the person saying those words realises this, but that at minimum they're ignorant of the history and/or the way it's being deployed now, or alternatively know full well and being careful how they express their racism). Ten years ago I'd have argued against closed shops, but not on the specific basis of their historical use to enforce colour bars since I was less familiar with the history then.

In 2011 Steven. wrote this blog post in response to anti-immigrant arguments being made elsewhere on the internet, but by someone he mentions was also a 'libcom poster', not sure if this was the same person I'm/you're thinking of, but it's public criticism even if it doesn't name them individually: https://libcom.org/blog/working-class-immigration-debate-13042011- also if it is the same person, Steven obviously noticed it before I did...

On the point of bookfair attendance, if there were anti-immigration leaflets handed out I'd support confronting the distributors of those leaflets and any vocal defenders of their right to distribute them.

If I saw the person I'm thinking of just attending the bookfair to browse, I might try to talk to them in person about their shitty views on immigration, but wouldn't particularly want or expect to see them ejected or prevented from entering. I do think a public figure like Paul Mason with obvious nationalist and militaristic views should be barred from speaking and/or confronted if they did - in recent years we've seen the opposite trend, with platforms like Novara giving him interviews expressing those views without challenge.

The bookfair could have a code of conduct and enforcement plan which clearly says that racist, sexist and transphobic material and behaviour isn't welcome, which doesn't require advance knowledge of who might do that, but pro-actively dealing with it if it does, vs. arbitrating fights. The fact there isn't such a thing is why we end up with massive public arguments about this stuff in-person and online - because it's the only way people are able to deal with it at all.

Red Marriott wrote:
It was a really divisive stupid theoretical position, but not one that advocated violence against immigrants or led to that.

He may not have advocated gang beatings of migrants, but both arguing for stricter immigration controls and also that it doesn't 'advocate or lead to violence against migrants' relies on obfuscating state and other structural forms of violence against migrants:

- UKBA immigration raids on homes and workplaces.
- Rounding up of homeless people off the streets and detaining them/deporting them.
- Denial of healthcare without presenting ID (also affects racialised UK citizens and people with 'foreign' names who are already getting NHS charging letters or challenged for ID when attending hospital).
- Yarls Wood and other detention centres
- Retaliatory reports to immigration enforcement for any struggle against landlords or employers, making unsafe living conditions, wage theft etc. much easier for them to get away with. Denial of jobs and housing in the first place too.
- Targeting of immigrant (and again black and asian UK citizens) children in schools, who've been asked to bring passports in for the schools census, albeit in that case the school itself being overzealous.
- Until this weeks 'health tourism' measures in the NHS, which supposedly 'left wing' people aren't immune from talking about, was going to stop kids in school seeing the school nurse without an immigration check.

Some of these are literal, direct violence by the state, some of them more subtle like denying housing, healthcare etc. some which enable violence by others via making it easier for landlords and employers to victimise migrants specifically. There's no immigration control without all or some of these, otherwise immigration would not be controlled. This is often a problem with people understanding borders as physical checkpoints where passports are checked and you get a stamp or not, vs. a whole system of internal border control which controls migrant behaviour within countries (and enables racist treatment from everyone else). Hopefully people will keep making points like this to the person or people who are putting forward these arguments, but if they crossed over into active anti-migrant organising they should also expect to get shouted at after apparently years of being told how wrong they are.

Similarly when you argue against gender recognition, in practice you're arguing for continued and further state violence against trans people (put into a male prison, denied healthcare, various other consequences) as we can see from the leaflet excerpts I posted above. Would be really great if people who think there should have been a discussion with Helen Steel instead of shouting would make those points to her now.

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 15:18
Serge Forward wrote:
Course it was playground, right down to setting off the school fire alarm.

I've seen reports (on twitter, and not enough to be conclusive, which is why I haven't brought it up until now) that the TERFs both set off the fire alarm and called the police - someone separately mentioned two police officers arriving at the event about 15 minutes after one of the altercations. Do you have a specific reason to think the group confronting the TERFs set off the fire alarm?

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 15:37
Serge Forward wrote:
I've said on numerous occasions that Helen should be challenged over such views. But acting like a gang of stroppy divs is not the best way to do it. In fact, if anything, it's more likely to more deeply entrench any terf-like views she may hold. Meaningful action comrades... and that wasn't it.

From the Empty Cages Collective, some time (hours?) before Helen Steel was confronted, this happened:

Empty Cages Collective wrote:
On hearing of their presence, we tried to speak to some members of the bookfair collective flagging it up and asking that we collectively stop them leafleting and remove them from the event. What was most saddening is that the response was a defence of their views or their "freedom to leaflet".

So people tried to get the bookfair collective to address this issue, then got stonewalled, before things escalated to direct action. 'playground' too?

as a libcom admin
If potrokin wants to discuss porn in the general/abstract, please start a new thread. Sex worker organising might be a relevant discussion here, but hasn't come up yet so without any context like that it's just off-topic.

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Oct 30 2017 16:49
MH wrote:
I can think of someone who used to post on Urban75 and here who have expressed some anti-immigration views (very similar to the Paul Mason/Len McCluskey position on closed shop unions etc.).

No, I was referring to Durutti02. I remember discussing it with you a decade or so ago.

Zia
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Oct 30 2017 17:39

Mike Harman wrote:

Would be really great if people who think there should have been a discussion with Helen Steel instead of shouting would make those points to her now.
Friends of HS have done that, are doing that, including probably people who have posted here.
Thank you for not repeating earlier claims that she endorses assaults against trans people or is a fascist. Those were unacceptable claims and should have been withdrawn.

Thank you also to Jeff Costello for post no. 87.

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 18:23
Red Marriott wrote:
MH wrote:
I can think of someone who used to post on Urban75 and here who have expressed some anti-immigration views (very similar to the Paul Mason/Len McCluskey position on closed shop unions etc.).

No, I was referring to Durutti02. I remember discussing it with you a decade or so ago.

hmm I didn't remember their username on U75 (and still don't remember what it was on here, or discussing this about them with you), but I do think we're talking about the same person after a bit of googling. One possibility is you told me they talk shit about immigration on U75, then I didn't go and find the threads myself, and then forgot about it, which is pretty negligent if so and after various experiences in very different contexts I'd definitely follow it up now (and did when I noticed it last time). Failure to do that a decade ago isn't an excuse to not address similar shit now.

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Oranj
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Oct 30 2017 18:25

Helen Steel was at the TERF Hyde Park hate rally, and she went to defend Maria Mac, the TERF who later had the trans woman in a headlock. Also, she publicly outs people behind pseudonyms for criticising TERF's on facebook, and TERF's love to d0x trans women. Just who the fuck does she think she is? Lots of us use pseudonyms on facebook and twitter for very good reasons. This is some seriously questionable behaviour by someone who thinks she's a movement star and can therefore evade accountability.

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 18:39

I won't link to it, but HS confirmed in a public comment on facebook that she attended the Hyde Park event, and also in Oct 16th shared the same SAGES leaflet that was distributed at the bookfair with the following text:

encourage people to read up about the proposals to make legal changes to the Gender Recognition Act. They have serious implications for women's rights which are largely being ignored. These change "will make the word “woman” meaningless. Women are adult female humans: members of the sex class able to bear children. If the law is changed, a “woman” will become “anyone who identies as a woman”. This will not change material reality. The half of the populaton with the potental or perceived ability to bear children will stll be discriminated against because of th

"Women are adult female humans: members of the sex class able to bear children." this is pretty exclusionary of people born intersex or with reproductive issues, let alone trans women.

eyewitness
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Oct 30 2017 18:40
Mike Harman wrote:
Only 'eyewitness' appears to be an account created specifically to post TERF stuff on this thread unless I've missed another one.

I created this account specifically to post an eyewitness report of the events as I saw them. Obviously I have been reading Libcom forums for longer than that (more or less since it started), just as Saturday wasn't my first London anarchist bookfair (more like my 20th, first one I went to was 1983).

I have already said I am not a feminist so, duh, I'm obviously not a terF. The terf label is intended to delegitimise any facts that people don't want to hear. Anyway, I should have posted my account and left it at that instead of responding to the bullshit that came after it.

Goodbye and I hope you are all very happy together

Mike Harman
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Oct 30 2017 18:44

Freedom Press have stated on twitter that they were was phoned by the police in relation to the bookfair, that's confirmation that someone contacted them: https://twitter.com/Freedom_Paper/status/925022035616641024

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Oranj
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Oct 30 2017 18:50

Friends of HS need to be challenging her on this. We went to the post-bookfair pub meet at the Salisbury and HS was there, and by all accounts (we chose not to sit with them, frankly astonished she was even there at all) no-one was talking about what happened, like an awkward Christmas Dinner with relatives who don't get along.

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Reddebrek
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Oct 30 2017 18:52
eyewitness wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Only 'eyewitness' appears to be an account created specifically to post TERF stuff on this thread unless I've missed another one.

I created this account specifically to post an eyewitness report of the events as I saw them. Obviously I have been reading Libcom forums for longer than that (more or less since it started), just as Saturday wasn't my first London anarchist bookfair (more like my 20th, first one I went to was 1983).

I have already said I am not a feminist so, duh, I'm obviously not a terF. The terf label is intended to delegitimise any facts that people don't want to hear. Anyway, I should have posted my account and left it at that instead of responding to the bullshit that came after it.

Goodbye and I hope you are all very happy together

Wow 1983, and this is the best you can do.

You know your "eyewitness" shtick might have been more believable if you didn't keep wedding it to obvious untruths. Your comments on the TERF label are simply false, it was a neutral term adopted as a self descriptor. By definition its correct as the people its used in reference too are open about being Trans exclusionary.

The TERF is a slur line is just a transparent attempt to deflect criticism and damage control.

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Oct 30 2017 18:53
Mike Harman wrote:
I won't link to it, but HS confirmed in a public comment on facebook that she attended the Hyde Park event, and also in Oct 16th shared the same SAGES leaflet that was distributed at the bookfair with the following text:

Yea, she can be seen in the video of it on youtube.

RobberBurns88
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Oct 30 2017 19:10

Statement from the Edinburgh Section of the Anarchist Federation inviting other groups or individuals to sign.

https://edinburghanarchists.noflag.org.uk/2017/10/labf/

STATEMENT OF DISSOCIATION FROM THE LONDON ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR

In recent years the London Anarchist Bookfair (LABF) has has been plagued with incidents of racism, misogyny, transphobia, abelism and other forms of bigotry. These have often led to physical confrontation. While it is impossible to stop all problems from occurring, many incidents would have been prevented entirely and others swiftly ended if the LABF collective had chosen to act.

Many individuals, groups and organisations have attempted to engage with the LABF collective in order to help put in place structures to prevent these unacceptable failures from repeating. Despite this the LABF collective deny any responsibility for the space they create and have refused to take action to remove bigots from their event. In some cases the event organisers have actively defended bigots. To justify their behavior the LABF collective put forward liberal notions of free speech that are not compatible with anarchist organising.

Rather than being a showcase event for anarchism in the region, the LABF now actively sabotages the spread of anarchist ideas and methods through the working class. The bigotry allowed to flourish at the LABF has no place in modern working class liberatory movements. At this point having no LABF would be better than having the current event carry on as-is.

Given this situation, we the undersigned will no longer be associated with the London Anarchist Bookfair until the problems we note have been addressed. This means we will not have a stall, host any meetings, take out advertising space in the programme, or in any way promote or support the event. The problems are a result of the structures of organisation, political orientation, and informal culture at the bookfair. As such we will only consider associating with the bookfair once the LABF collective have undertaken the following actions:

The LABF collective publicly post a concise outline of their politics in regard to what behaviors they find acceptable/unacceptable at the LABF. This should make clear the types of bigotry they find unacceptable at their event.
The LABF collective outline the structure and processes that they will attempt to follow if someone acts outside of the bounds of what they find acceptable by those attending their event.
The LABF collective demonstrate that they actually mean their stated political position for the event and attempt to act in good faith with regard to the structures they have created to maintain it.

Signed,

Edinburgh Anarchist Federation

shortshanks red...
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Oct 30 2017 19:57
Fleur wrote:
"I am not a terf" said someone who thinks trans people are severely mentally ill

I'm not a TERF because I don't believe in excluding and hating on them. My interpretation that they are ill is just my understanding of the situation they find themselves in and as I have already pointed out, I understand that they have the same enemies as other women and feminists, those being alpha males and patriarchy. Oh and good luck bringing people around to your way of thinking if you are just going to label people like me 'transphobic' or 'trans-exclusionary' because a huge fucking swathe of the world's population (including young people) thinks how I think and people like you will be excluding them and putting them off libertarian communist/anarchist/anti-capitalist politics if you continue to take that approach, particularly if you are going to try and prevent freedom of expression and support people being bullied.