Intersectional Feminism 101: TERFs Excluded

By Maggie Kurnyta


You cannot be an intersectional feminist if you identify as trans-exclusionary or foster trans-exclusionary beliefs; it’s as simple as that. As feminists, our issues are so ingrained that focusing on a small part of a larger puzzle is practically impossible. Childcare and maternity leave are inherently feminist issues, but alongside that, they are inevitably classist, racist, and sexist. Sexual violence is so explicitly tied to identity that to completely disregard one’s identity in relation to a larger social environment is erasure at its worst. Even issues such as police brutality or profiling closely align with hegemonic views about trans individuals and people with disabilities.

Just a few weeks ago, trans women cried out in frustration with the US Department of State for refusing to issue renewed passports on the basis of gender. Danni Askini, who has identified as female on every government-issued form of identification, was denied a passport renewal and told to prove her gender transition of over 20 years. Although she had not previously had an issue with her passport renewal, she faced drastic repercussions for identifying as a female. As per State Department policy, a person must show:

  1. ID that resembles your current appearance

  2. Passport photo that resembles your current appearance

  3. A medical certification that indicates you are in the process of or have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition

  4. Proof of legal name change (if applicable)

Can I just say that as a nation, America has a severe medical-industrial crisis? Our healthcare and medical systems are founded on principles of classism, ableism, and racism, and now, they get to determine our identities as well? There’s something a little bit off there, but I’ll continue with the present issue of trans women being denied their passports. This change isn’t out of the blue, and it isn’t a harbinger of the trans-exclusionary things that are to come. While our president (Number 45) has ushered in his own set of trans-exclusionary guidelines within multiple departments (see: Education, Health & Human Services, Defense, etc.), violence against trans individuals is no less violent than history shows, but is certainly more covert.

We remained silent as these changes took effect, and I will be one of the first to acknowledge that I remained ignorant about this particular issue facing trans individuals until only a week ago. By making this a purely administrative issue, our government can negate the harmful effects it will have on trans Americans. This is another form of policing and regulating the bodies of people we deem “Other.” It isn’t simply enough to demonize and imprison trans individuals who after being left unprotected by their own government, are still violently silenced from the American narrative. On a daily basis, trans people are forced to prove their identities (whether medically or socially), face economic and legal discrimination, and live with the very real threat of murder. While some TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) may joke that these administrative concerns are harmless, this issue is just another pillar used to erase and delegitimize an entire group.

We do not have the proper tools to discuss gender and sex; therefore, people view trans issues with fear and loathing. We cannot pinpoint institutional foundations of transphobia and violence against trans people, so we deny that it occurs regularly. Our laws are covert and dangerous, and simple line erasures or changes in language can ruin years and years of advocacy and protest. We base self-worth in the hands of those we deem to be most superior. Trans individuals must have medical proof that their recorded gender matches not their lived experiences, but their physician’s records. Immigrants must have sponsors who must be legitimate United States citizens. Welfare checks are based on employer certification and regulation.

To everyone who claims that they didn’t know because this issue was not addressed in mainstream media: the days of unbiased, factual reporting are long gone. We cannot hide behind this excuse any longer, and if we want valid, accurate information about the threats facing marginalized Americans, then we must do the work ourselves. I remember reading news reports last year about the rising number of murders that occurred to trans individuals. This violence may take on new forms and stretch into various legal, political, or economic spheres, but I promise you, it is no different. And even if it is a little different, we cannot use that as our basis for apathy and disregard.


Further resources:

GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project

The Trevor Project

National Center for Transgender Equality

Sylvia Rivera Law Project