Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny, cissexism, rape, assault, violence, harassment
I write this piece from a position of privilege and thus, my beliefs and opinions on this are also tainted by this privilege. As a white trans man who has no worry about being outed for being trans*, I am able to write and discuss something that has little effect on my personal life (in terms of my identity, rights, and body). Thus, I respect and understand beliefs, reactions, and thoughts that are different than mine. Not everyone is afforded the same luxury I have with this.
I see many people talk about how ignoring Cathy Brennan is the best course of action. How is we stop feeding into her trans*phobia, cissexism, and especially her transmisogyny, that she will just go away. I have a major problem with this approach. Cathy Brennan is more than just a very vocal TERF, Cathy Brennan is a very active person in the queer community. She actively works against trans* people, especially trans women, and their supporters. She slanders their names and posts them to websites along with murderers and rapists. She accuses their existence of raping cis women and that they are actively homophobic against lesbians. She contacts their places of employment, sometimes outing them as trans* which puts their livelihoods (both physical and monetary) in danger. More recently, Brennan and her crew have pushed a young trans* teen to be put on suicide watch.
On this point, I want to elaborate more into something I touched on in my most recent piece on Brennan’s interview on Roseanne Barr and Kathleen Wells’ show; the silencing of trans women’s voices in their own discourses on trans women and their identities, lives, and issues. This is something I’ve touched on in other pieces, such as “Cathy Brennan and TERFs Hate Women” and “Silence Kills”. Brennan’s most recent interview on Barr’s and Wells’ show elaborates a perfect example of how silencing works.
The show took one caller, who asked Brennan to further define how she sees the term radical. This was the only call that was taken. Not from a trans woman to refute Brennan’s points or a trans* ally. No, they chose someone who wanted a small semantic clarification. It is very possible no one called to support trans women. It is very possible no trans woman called (which I know is incorrect). However, there lies a very big problem with trans women calling.
Brennan has a history of what is called doxxing. This is when someone takes a person’s personal information and puts it online. This is generally not easily obtained information and can include personal phone numbers, home addresses, work addresses and numbers, e-mail accounts, and so on. It is any personal information that a person intended to keep personal. As mentioned before, Brennan places these on websites that place these people alongside convicted murderers and rapists. She (or others) may contact a person’s place of employment with slander in an attempt to get them fired. I touch on several examples of Brennan’s history with this in this article (click here).
Any caller, whose even first name may be used, will most likely be researched by Brennan. This means a caller may end up having their personal information end up on a website that Brennan runs. Brennan also IP logs her websites and looks into the IPs of those who look into her sites. For someone who advocates for stronger stalking and harassment laws for online, she certainly engages in a lot of it. Due to this threat, many trans* people and their allies to do not engage with Brennan. This threat is very real and can lead to very real and damaging consequences for those involved.
Brennan is also a lawyer. She uses this power with threats of lawsuits. Her history in lobbying for laws to be passed as well as working with such places as the Southern Poverty Law Center, shows her influence is far reaching, vast, and can work change. She is not harmless and simply ignoring her will not make her go away nor will it affect her relentless attacks against trans women.
This is silencing in action. Silencing is violent in a way. Silencing is damaging. Silencing is not some innocent tactic that does not harbor serious consequences. Silencing is also an active process. Take the Bustle articles mentioned in the previously linked article I wrote. These articles are actively silencing trans women through the use of trans women. The author of the articles wrote them with the intent of making those opposed to Brennan look bad. She found and talked to trans women who support Brennan and her tactics and beliefs. Those who disagreed with Brennan were not included, and were limited to the original scope of the article (in this case, Sophia Banks). Banks was given little to no support when it came to being defended in the article like Brennan was.
This plays into the Brennan interview on the show. The caller was hand selected to be the one caller. They picked something simple and easy; how do you define radical? As stated before, the called was not confronting Brennan on any of her points. Even when Barr occasionally did so, she made sure to back it up with supportive statements such as “I don’t agree with everything but…”, “I agree with some things, but not all”, and other such statements. She always let Brennan know that while they have their differences, she supports and accepts her beliefs. Barr blatantly accepts Brennan’s transmisogyny, since I am hard-pressed to call it anything else due to things discussed in my review of the show. These are views that should not be supported and are not boiled down to simple disagreements in definitions like Barr likes to continually assert. The show was tailored to portray Brennan in a positive light, as an alternative to accepting people for who they are and allowing them to exist in peace.
This is silencing in action. This is taking the power of discussion away from the very people being discussed, trans women. This power is taken away via fear, threats, and harassment of these people so that they may not talk about their own lives and how they are affected every day by cissexist and trans*phobic laws. Simply ignoring Brennan only perpetuates and allows the silence to continue and to even grow. Those who cannot remain silent must speak out and continue to speak out. Brennan will not go away, as she has proven herself dedicated to her cause which is the exclusion and eradication of trans people, specifically trans women.