Recently a petition was posted online on Change.org asking for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group. For those who are unfamiliar, the SPLC lists active hate groups across the United States as well as tracks hate movements. Gender Identity Watch is a website owned and run by Cathy Brennan, and other notorious TERFs. This site, along with several others, posts trans women along side rapists and murders. Writer note: I do not link to GIW and so on because they IP log in order to harass and stalk.
The SPLC responded to the petition, signed by over 7,000 people, saying they were unable to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group because it fails to match their definition of a group. While a shaky response, it is the response that was suspected, considering that the owner of the group, Cathy Brennan, has been used as a source for the SPLC before. This response falls a part under critical evaluation for several reasons, one including the fact that Gender Identity Watch is a part of a much larger group of websites (such as Pretendbians) that actively attack trans* people, especially trans women. Also, the website is also just a poster child for an even bigger problem within the community, something that creates these websites and vicious trans*phobia, transmisogyny, and cissexism, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).
The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is listed as an organization of hate by the website, a group that is a small family with a rather small following, much smaller than the collective of TERFs and with less public figureheads (TERFs have Roseanne Barr). Of course, the influence of the church has spread, much like the influence of people like Brennan. While the WBC pickets and protests, TERFs have caused irreparable harm to the trans* community, such as affecting access to medical care, writing letters to the UN about including trans* people in protections, and pushing agendas that trans women are rapists (such as the Cotton Ceiling).
Looking even further into the issue, there is a major issue with the SPLC’s answer. In fact, a glaring issue. Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) and the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) is listed as a hate movement on the site. They list websites such as A Voice For Men, Reddit: Men’s Rights, and so on as misogynistic sites. They have several pages of articles and information on the MRM and MRAs. However, if a similar search is done for TERFs, nothing comes up. Not a single resource or document.
The SPLC issued this message to Secular Woman, the group that started the petition:
Thanks for talking with me today. Let me reiterate that the SPLC is committed to working against discrimination and violence against the transgender community. We have in the past written about this issue several times. Here are some recent examples of our work:
Looking through these articles, there is of course no mention of the vitriol spit in the face of trans* people by TERFs. There is no mention of Julie Bindel, Cathy Brennan, Roseanne Barr, Victoria Brownworth, Dirt or any of the numerous players in this anti-trans* crusade. The SPLC has documents on the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and their history of homophobia, yet nothing on the fact the PJI has teamed up with these people, including Gender Identity Watch and Cathy Brennan, to harass a young trans girl. Absolutely nothing. The website holds profiles for known high-ranking bigots, such as Fred Phelps, and other leaders of hate movements. Why is there nothing for Cathy Brennan? Why is there nothing for Janice Raymond? Or Julie Bindel? There is absolutely nothing for TERFs, trans*phobes, or transmisogynists.
We’d very much appreciate any information you or your allies could provide of the major players, websites, etc., in the anti-trans world. We would like to take a look at this for a possible investigative story for our magazine, Intelligence Report. I’m especially interested in links between the groups. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Secular Woman was told by the SPLC, despite this not being the first time the TERFs have been brought to the attention of the SPLC. In fact, Cristan Williams from TransAdvocate, has been trying to get the SPLC to recognize TERFs as the hate group they are for a long time now, pointing out their use of Brennan as a source for violence against women when Brennan herself perpetuates it.
One excuse could be that TERFs are new in the feminist movement, a new issue that has recently come about. This would be false. TERFs have been around for as long as the SPLC has. TERF ideology goes older than Janice Raymond and her book The Transsexual Empire. TERFs are almost an ingrained part of the feminist movement, popping up at every twist and turn. TERFs are older than the MRM and MRAs that the SPLC has written extensively about. So what is the deal?
It seems that the SPLC is more interested in protecting those who perpetuate hate and harm in the name of feminism, than calling out the problems and protecting trans* people. They are setting up a double standard and a expressing something that seems to be attached to many groups everywhere, do not call out your own in the defense of trans* people. We are a bartering tool to show how progressive a place is, but when it comes down to the wire, ranks close, shutting trans* people out. The SPLC would rather claim ignorance to a problem that has been around for years, than actively fight against trans*phobia, transmisogyny, and cissexism in the ranks of their own. They’d rather pair up with people like Brennan at the expense of trans* people, especially trans women, then pair up with trans* people against people like Brennan.