I was in a Facebook group for women which became very popular for the support women were able to give each other. I became aware of the debate about trans women and was curious to understand more, not knowing many trans people personally.
I enquired on the forum whether there were any trans women who were willing to discuss the issue with me as I had some questions and wanted to learn.
One trans woman replied she would be happy to discuss with me, so we began a chat. I asked a couple of questions, she answered, I replied with respect and empathy. Then she asked me what I thought about gender. I tried to explain my feelings about gender, that interacting with a man was different for me than interacting with a woman and that this affected how I was able to relate to her. Given that she speaks at schools to educate on the issues around transness, I thought she would have heard many challenging questions already, and be prepared to come to the conversation with nuance and understanding. I was also expecting some level of curiosity from her about my experiences as a natal girl and woman given she was claiming the same identity.
Instead she returned to the forum complaining of transphobia, claiming I had denied her existence (etc etc), and instigated a pile-on where I was abused and name-called by hundreds of other members. Fortunately this wasn't directed at me by name as she didn't state the identity of the person who had allegedly done this to her, but it was clear to some of my friends and family who had seen my original post. In fact, my sister tried to defend me and she was subjected to the same abuse. I didn't even *see* this thread as I was warned by my sister about it, but I had seen enough of similar threads to know what it would have been like. My sister was very upset by it.
Now, even though I wasn't identified and I didn't see the abuse, I was frightened away from the group and even the forum. Just knowing that it happened, and knowing that it happens to so many people who try to engage with empathy and nuance, scares me. I don't deal well with confrontation, especially when there's an element of shame implied (which is a strong part of the 'TERF' label). It terrifies me.
Since then, friends of mine have posted about trans issues, some coming from the TWAW perspective, some from the gender critical view, and I'm scared to voice what I really think. It made me upset and angry that a trans woman had in effect bullied me out of a space that was meant for women to support each other, and it feels to me like we are being bullied out of all the spaces.
I don't have a problem with trans women being in women's spaces per se, but showing *no interest* in how this may affect women and telling women who have concerns to shut up or be set on fire/lose your job etc, feels like just another extension of the patriarchy. Men have a different effect on women than women do, whether people are conscious of it or not. Men have a different effect on other men than women do. Much of it is subconscious. I feel safe and comfortable around women but I am on my guard around men. A trans woman expressing body positivity by keeping her beard, for example, will have the effect of a man on me. A trans woman with an Adam's apple will have the effect of a man on me. These things may be mitigated by other aspects of her presentation, but demanding to be accepted as a woman regardless of appearance means demanding women *emotionally respond to* male-bodied people as if they were female. It's access to my inner space that is being demanded.