If trans women aren’t welcome, neither am I
September 25, 2013
Miss Gender: How to spot a TERF
September 30, 2013

[UPDATED] Cotton Ceiling: Uncovering the trans conspiracy to rape lesbians

The mere mention of the “cotton ceiling” should send rapey shivers up your spine. If you’ve not heard of it here’s the lowdown from feminists:

Transgender cotton ceiling rapists hold male-only (Planned Parenthood sponsored) seminars, write books, host lecture tours, and endlessly spam lesbian websites and blogs with rape and murder threats over lack of male “inclusion” in lesbian social gatherings, lesbian organizing, lesbian events, lesbian music festivals, and – most importantly- lesbian bedrooms. 1


Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances. We believe that no means no, that a woman’s right to say “no” to sex at any time is sacrosanct and that no explanations should ever be requested because none is ever necessary. The name of the workshop proposed is “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women.”

– Petition against the cotton ceiling 2


Activists want to force lesbians to consider them as sexual partners. 3

Sounds really horrific, doesn’t it? Transwomen, full of male-privilege, feel that lesbians must submit to having sex with them or else they’re transphobic. Right? I mean, multiple lesbian feminists are all saying the same thing. Even Cathy Brennan has a cotton ceiling tag. Certainly these self-identified lesbian feminists wouldn’t lie, right? Certainly these self-declared feminists wouldn’t purposely misrepresent cotton ceiling in an effort to make ciswomen fear trans people, right? RIGHT?!?

[Cotton Ceiling commenter] you are a male sexual predator, enabling your male predator brethren. Which is why you and all your Cotton Ceiling buddies creep me the fuck out… These dudes in dresses are trying to guilt-trip you into sleeping with them, and name-calling you if you don’t. There is nothing wrong with not liking penises or male bodies, and preferring female bodies. To say otherwise is lesbianphobic. 4

Horrific, isn’t it? Planned Parenthood held a workshop to teach transwomen how to make lesbians have sex with them. I want to reread the previous sentence and think about that for just a moment. Then reread the rhetoric about the cotton ceiling. With a straight face, these self-identified feminists asserted that Planned Parenthood taught transwomen how trick lesbians into sex.

Seriously. And you know what? A lot of people believed it.

Here’s the reality:


There! See it? It says right there in the description: Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling will explore having sex with lesbians who don’t want to have sex with trans people! It says it right there… oh wait… it doesn’t say that at all.

Can you guess how many attended this,  the workshop-heard-round’-the-feminist-world?  Was it…

  1. 250 workshop attendees
  2. 150 workshop attendees
  3. 75 workshop attendees
  4. 50 workshop attendees
  5. 25 workshop attendees
  6. 10 workshop attendees
  7. 7 workshop attendees

If you guessed 7, you’d be correct. Let that sink in for a moment. All of this over a workshop with 7 people.

Care to guess what they talked about?

Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?

Seven people met to talk about body image and shame and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) claimed that Planned Parenthood was organizing a meeting to teach trans people how to rape lesbians… and many, many people believed it. Were you one of the folks who believed that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape?

TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan

TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan

I want you to pause for a moment and think hard about the notion that TERFs are pushing: transwomen support corrective rape.

Here, let me break down the basic TERF rhetoric:

TERF: Teh cotton ceiling is all about teaching trans people how to rape lesbians!1!!


TERF: Yeah, Planned Parenthood gave a workshop to teach trans people how to rape lesbians! No means no!

Dupe: That sounds a little strange to me…

TERF: Don’t believe me? Google any of the many, many, many TERF blogs that freaked over the Planned Parenthood workshop! #rapeculture

Cathey Brennan

Cathy Brennan

Dupe: Well, I did hear about how transwomen want to hang out in the women’s restroom…

TERF: Yup, it’s all about rapey rape culture!

Dupe: Yeah, I guess tranwomen are kinda rapey…

TERF: I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! Spread the word!

Dupe: I’m totally blogging about this!

Think about all the fear and enmity TERFs managed to generate over the Cotton Ceiling during this past year. They took a small meeting about shame and body image and purposefully twisted it to dupe people into believing that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape tactics and MANY people believed it.

Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy... or not.

Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy… or not.

TERFs did what they almost always do. They equivocate in their arguments:

Original workshop description:  

Participants will work together to identify barriers, strategize ways to overcome them, and build community.

TERF Petition to stop the workshop:

Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances.

Cathy Brennan, TERF Opinion Leader

Workshop supporters have suggested that “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” is intended to facilitate a discussion about the social construction of sexual desire. Even if this were the case, being a lesbian is not a prejudicial social construct to be overcome by expanding lesbians’ limited political consciousness around trans women’s “gender identity.”

From there all a TERF need do is appeal the transwoman-rapist meme the radical right pushes while referencing the TERF petition and sit back and enjoy their malevolent handiwork.

TERFs making sure their 'trans people are rapists' narrative gets into women's magazines

TERFs making sure their ‘trans people are rapists’ narrative gets into women’s magazines

Back when all of this began, trans folk were really clear about what the cotton ceiling was about:

This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, "cotton ceiling"

This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, “cotton ceiling”

Or as a cisgender dyke organizer put it:

The idea of the “cotton ceiling” is intended to draw attention to how even in spaces that are politically and socially welcoming of trans women, transphobia often retains its influence on how we understand who is sexually desirable and who isn’t. It’s no different from other politicized criteria for desirability—people who are, for instance, fat or disabled are also often welcomed into queer women’s space but not seen as desirable compared to those hot slim, muscular, able-bodied sorts. This isn’t our fault—our entire culture tells us what’s sexy and what’s not, 24 hours a day, and that definition is terribly narrow. But it is really easy to forget how much influence advertising propaganda and social pressure can exert on what gets us wet and hard, and to let the mainstream’s terms dictate our desires. 5

If a small group wanted to talk about how ableism affected cultural notions of beauty and/or desirability, would feminist circles tolerate TERFs going on a yearlong campaign, claiming that those who aren’t able-bodied want to force lesbians to have sex with them?

In a culture that devalues and oppresses trans people, why is it not appropriate to discuss how these cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people and how all of this impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces? Why is it not appropriate for transwomen to ask themselves how this affects the way we see ourselves and/or how this affects the way others view us?

Why don’t TERFs want trans people to have this discussion?

How would such a conversation affect the anti-trans TERF narrative they’ve been pushing for decades?

because the fact of the matter is that unlike born-women, who have everything (literally, everything) to lose from rape culture, transwomen have at least something (everything?) to gain. to a transwoman, cutting off her dick and turning it (inside out) into a fuckhole between her legs makes her feel better. from transwomens own mouths, we know that these fake fuckholes alleviate transwomens suffering. turning their dicks into extra-large condoms for other men to penetrate (or not, whevs…thats my hat-tip to the internet “lesbian transwomen”) actually tamps down their anxiety, and feelings of dysphoria.  6

Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example 7

[Transsexual surgery] could be likened to political psychiatry in the Soviet Union. I suggest that transsexualism should best be seen in this light, as directly political, medical abuse of human rights. The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born, what Janice Raymond refers to as their “native” bodies. It represents an attack on the body to rectify a political condition, “gender” dissatisfaction in a male supremacist society based upon a false and politically constructed notion of gender difference.

Recent literature on transsexualism in the lesbian community draws connections with the practices of sadomasochism. 8

This should be a simple issue. How could our oppressors – men – possibly become us? How? Just by saying they are?  By the male medical industry and doctors making money off this game, declaring that they can turn men into women?  Would you agree with these men if they claimed to be a different race than they are, a race they are in a position to oppress?  Would you believe them if they claimed to be of a different species?  Why not?

If you do accept them as Lesbians, would you (as a Lesbian) want to be lovers with one?  Why not?  If you are hesitant to say “no” to their claims and demands, in spite of what you feel inside, why?  What is it that makes you agree to something that doesn’t feel right?  Does it remind you of other times when it was hard to deal with a man who refused to take “no” for an answer? 9

How would a serious discussion about our transmisogynistic culture, and its influence over notions of beauty impact anti-trans TERF messages?

How does shutting down this discussion benifit the TERF narrative?

Does it benifit the anti-trans TERF aims and goals to not only stop this discussion, but to colonize it in such a way that feminists would instinctively view the discussion as being an inherent part of rape culture?

“Transwomen” are not and can never be women or Lesbians – they are simply men, trying to steal our identity and culture… One way to begin to fight their oppressing Lesbians and women is to refuse to give them what they want. At the very least, PLEASE stop calling them “women” in any form, and stop using female pronouns for them… they act like typical men and intimidate and guilt trip – everything is about them. And the hell with any Lesbian who gets in their way. Some have also learned what to say to sound believably female, but if you question a bit further, they revert quickly to male bullying techniques. As for those who do have surgery, men do a lot of bizarre things for sexual gratification, such as strangling themselves to have more exciting orgasms, which has resulted in some unintentional suicides (such as that by David Carradine.)

As Janice Raymond says, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating their body for themselves.”  It’s actually reminiscent of the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” 9

I think there’s a reason TERFs have put so much effort into colonizing this discourse. I think there’s a reason that they framed their colonization of trans discourse as rape prevention and I think that reason is plain to see.

I submit to you that TERFs do not want the trans community to have this discussion and they certainly do not want the cis community to question where they picked up their views – good/bad/indifferent – of trans people. I believe that such a discussion would further isolate TERFs from the rest of the feminist world.

To be clear:

TERFs have spent a year strawmanning the conversation so that a discussion about this…

… became a discussion about preventing a trans rape conspiracy supported by Planned Parenthood.

And so, by way of summation, an excerpt from Cesaire:

… Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That is the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What’s more, it’s a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well

10/1/13 UPDATE: 

Curious to know how TERFs have reacted to this post?



Tweet 1.) A repeat of the TERF rhetoric over the past year: Trans people want to rape lesbians and Planned Parenthood is in on it.

Tweet 2.) Refer to the Dupe rhetorical narrative noted above

Tweet 3.) A threat to harass even more trans people unless trans people STFU and just take it.

I submit to you that the above snapshot of TERF pablum beautifully illustrates the vicious obtuse hubris that is TERF dogma. This rhetoric should be openly mocked, rejected and denounced by reasonable people the world over.

1. http://tinyurl.com/ms5289e

2. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/917/570/206/support-womens-sexual-autonomy/

3. http://tinyurl.com/oa3lsy9

4. http://tinyurl.com/mj3vlcc

5. http://www.transadvocate.com/if-trans-women-arent-welcome-neither-am-i.htm

6. http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/rape-culture-birthed-the-neovag/

7. Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly, pp 70 – 71

8. Sheila Jeffreys

9. http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/bev-jo-radical-lesbian-writing/

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Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of the transgender community. She started the first trans homeless shelter in the South and co-founded the first federally funded trans-only homeless program, pioneered affordable healthcare for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. Cristan is the editor at the social justice sites TransAdvocate.com and TheTERFs.com, is a long-term member and previous chair of the City of Houston HIV Prevention Planning Group.


  1. Willow says:

    The rad fems didn’t have to twist anything to make the cotton ceiling sound creepy. Everything that’s ever been written about it, including the course description is creepy af.

  2. […] débat sur le « plafond de coton » est généralement rejeté comme une « exagération des TERF »2, mais en fait, cette expression a d’abord été créée par le trans-activiste Drew DeVeaux. […]

  3. […] TERFs believe that Planned Parenthood held a workshop to teach trans women how to rape cis Lesbians. Seriously. They believe it’s true. […]

  4. […] débat sur le « plafond de coton » est généralement rejeté comme une « exagération des TERF*», mais en fait, cette expression a d’abord été créée par le trans-activiste Drew DeVeaux. Pour […]

  5. […] débat sur le « plafond de coton » est généralement rejeté comme une « exagération des TERF*», mais en fait, cette expression a d’abord été créée par le trans-activiste Drew DeVeaux. Pour […]

  6. […] Cotton Ceiling debate is commonly dismissed as “TERF rhetoric“, yet the term was originally created by trans activist Drew DeVeaux. According to queer […]

  7. Olivia wilson says:

    Funny that they never mention political lesbianism which is saying all women should be lesbian especially if they are feminists. At best political lesbianism is forcing women to not have sex at all. I find it hilarious that they never bring this up.
    The hypocrisy is strong with them.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this topic to the point of obsession: the subgroup of the women’s rights movement called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) and what seems like their strange hatred for transgender people. Maybe it’s because, the more I think about it, the more trans equality seems like the civil rights issue of our time. Maybe it’s because TERFs keep calling me a men’s rights activist.
    Maybe it has less to do with the TERFs than it does with me – but I’ll get to that.
    First, I’ve had a hell of a time trying to figure out who the TERFs are, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned.
    TERFS ARE as radical as their name implies, and their membership includes some of feminism’s leading figures. Germaine Greer, author of The Female Unich, has described trans women (those born male) as “men who mutilate themselves and are given passage as statutory female.” Janice Raymond and Cathy Brennan – who has allegedly outed trans youth – are other prominent TERFs. A notorious YouTube video that went viral before being banned from social media platforms is fairly representative of TERF rhetoric – with ominous background music it displays a series of what it says are “violent and predatory men” who have abused women while dressed in women’s clothing; one website that hosts the video offers to explain “why those who identify as transwomen and transvestites get a sexual thrill from wearing women’s clothes.”
    To be fair, transgender people and their allies have lashed out at feminists and women. The film Tangerine was criticized by both women and mainstream critics for a bizarre scene where a trans woman beats a cis woman, seemingly for laughs (full disclosure: I haven’t seen it). There’s a TERF cottage industry of websites that curate aggressive tweets and other messages from the trans community (I’m not linking to those here). It’s like Isreal and Palestine; there are both cis and trans people insisting the other side fired the first shot, each insisting the other side apologize first. (By the way, TERFs are said to hate being called TERFs – I use the term reluctantly for lack of a better alternative).
    Luckily, calmer heads seem to prevail in both camps. NOW has embraced transgender women as women, stating, “equality is equality.” Gloria Steinem has publicly embraced the trans community. And women are more supportive of trans rights than men are, according to yearsworth of polls. One group of feminists circulated an online petition calling for the Southern Poverty Law Center to monitor Brennan’s organization Gender Identity Watch as a hate group; the petition accused Brennan of outing transgender people and critics by publishing their personal information online and received 9,000 signatures before being closed.
    That doesn’t stop TERFs, though. At their most galling, they seem to be in denial about how hard it is to be trans in America. “Young biological females are the most oppressed class of human beings,” one cis woman told me on Twitter. That’s a hard claim to accept – by modest estimates 66% of trans people are sexually abused during their lives, putting them at statistically greater risk than cis women. Homicides against members of the LGBTQ community have been declining for years – except they’ve been rising to record highs for the trans community, with black transgender people at greatest risk. And transgender people are at high risk for depression, intense shame and suicide.

    ​”I was ashamed of myself, my identity, my desires, my inner person. They crucify people like me. It would have been nice to know that I wasn’t a freak and that there were others like me. But when they asked me what was my problem in school they always assumed I was just a bad kid. Little did they realize I couldn’t stand myself. And hated what I was. I felt I needed to be bad to be respected and left alone.”-Unnamed, Reported to Protect FORGE

    It goes on. TERFs often role their eyes at these statistics – as if trans people use them as a get out of jail free card – or twist them to fit their ideology. It’s frustrating – and it made me want prove the TERFs wrong.
    THE CRUELEST TERF line might be the “bathroom myth” – the claim that transgender women (TW) will go on a spree of rape and sexual assault if allowed to use women’s bathrooms. In this TERFs agree with the Republican party – strange bedfellows. The trouble is, claims that TW are already assaulting cis women in bathrooms are completely false: 18 states and 200 municipalities already allow transgender people in the restroom of their choice, without a single reported incident. Remember that YouTube video of alleged TW attacking women? The person whose face made the rounds online is Canadian and didn’t exploit any American laws.
    Some women talk about a need to maintain “safe spaces,” and I’m actually sympathetic to that idea. However, it ultimately rests on the assumption that TW are strange “others” and not people who can be embraced. TERF rhetoric on this issue is also blind to how important restroom equality is to the trans community. Imagine being a TW – your choices may come down to being mocked in the men’s room or yelled at in the women’s room. More fundamentally, exclusionary policies send a message to transgender people that society not only considers them a threat but rejects their gender identity. It’s no wonder that banning transgender people from the right bathroom has been linked to higher suicide rates among trans teenagers. Most trans adults say they’ve experienced serious problems like dehydration because they weren’t comfortable using a bathroom; a quarter have had problems at work related to bathroom access that in some cases cost them their jobs (It’s hard for me to imagine how humiliating it would be to have to argue with my boss about going to the bathroom).
    So restroom equality hasn’t hurt a single cis woman, but it’s literally killing teenagers. At the moment 44 anti-trans bills are up for debate in states across the country, making 2016 the most politically hostle year for trans peiple in history.
    One particularly regressive set of bills just introduced in Kansas makes it clear that transgender students are a threat:

    Allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers that are reserved for students of a different sex will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.

    The bills, like others across the country, state that being male or female is determined at birth, based on chromosomes – effectively excluding trans people. The bills also impose a “bounty” on transgender students caught in the wrong restroom by allowing cis students to sue the institution operating the bathroom for up to $2,500.
    THINK FOR A MOMENT about some of the rhetoric we’ve seen so far – bills assuming mere exposure to a transgender person will cause psychological harm; the description of trans women as “violent and predatory men.”
    Imagine if politicians and members of the public were saturating social media, the news and daily conversation with this rhetoric – and they were talking about black people. Now imagine there was a wave of black people being murdered and beaten across the country. Well that actually happened, and it played a role in the creation of America’s hate crime laws, as well as its cultural prohibitions against bigoted language.
    Now imagine the exact same thing is happening to some Americans now. Despite the small size of the trans community its members are victims of 17% of hate crimes befalling LGBTQ people; even worse, 50% of LGBTQ people killed in hate crimes are transgender. The majority of LGBTQ hate crime victims are trans people of color.
    Think again about the ugliness of some of the TERF rhetoric and consider this: a recent landmark study by Project FORGE found an “anomaly” in which 29% of transgender sexual assault survivors were attacked by women, a shockingly high rate considering women are thought to be responsible for only about one percent of sexual assaults in the general community.
    A few notes on this: The FORGE data says that women were involved in 29% of assaults, not that 29% of assailants were women – a key difference, as women were sometimes reported to be part of group attacks. And some recent studies put the sexual assault rate for women much higher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to verify FORGE’s number as very few studies specifically break down assault rates by assailant gender (if there’s any reliable data on transgender people assaulting women, by the way, I haven’t seen it – please send it my way).
    Still, if a significant number of women are attacking transgender people, shouldn’t that give TERFs pause before calling them “rapists”? Since a significant number of people are attacking transgender people, shouldn’t that give all of us pause?
    IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME I’m almost ready to draw some conclusions and put away a bit of my anger towards TERFs. I just want to quickly cover a few more dynamics in the TERF/ transgender dynamic. They’re subtle and draw heavily on both feminist theory and female experience, so it might seem obnoxious for a cis guy to write about them. I can only say I’m interested, because this stuff helps me understand what’s happening to the trans community as well as – corny as this might sound – the human experience.
    Issue: Who Took My Body? Who Took My Everything?
    Just read and see if you can make sense of this TERF logic:

    However, when it comes to transgender males, men who wish to call themselves women – or more to the point want us to call them women – the story is very different. If we say no to the appropriation of our name, our bodies, our struggle, it is we women who are shamed. We’re being re-named: TERF, cis, transphobe. We’re being re-named by men who wish to try on the costume ‘woman’; they think it doesn’t fit us any more, us no-sayers are not the pliable girls of their dreams, and we must share.

    “The appropriation of our name, our bodies, our struggle” – transgender people are body snatchers, apparently.
    I can’t help but think of the debate over gay marriage – all those conservatives who shouted that if gay people could marry it would undermine their traditional families. There’s no logic to it – it’s the prioritization of abstract values over living, breathing humans. Is there any clear way to imagine transgender people making this woman less free?
    Issue: They’re Taking Our Power
    Hillary Clinton, to the surprise of many, has failed to capture the support of young women – and in that regard she might have something in common with TERFs.
    Like Clinton, the leading TERFs tend to be older women who have been influential for years, if not decades. So the following observation about young voters, made by a Democratic pollster, might hold significance for feminists as well: Millenial women are “the most tolerant cohort we’ve ever had in our country, by far… Their change agenda is really around things like gay or transgender candidates.” Young women, it’s being suggested, are less interested in the traditional goals of feminism and more interested in equality for transgender people – could this be upsetting TERFs?
    I also wonder whether transgender people are seen as a threat by some powerful feminist leaders. After all, if women become men they’re no longer women; to TERFs they’re longer part of the feminist movement. Perhaps TERF intolerance is partially due to a desire among older figures – Germaine Greene, Janice Raymond – to retain influence.
    Issue: They’re Taking Our Women
    Google “cotton ceiling” and you’ll get page after page of TERFs sharing their finest, angriest screeds. What is this horrible concept? The cotton ceiling is a term coined to describe “the experiences queer trans women have with simultaneous social inclusion and sexual exclusion within the broader queer women’s communities.”
    In other words, some female transgender people (born with male equipment but female by gender) feel that lesbians (who they would theoretically date or hook up with) talk a good game socially but aren’t actually interested in romance. Fair enough, right?
    But TERFs are terrified of the cotton ceiling.
    “We must say yes to men,” one TERF writes of the demands she feels transgender people place on her [note: TERFs misgender transgender people and refer to transgender women as men]. “Lesbians say yes to men in your beds.” Their reaction is so extreme that when Planned Parenthood – that woman-hating organization – held a workshop on the cotton ceiling, a petition went out saying female transgender participants “will discuss and strategize ways to ‘overcome’ women’s objections to these participants sexual advances.” (What did participants really discuss?: “Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?”)
    Now I feel uncomfortable going here, but many TERFs are lesbians. Is it possible they’re worried trans women are stealing eligible partners? It would help explain Greer’s strangely specific language about trans women’s anatomies (specifically that they don’t know what it’s like to be real women because they don’t have “big, hairy, smelly vaginas”: factually incorrect).
    More than enough said on that.

    Issue: They’re taking our children
    Maybe TERFs worry transgender people will steal their people in a very different way.
    Is it me, or is gender identity just not what it used to be? We’ve always assumed that the feeling of being born in the wrong body is more or less innate, but more and more I think gender identity is fluid. And now there’s a data to back me up: a March survey found that over a third of 13-20 year olds believe gender doesn’t identify people as much as it used to, with a majority saying they know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun and most buying clothing designed for the opposite cis gender (they were also strongly in favor of restroom equality). It might be hard to imagine now, but maybe we’re heading towards a moment where we realize we’re all a bit trans.
    Are the TERFs worried about losing women to this trend – or are they worried they might be transgender themselves?
    Wait, am I worried about that too?

    WHY AM I SO eager to criticize TERFs? They don’t make it hard – but if I justify being cruel to them I’m no different than they are when they justify being cruel to transgender people (“They started it”).
    More interestingly, why have I focused my attention on female, and not male, transgender people? Do I feel akin to them? Even related?
    Maybe all of us – TERFs, transgender people and myself included – are struggling in this new world of transgender visibility. There are lots of things I can’t become – African American, for example – but it’s within the realm of possibility for me to become transgender, to become a woman. And that means I need to take a hard look at what it really means for me to be a man – something that can only be defined in relation to women, trans and cis. The TERFs must redefine themselves too, and they hate it. Transgender people are painfully aware that they must do this; it’s their struggle to survive.
    Maybe it’s a luxury I have as a cis man, but I don’t hate it. An incredible sense of connectivity can come from defining yourself in relation to others. We are all part of each others’ world.
    In a sense, then, this essay is an olive branch to the TERFs – because I’d be as lost without people like them as they’d be without people like me. The Other is all we have to define ourselves by, and we have the ability to embrace that.
    But please, ladies, try to be nice.
    I’m 80% sure I got half of this wrong. Correct me in the comments section and I’ll include your feedback in a future post.
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  9. […] In other words, when TERFs spent a year widely promoting the idea that Planned Parenthood was teaching trans women how to rape lesbians, the uptake of this falsehood felt like empowerment to TERFs. […]

  10. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  11. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  12. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  13. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  14. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  15. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  16. […] community finds the going extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been called the “cotton ceiling.” Even those who do manage to hook up with a cis lesbian will find that the latter will often […]

  17. […] takes down the TERF conspiracy that trans women run groups that train other trans women on how to rape cisgender lesbians. She […]

  18. Ahhh. TERF’s. Really, how many of us would want to sleep with someone who does not like or respect us? I wouldn’t. The last person I’d ever want to be around, let alone share a bed with, would be anyone with a remotely TERFish ideology, although they’d like to fantasize otherwise for some twisted reason.

    Please, can we stop using “transwoman”? I’m a trans woman. I’m a woman who is trans. It really nags at me to read an article with that compound word in it over and over again.

  19. […] Wait, what? What is this? The TERF brigade have somehow managed to spin the theory of the Cotton Ceiling into “lets teach trans people how to force/trick cispeople into having sex with them“. Let’s look at the workshop – information found here. […]

  20. […] to not only trans people but to rape survivors in general. The use of the word stems from a conspiracy theory that radfem promote that all transwomen want to rape (cisgendered) women. Completely forgetting the […]

  21. […] 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). […]

  22. […] it forces cisgendered lesbians to have sex with people they don’t want to”. If we look at an analysis of the conference promoting the Cotton Ceiling – it mentions nothing of rape. It mentions nothing […]

  23. […] “I make it very clear that if people treat me with respect, I will treat them with respect,” Brennan said on an article, recently published on Bustle. Let me give some back story on who Brennan is. Cathy Brennan, also known as Bug Brennan, is a lawyer, and also a radical feminist of the TERF (Trans* Exclusionary Radical Feminist) variety. Brennan does not believe trans* people exist. In fact, she believes that the very existence of trans* people, specifically trans* women, rapes cis women. Yes, that is correct. Brennan believes that the existence of trans women is raping cis women and cis women’s bodies. […]

  24. Vickie Davis says:

    Cathy Brennan was on the Roseanne Barr Radio Show today, spouting her anti-trans bile. I think she tried to be a bit subtle about it, but Roseanne seemed to know what Cathy’s agenda was and asked some great questions. You can see the show notes and a listen to the show at the links below.

    Roseanne Barr Radio Show http://bit.ly/1dB6IoE
    The podcast of the show is dated Oct 27, 2013 http://bit.ly/HaQswK (The show starts at about 7:10.)

  25. […] Williams ultimate turn of misdirection as good as straw arguments entitled “Cotton Ceiling: Uncovering the trans swindling to rape lesbians” to usually hurl one’s eyes, as good as contend “Well, he is an […]

  26. Dana Taylor says:

    TERFs should be mocked without mercy for this. Really? 7 women met and this is your “cotton ceiling” conspiracy? LOL! ROFL! LULZ. No really fucking laughing at your so hard right now.

    • Cristan says:

      Truly. Part of me looks back at their rhetoric campaign and I’m horrified. The malice with which they both colonized and then exported the strawman argument into feminist discourse is horrific.

      They used that Fox Newsy rhetoric trick where if you keep strawmanning something long and loud enough, eventually the target of your strawman campaign will respond. When that happens, the discourse shifts from the actual issue and onto the fallacious TERF assertion so that the fallacious assertion colonizes the discourse.

      It’s insidious and repugnant. The intellectual turpitude with which they’ve conducted themselves if horrific. That they – TERF opinion leaders, not just random trolls – would pass of their transmisogyny as rape prevention is a betrayal of the foundation of feminism. It’s appalling.

      I think that at this point, anyone making the “cotton ceiling = rape” argument should be immediately regarded as a ridiculous clown masquerading as a feminist.

      • Dana Taylor says:

        The TERF version of “cotton ceiling” looks nothing like the original. 7 trans women met in a workshop to talk about their sexuality. Unfortunately, transphobia is ingrained in society. The reason some cis lesbians do not consider trans women as viable intimate partners does rest on a bit of transphobia. I don’t consider this version of transphobia as the hateful version we are used to seeing. Why can’t consenting adults discuss this issue? Nobody wants to force anything on cis lesbians. It is absurd that the original meaning of cotton ceiling turned into some “wild trans women running around jumping on top of cis-lesbian conspiracy theory crap”. TERFs just saw this as a new weapon they can use and i totally agree what you said in your comment.

        Consensual intimacy between two adults is nobody else’s business. The fact that TERFs are always thinking about us sexually kind of creeps me out, actually. Who I love or who loves me is none of their fucking business.

        birthism, truthism, terfism…all conspiracy theories

      • I hear Cathy Brennan is available for children’s parties. And it never ceases to amaze the kiddies how many keep coming out of a VW micro bus.

      • Cristan says:


        See? SEE?!? You just admitted it! You want to rape lesbians! Unless lesbians agree to have sex with you they’re transphobic!!11111


        In an ableist society, people are going to pick up some biases towards what is and is not beautiful. To unquestioningly accept that you’re not affected by ableism when the thought of being with non able-bodied people is repulsive to you is to choose to remain blind and support ableism.

        In an racist society, people are going to pick up some biases towards what is and is not beautiful. To unquestioningly accept that you’re not affected by racism when the thought of being with non-WASP people is repulsive to you is to choose to remain blind and support racism.

        In an fatphobic society, people are going to pick up some biases towards what is and is not beautiful. To unquestioningly accept that you’re not affected by fatphobia when the thought of being with fat people is repulsive to you is to choose to remain blind and support fatphobia.

        Here’s an example of racism, fatphobia and slutshaming in action:

        The discussions that are happening around this asshat’s attitude (that these attitudes are harmful) *IS* the cotton ceiling. In a culture that shares his biased attitudes, how do those views affect the way society views these people and how does that affect how these people view themselves?

        Makes sense, right?

        Here, let me stuff the conversation that’s going on around this asshat into a TERF translator:

        ‘Non-WASPs want to rape lesbians!’
        ‘Fat people want to rape lesbians!’
        ‘HuffPo interviewed him so HuffPo supports raping lesbians!!!!’

        It says a lot that these assertions would be immediately dismissed if they were made about practically any other group of oppressed people. However, say it about trans people and everyone’s gonna line up to drink the TERF kool aid!

    • Cristan says:

      There’s no reblog button because this isn’t hosted on wordpress or blogger. You can, however, go to your blog, and make a post about this one linking back to this article.


  27. Dana Taylor says:

    The 7 most powerful women on this planet.

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