TERFism as an Obsessive Sadistic Fetish: Part VI of the ‘Sexing the Body is Gender’ Series
August 16, 2014
#TERFweek: In stealth with the TERFs at MichFest
August 17, 2014

That time TERFs beat RadFems for protecting a trans woman from their assault

By Cristan Williams


Robin Tyler is an iconic Radical Feminist lesbian who talked with me about the ways she confronted TERF violence and oppression against trans women. We discussed Tyler’s involvement with the 1973 West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference. For some context on why this particular conference was so important, Susan Stryker sums it up well:

[Beth] Elliott also served on the organizing committee of the West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference, planned for April of 1973 in Los Angeles, and she had been asked to perform as a singer in the conference’s entertainment program.

The Gutter Dykes leafleted the conference to protest the presence there of a “man” (Elliott), and keynote speaker Robin Morgan, recently arrived from the East Coast, hastily expanded her address to incorporate elements of the brewing controversy. All of her incorporations seem to have come from separatist material, and none from Elliott and her supporters. Morgan’s speech, titled “Lesbianism and Feminism: Synonyms or Contradictions?” was subsequently published in her memoir Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist, and it was also widely anthologized. More than twelve hundred Women at the conference—which turned out to be the largest lesbian gathering to date—listened to the speech firsthand. For many attendees, the controversy over Beth Elliott’s participation in the West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference was their first encounter with the “transgender question,” and what transpired there would inform opinions nationwide. –  Trans History by Susan Stryker, pages 103 – 104

Robin Tyler and Patty Harrison were partners in a Radical Feminist comedy duo known as Harrison & Tyler. They were scheduled to perform at the Conference, but TERFs became violent and attempted to physically assault Beth Elliott, an out trans woman, who was also scheduled to perform.

Cristan Williams: You were at the 1973 West Cost Lesbian Feminist Conference where TERFs had threatened to disrupt the conference?

Robin Tyler: Yes, Harrison & Tyler were performers and we defended Beth Eliot. Robin Morgan came up with this horrible speech and when Beth went on stage to play her guitar and sing, [TERFs] started threatening her. Patty [Harrison] and I jumped on stage and we got hit, because they came onto the stage to physically beat her.

Williams: Oh my god!

“I charge [Beth Elliott] as an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer—with the mentality of a rapist. And you women at this Conference know who he is. Now. You can let him into your workshops—or you can deal with him.” – Excerpt from Robin Morgan’s speech, prior to the TERF violence

Tyler: We stepped up and defended Beth. When Robin Morgan came out against Beth, I said to her, look, you’re bisexual and you’re up here determining who should belong to this movement and who shouldn’t? Both Patty and I thought it was just terrible. It wasn’t like we totally understood transgender people at the time, because we didn’t, but how are you beat someone? It was just disgusting.

Around the time that TERFs were sending death threats to the radical-feminist lesbian-separatist music collective, Olivia Records for being trans-inclusive, Olivia produced Tyler’s groundbreaking comedy album, Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom.

Tyler: I produced my first album Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom and Olivia distributed it. So, I know Judy [Dlugacz]. I knew the people from Olivia Records and I couldn’t believe it when there was a problem with Sandy Stone! Can you believe it? All of that over Sandy! You know what’s interesting? Rather than fighting who’s oppressing us, TERFs go after the most oppressed people instead of building a coalition. It was all just shocking to me! I think maybe what helped me was that I knew trans guys who were on testosterone back when I was in New York. Maybe when you get to know people personally, it’s hard to hate them, or fear them.

So, [Camp Trans] at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was good. It was a great chance to get to know trans people personally. Having a space to meet trans women, to talk to them and to do workshops and educate people. That was good!

In her commentary, Susan Stryker notes that the group of TERFs who were primarily targeting Beth Elliot called themselves the “Gutter Dykes.” TERF pioneer, lecturer, writer and opinion leader, Bev Von Dohre (AKA, “BevJo”) was an active member of the Gutter Dykes at the 1973 Conference and was directly involved with the effort to target Elliot.  Von Dohre is somewhat infamous for stating:

[Trans people’s] arrogance and oppressiveness is amazing. It is funny though that they are so used to Feminists immediately bowing before them that they don’t know how to deal with that we don’t care what happens to them. They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead. – Bev Von Dohre, 2010

Von Dohre contributed to a Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival booklet that proclaims itself to be a “Radical Feminist Greetings & Messages for MichFest 2014.” In the booklet she writes:

Radical Feminists NEVER agree to the female-hating trans cult con that men could be women or Lesbians. (We also do not accept “‘trans-paraplegic” able-bodied men who demand to be accepted as paraplegic Lesbians.) This includes not supporting these men appropriating our identity by calling them “transfolk” or “transwomen” or any other terms that give credence to the idea that they are somehow more special than other misogynist female impersonators. Radical Feminists never call men “women” of any kind or “she” or “her,” or call women “men.”

Radical Feminists do not lie, threaten, bully, manipulate, play games, name-call, ridicule, taunt, insult, abuse, or use oppression against other women (such as using classist or racist terms aimed to humiliate women oppressed by classism or racism.) -Bev Von Dohre, Radical Feminist Greetings, pages 12 – 13

In the next portion of my interview with Robin Tyler, she discusses her first hand experience with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and talks about the TERF violence that lead her to start her own, trans-inclusive Women’s Music Festival.

Next in this series: A TERF’s fist gave rise to trans-inclusive women’s music festivals

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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.
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  • Renate Richter

    Better this time, thank you for leaving lesbians alone 😉

    Also Tyler does not get an unstained name of ‘radical feminist’ or even ‘feminist’ back, only ‘a compassionate individual’, ‘courageous woman’ and ‘apostate’.

  • Kitty

    You mispelled wish on the article but still… frightening stuff…

  • ERRATA: *trans medical care [denied] undoubtedly led many a trans female…

  • Pingback: A TERF’s fist gave rise to trans-inclusive women’s music festivals | The TransAdvocate()


    So the TERF movement, like other historically militant movements, was borne with a closed fist, symbolizing of course militant resistance for an otherwise perhaps just cause. Blacks, browns, other ethnic groups and females have been historically oppressed and it is this “nothing left to lose” conclusion that drives the oppressed toward militancy and always has—a clenched fist obviously represents a fist poised to strike.

    A clenched fist and angry boisterous words by someone at street level sufficiently demonstrate an intent to physically offend, often requiring defensive measures. As a young military policeman assigned to a SAC base in the Air Force, our beret—symbolizing combat-training by US Army specs—included a crest with a clenched fist symbolizing power and might during the Cold War. As SAC combat policemen, we were trained to the highest AF standards precisely because we were tasked (and equipped) to protect the highest level resources.


    Where TERFs clearly went wrong is, rather than target those who truly represent female oppression, they began a 4-decades campaign targeting trans women. Understandably fears of male infiltration by covert agents into their midst were not entirely without merit. All militant groups, for very good reason and public safety, have been infiltrated for the purpose of gathering intelligence. The problem however, with tossing out the vacuum cleaner bag without searching through it is that the diamond ring lost in the carpet would be disposed as well. Those of us that are neither agents nor female oppressors speak up for self and other trans females who have been systematically excluded from our lifelong gender truth based on this superbly fallible “guilty by male association”.

    The acronym should never have been TERF but MERF—male exclusionary. The problem with the TERF banishment of trans females is that it never banished agents from their midst. No agent would reveal such a history to draw attention, ever. Their fears of male shadows resulted in efforts that were not and are not for naught 😉 . However noble-intended the early radical feminist movement might have been insofar as mitigating very real female oppression, very early on it too a turn for the worst and adopted the gender cannibalism (ironically an “ism”) by violent expulsion of females (trans), as we now know. Eight years later in 1981, this expulsion would culminate in an even more violent event: medical exclusion for impoverished trans women who were too poor to afford private medical care.


    Medical care denied is human life denied, and trans medical care undoubtedly led many a trans female to an early and wholly preventable demise—such a denial led many females (trans) to seek $ for private medical care by exposing themselves to male violence at street level. TERF history is replete with ironies, one more of which is that had Raymond and TERF company not advocated for and succeeded in denying such care, there would have been less male violence, not more.

    CA PC Section 187 requires that for the act of murder to have occurred it must meet at least these 3 elements:

    (1)…resulted in death…

    (2)…began with malice (aforethought)

    (3)…lacks a lawful excuse or justification

    Has the TERF movement, as a consequence resulted in the deaths of trans females and males denied medical care? History speaks for itself.

    Has the TERF movement, with malice aforethought, targeted trans females, and “wished us death”? History speaks for itself.

    Has the TERF movement ever, ever had lawful excuse or justification for such deaths that culminated from such malice that still targets (Jeffries) trans females today? Doctors and judges beg to differ.

    Are those of us who undergo our civil and medical right to transition part of an “ism” ideology or are we individual persons? Does TERF 4 star general Jeffries truly believe that we don’t know that “ism” is cloak-speak for “ideology”? …like capital(ism) or commun(ism)?

    Is Jeffries, like Raymond before, so obsessed with the male anatomy that she sacrifices time and effort to create a volume of propaganda? …propaganda written in “professor-speak” to falsely ascribe to it an air of expert legitimacy, yet armed with words soaked in arsenic?

    Will academia and the government once more fall for this Jeffries alphanumeric bag of toxic tricks, like they did for the now-proven-to be-toxic Raymond weapon of trans destruction?

    What drives these mad-cow TERFs to obsessing about the very one thing—male appendage—the very one thing that they claim to hate so much that words fail to quantify such hate? While they harp on dicks, who are the real dicks here? Once again, history speaks for them.