AP Style Guide thinks TERF is too vague.
TERF as a descriptive term
AP Style issued a recommendation on the term TERF. The term is an an acronym for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” The term appeared on the social media radar in 2008, with a limited definition. Over time, however, folks applied TERF to more than just a specific subset of anti-trans people.
Now, transgender activists and supporters use TERF to describe anti-trans people in general. It’s a logical progression, since it’s short and recognizable. Many people apply TERF to Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, for her incredible bigoted views on transgender people.
AP are correct
Thing is, the AP recommendation is correct. Most people described as TERFs don’t fit the term. For openers, they’re not feminists of any stripe, much less “radical feminists.” For example, the Times-Picayune editor who published an incredibly anti-trans letter to the editor in the 14-June-2023 edition of the paper isn’t a TERF. They’re a bigot, certainly, but that’s as specific as one can get. Until the paper comes out and identifies the individual, that is. So, a writer striving for accuracy should re-consider the use of the term in such an instance. From an @APStylebook tweet:
On our updated Transgender Topical Guide: trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
We recommend avoiding the vague and politicized term to describe cisgender women or others who object to the inclusion of transgender women in women’s spaces.
The term is both vague and politicized. If a writer wants to include the acronym, a better approach might be to quote someone who uses the term. Still, that’s not perfect, either.
Some of my preferred alternatives to TERF:
- Member of the Louisiana Republican Party
- Member of Moms for Liberty
- bigoted shitgibbon
There is also a great deal of overlap between anti-transgender and others on the conservative side of the political horseshoe. Groups advocating the banning of books from public libraries often include titles that address transgender people on their lists. Rather than use a vague term, it’s easy to nail down who and what these people really are.