TERF is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Sometimes, "exclusionary" is expanded as "eliminationist" or "exterminationist" instead to more accurately convey the degree to which TERFs advocate for harm towards trans people, specifically trans people who were coercively assigned male at birth.
Some TERFs call themselves "gender-critical feminists", a term which is synonymous with "TERF".
Their position (which is not shared by this wiki) denies that trans people's self-affirmed genders and sexes are equally valid as cis people's self-affirmed genders and sexes. It has a decades-long history of allying with anti-feminist causes in denying trans people access to health care, and other human rights.
Unsurprisingly, many TERFs complain that "TERF" should be regarded as a slur.
History of the term
According to Tracey at The TERFs (an anti-TERF site) and Cristan Williams at The Transadvocate, the term TERF was first used in writing by Viv Smythe/tigtog of Hoyden About Town in August 2008. tigtog said in the interview with Cristan Williams that she believes that she and Lauredhel coined it some time prior as a chat shorthand.
Active trans eliminationism in mainstream feminism
For example, Janice Raymond, a TERF, was singlehandedly responsible for decades of denial of health care directed at impoverished trans people in the United States. Raymond (a women's studies professor at U/Mass Amherst) wrote a position paper in 1980 -- "Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery" (content warning: transmisogyny) -- that strongly influenced the US federal government's decision to exclude medically necessary care for trans people from Medicaid coverage for the next three decades.
More recently, Cathy "Bug" Brennan -- an American attorney whose day job is as a partner at a law firm that primarily focuses on defending predatory lenders -- has used the Internet to coordinate a campaign to doxx and harass any trans woman who expresses feminist opinions online. She has also harassed a few trans men (including outing a minor as trans to his school administrators). Brennan, despite identifying as a lesbian, has also collaborated with right-wing fundamentalist, homophobic organizations in order to prevent trans high school students from being treated fairly. Brennan's coordinated harassment campaigns against trans people share qualities with misogynists' use of 4chan and Reddit for coordinating harassment campaigns against both cis and trans women. Even though she is a hatemonger herself, the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other organizations, has lent Brennan mainstream credibility by quoting her as a putative expert on hate groups.
- "It's Time to End the Long History of Transgender Exclusion from Feminism", Tina Vasquez writing for Bitch magazine