Trans-eliminationist Pseudofeminists Organizing ‘Direct Action’ Event in Portland
Women’s Declaration International USA (WDI-USA), a trans-eliminationist pseudofeminist organization, is holding a “direct action” event in Portland at 12:00 PM on Sunday, November 19th, in the meeting room at the Hollywood branch of the Multnomah County Library. WDI-USA’s primary focuses as an organization are influencing and promoting anti-trans legislation and producing transphobic propaganda. The members of WDI-USA collaborate with far-right groups, promote antisemitic authors, and, as part of their umbrella organization Women’s Declaration International (which has branches in 50 countries), they pose a global threat to the rights and freedom of trans people.
By holding this event in Portland, WDI-USA intends to create a public space for their trans-eliminationist members to recruit, network, and gain support for their overall goals: the removal of protections, rights, and freedoms for trans people in Oregon and beyond. Though promotional materials for the event state that it is being held by WDI-USA, we learned via a tip from a concerned community member that their event space at the Hollywood Library was reserved under the name of the “Women’s Liberation Front” (WoLF), another anti-trans group. Current WDI-USA president Kara Dansky served on WoLF’s board from 2016 until 2020.
Thanks to the work of multiple anonymous community members who infiltrated the WDI-USA event planning process, RCA has obtained a list of attendees and organizers, which includes both WoLF and WDI-USA members — most notably Lierre Keith, WoLF founding member and board chair, and well-documented transmisogynist bigot.
In leaked planning materials for the upcoming Portland event, WDI-USA and WoLF organizers openly admit that the event’s stated focus, “protecting women and children,” was chosen deliberately to mask their anti-trans agenda. In order to maintain this illusion of respectable, sympathetic feminist activism, lead WDI-USA organizers have repeatedly told prospective attendees that they should avoid even using words such as “trans” at the Portland event. The WDI-USA and WoLF coordinators envision this event as an opportunity to publicly play the role of peaceful, defenseless women’s rights activists violently attacked by “trantifa” (the derogatory word they use to refer to their counterprotesters). Knowing that their presence will attract counterprotesters, they hope that keeping the content of their speeches absent of the most overt transphobia will, in the words of event coordinator Irene Lawrence, “make the crazies look even crazier.”
Both these groups already have extensive and easily reviewable histories of transphobia. Now, footage of a private Zoom planning meeting held by the event’s organizers – obtained by anonymous community members and shared with RCA for this article – provides ample new evidence of these womens’ cynical, profoundly bigoted intentions in Portland.
Who is WDI-USA?
WDI-USA is an anti-trans political lobbying group operating behind a façade of “radical feminism.” Their goal is to influence laws and policies in order to oppress trans people and ultimately eliminate their existence altogether. To date, WDI-USA has submitted legislative testimony in favor of state bills attempting to restrict the rights of trans people at least 146 times in 43 total states.
WDI-USA claims to be a leftist, progressive group, but their ideology and activities are closely tied to, and influenced by, numerous far-right movements. While their website and promotional materials often focus on what seem to be conventionally feminist talking points, WDI’s track record clearly shows that the bulk of their organizational effort goes towards advancing an anti-trans agenda, under the guise of “protecting women,” and what they refer to as “sex-based rights” (a transphobic dogwhistle phrase).
One of the most concerning aspects of WDI-USA and WoLF’s organizing processes is their deliberate and consistent collaboration and crossover with the far-right. WDI-USA president Kara Dansky, who has appeared on white nationalist Tucker Carlson’s former Fox News talk show “something like 10 times”, claims that this strategy is both harmless and necessary to advance their cause, because (as she admits) so few non-conservatives are willing to work with them. During the time Dansky served on their board, WoLF accepted funding from the ADF—a conservative Christian legal advocacy group that is virulently homophobic and misogynist. The ADF was instrumental in overturning Roe v Wade, and has successfully litigated numerous other Supreme Court cases that have had devastating material consequences for women and the LGBTQ+ community — all in direct opposition to WoLF’s supposed values. Both WDI-USA and WoLF have filed amicus briefs in multiple ADF court cases.
WoLF also worked with the Family Policy Alliance and the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank with wide-spread, extremely harmful legislative influence) to produce the Gender Resource Guide, an anti-trans handbook for parents of trans youth. In 2019, the Heritage Foundation hosted a panel of trans-eliminationist pseudofeminists and ’liberals’ in opposition to the Equality Act’s inclusion of gender identity as a protected class. Among the panelists were Kara Dansky and Jennifer Chavez, both WoLF board members at the time.
Additionally, Dansky has behind-the-scenes connections to legislative efforts to restrict trans healthcare and control the bodies of trans people (particularly trans children). Leaked emails from an anti-trans legislative campaign in South Dakota revealed Dansky’s connections to anti-trans and anti-gay groups: in these emails, she is introduced to the campaign by reporter Brandon Showalter, who has published sympathetic articles on ’ex-gay’ ministries and oppressive anti-abortion laws in Idaho. In the emails, Showalter refers to Dansky as “my friend”, and she is subsequently CC’d in several dozen further emails (recipients of which include the ADF legal department), in which anti-trans activists construct their narrative promoting South Dakota HB 1057 — a bill written to criminalize the provision of gender affirming medical care to minors under the age of sixteen. While Dansky does not substantively reply in the leaked email threads – except once, when asking to be removed from a long email chain discussing circumcision – other participants discuss having her testify in support of the bill. Subsequently, Dansky twice testified in favor of this bill, which nevertheless thankfully failed to pass.
During the planning process for WDI-USA’s upcoming event in Portland, Dansky has been in direct communication with far-right propagandist and disgraced milkshake-wearer Andy Ngo. The WDI Twitter account also shared Ngo’s inflammatory tweets about the event – focused on demonizing community efforts to counter it – with their own followers. Andy Ngo was exposed as having been present for the planning of an attack on a leftist bar in 2019 during which a woman was brutally assaulted by neo-Nazi Ian Kramer.
Conspiracism and Antisemitism
Dansky is close with, and frequently cites the work of, antisemitic and anti-trans writer Jennifer Bilek. Bilek, who was previously associated with Deep Green Resistance (the environmental activism group founded by Lierre Keith) believes that a secretive group of billionaires are responsible for the existence of trans people, often singling out Jewish billionaires George Soros, Martine Rothblatt, and Jennifer Pritzker. Bilek has promoted the work of David Icke, creator of the “Reptilian” conspiracy theory, notorious Holocaust denialist, and a proponent of the profoundly influential antisemitic work “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Bilek has also praised and shared the work of neo-Nazis like Keith Woods, responsible for theories such as “Transhuman Judaism” – Woods himself has appeared alongside alt-right fascist Richard Spencer on Spencer’s own podcast.
Trans-eliminationist pseudofeminist ideology is largely based on the absurd, conspiratorial theory that trans women are violent sexual fetishists attempting to infiltrate feminism and violently “colonize womanhood”, as Kara Dansky puts it. Dansky frequently states that she believes “transgender does not exist” (to quote her directly), and that trans people are engaged in a sinister collective lie about their identities. Like Jennifer Bilek, Dansky adheres to a conspiracy theory in which the trans rights movement is an invention, manufactured by a “gender identity industry” of corporate billionaires to generate profit and — again, in Dansky’s own words — “obliterate life as we know it”. Hers are clearly the views of someone very far down a conspiracy “rabbit hole,” and thus not worth attempting to refute here point by point; we include these details only to illustrate the ridiculous foundation upon which her ideology and organization have been built. What has been described as the terf-to-fascist pipeline is a consequence of the slippery slope of conspiratorial right-wing radicalization and bigotry; once a person swallows an elaborate lie scapegoating one marginalized demographic (in this case, trans women), conspiracies about other groups appear more palatable.
Other Bigotry, Violence at Associated Rallies
WDI-USA has promoted the work of anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (who also goes by Posie Parker), who serves as special advisor on WoLF’s board. Parker is a self described non-feminist and anti-trans activist who has appeared with white nationalists on various web series, held rallies well-attended by far-right reactionaries, opposed abortion rights, and once baselessly suggested that actor David Tennant (known for his lead role in the BBC TV show Doctor Who) is a pedophile after he wore a pin in support of his nonbinary child. The last incident is a textbook example of the fake “grooming” allegations that the far-right frequently weaponizes against LGBT+ people and allies.
At an anti-trans rally in Tacoma organized by Keen-Minshull, frequent WDI-USA collaborator Lierre Keith was present as rally-goers maced several people and called the police on high school students exercising their rights to counter-protest the event. Contrary to their supposed dedication to protecting women and girls, WDI-USA did not denounce this incident — in fact, they later published a message of support in which they imply that the actions of the trans eliminationists in attendance were a form of non-violent resistance.
What does this have to do with antifascism?
Trans-eliminationist pseudofeminism is a reactionary ideology that (much like other reactionary ideologies such as white supremacy and antisemitism) is rooted in bigotry, biological essentialism, and conspiratorial thinking. TERF, or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, is the acronym most commonly used today to refer to this ideology — but “exclusionary” is far too mild a word for their vicious bigotry towards trans people (and trans women in particular), and “radical feminist” affords them more credit than they deserve, as their beliefs center around their hatred of a specific demographic of women. We therefore utilize the word “eliminationist” instead, because their ideology’s ultimate goal is to eliminate transgender people altogether and to prevent future generations from identifying as trans or pursuing physical transition; in other words, they advocate for the genocide of trans people. The “pseudo-” prefix in “pseudofeminist” indicates that, while they may invoke feminism as justification, their true raison d’être is not to advance women’s rights, but rather to legislate and socially pressure trans people out of existence.
A common refrain from trans-eliminationist pseudofeminists is that they have no quarrel with individual trans people, but rather with “trans ideology”. This, however, is a blatant misrepresentation of their beliefs. What they consider “trans ideology” — the basic concept that gender is malleable and self-determined — cannot be eliminated without mass forced detransition, and the violent enforcement of sex and gender “normalcy” on people’s bodies. Indeed, WDI-USA’s “activism” consists largely of petitioning various government entities and supporting legal action to outlaw gender-affirming medical care and related research, all in the hopes of severely curtailing trans people’s bodily autonomy, and legally prohibiting them from making highly personal decisions about their own bodies. This is particularly ironic considering WDI’s professed dedication to preserving the bodily autonomy of cis women, specifically in the form of abortion access (which they incorrectly frame as being applicable only to cis women, despite the fact that many trans and nonbinary people are capable of pregnancy).
While trans-eliminationist pseudofeminists correctly believe that cis women deserve bodily autonomy, they contradict that goal by spending most of their energy fighting to ensure that trans people are denied that same essential right. The anti-trans activism of groups like WDI-USA helps empower and expand the same state mechanisms that governments use to curtail the freedom of all individuals to make personal decisions regarding their bodies. In fact, these same trans-eliminationist individuals and organizations will actively work to undermine laws that seek to preserve abortion access if the text of said law might also provide some benefit to trans people, as with Michigan Proposal 22-3, a citizen-initiated amendment to the state constitution to guarantee reproductive freedom and abortion access. The language of the proposal did not mention trans people, even implicitly, but did include “sterilization” as one of the reproductive rights that state citizens would be entitled to. That single word was sufficient for WDI to release a statement urging people to vote against the proposal, on the grounds that it could be loosely interpreted to include gender-affirming medical care for minors. Fortunately, their statement (echoing those of numerous right-wing Christian organizations) proved ineffective, and the amendment was passed into law.
Dangers of Inaction
The consequences of doing nothing while anti-trans groups organize are dire. Over the past two years, hundreds of anti-trans bills have been filed and dozens passed into law across the United States. Many trans people, their rights and freedoms newly abrogated, have resorted to fleeing across state lines to escape oppressive local laws, leaving behind their communities and homes. WDI and WoLF have played key roles in fomenting this oppression, testifying in support of bills, and helping create model legislation for bigots and reactionaries to use against trans people. Defending trans bodily autonomy and advancing trans liberation means confronting those who seek to eliminate trans people. Anti-trans politics like those of WDI-USA are not merely differences of opinion; they are eliminationist, and trans people and allies must defend themselves against this threat.
One of the points of unity of the antifascist Torch Network is that we support abortion rights and reproductive freedom; another is that we oppose all forms of oppression and exploitation, including transphobia. Defending the freedom of trans people from anti-trans bigotry and violence is a natural extension of the antifascist struggle for freedom and bodily autonomy. As an antifascist organization, we categorically condemn trans-eliminationist feminism as not only a harmful form of bigotry but also a gateway to other right-wing extremist beliefs, and call for it to be opposed wherever it may appear.
Strategic Considerations for November 19th
Direct, public opposition to WDI-USA and WoLF is absolutely necessary; however, anyone planning to take action against these groups should note that the goal of WDI-USA’s event is to generate propaganda, news narratives, and video footage that provoke sympathy and attention for their movement. While WDI-USA poses a similar political threat to the safety of marginalized people – in this case trans people – as other far-right groups (Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, etc.) that have demonstrated in Portland, the individual members of WDI-USA are unlikely to pose a direct physical threat to others during this event.
This event presents a vital opportunity for local antifascists to use a variety of tactics that go beyond just physical confrontation in black bloc, and that are focused on counteracting WDI-USA’s main goals: radicalizing uninformed / sympathetic members of the public, and generating propaganda footage to share online. Countering this event effectively can also look like: helping publicly name and shame these bigoted women; educating communities about the (often disguised) hate they spread and the harm it does to trans people; coordinating public demonstrations of trans existence, resistance, love, and solidarity; or working together in other ways to ensure that these kinds of events are as financially (and practically) costly as possible for both the organizers and the attendees.
For further reading about WDI, we recommend this in-depth piece by Lee Leveille.
If you have further information on WDI, WDI-USA, WoLF, or any of the anti-trans organizers mentioned in this article, please contact us at [email protected].
A reminder: There is no wrong time to stop participating in right wing organizing. Followers of this hate movement can and should leave it behind. We urge them to do so.