Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's Time To Squash The Bug

(Because a lot of outside material I've used for this post will be triggering in terms of trans phobia, hate speech, and violent threats, I've linked them instead of putting in screenshots. Please don't click through if you feel these links might be harmful to you)

I'm going to get into some pretty heavy feminist politics today, so while I know some of you are tempted to flick past this entry, I'd ask that you stay and hear me out, at least for a little while. This is super important stuff, and the whole point of this post is to try and spread information about some of the heinous shit going on out there in the name of feminism to people who might not be aware.

A lot of my readers will already know a lot of what I'll be writing out here, so consider this a primer that you can link to people who ask what the hell you're on about when you talk about TERF's. But if you're one of those people who tries to stay out of politics, to stay out of "Capital F" Feminism, I'd ask that just this once, you listen for a minute. I promise there will be more pretty pictures later - but today I want to get serious.

The world of Feminism is vast and complex - you'd think it would be a fairly straightforward school of thought, but there are a myriad array of different viewpoints. Some feminists think sex is great, some think sex is inherently degrading. Some feminists think being a housewife is a betrayal of all women who want to work outside the home, some feminists think insisting women work outside the home is the betrayal. It's a big wide world, and there is are about as many points of view out there as there are feminists. Most of them I don't really have any problem with - there are some I disagree violently with, but I wouldn't actually work to reduce their ability to speak. My kink is not your kink and so on and so forth. There are a lot of prominent feminists out there in the media that I find...problematic. Caitlin Moran, for example, has some really helpful things to say about feminism sometimes - but other times she has said some extremely unhelpful things. There are very, very few parts of this complex, seething mass of thought that I'm comfortable rejecting entirely and wholeheartedly - and then there's Cathy Brennan.

Cathy Brennan is the kind of feminist that's been dubbed "TERF" - Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Radical Feminism is based on the idea that gender in it's entirety is an oppressive construct, and teaches that the only way to achieve a truly free society is to eradicate gender entirely. No women, no men, just people. It's an interesting idea - not one I find particularly practical or realistic, but interesting nonetheless. The Trans Exclusionary branch of Radical Feminism though, has twisted this distaste for gender in general into a hatred of trans people in particular. And when I say hatred, I really mean that TERF's really do genuinely hate trans people, and wish specific and violent harm on them. I have a real problem with this little branch of feminism - it's so hateful, and so vicious I don't even know where to start arguing back against it. Happily, a lot of TERF's seem content to sit around exchanging vitriol with other like minded people in their own little corner of the internet.

However, some feel the need to pursue and harass trans people and their supporters online. And the worst of these more proactive harassers is Cathy Brennan. If I was to list off all the times I've seen her harassing, threatening, and bullying trans people and trans friendly cis people online, this post would be a million miles long. I chose this particular title for this post because she's often referred to online as The Bug, or Bug Brennan - while she's been booted off Twitter three times for harassing behavior, she almost always comes back as a username with Bug somewhere in there.

But she's not just confining her harassment of people to the online realm, trying as hard as she can to make the internet uncomfortable for people she dislikes. She takes her complaints to the offline world too. She's contacted the doctor of a trans person, in order to "inform" them of how mentally ill she deems their patient. Just a couple of days ago, journalist for UK paper The New Statesmen Laurie Penny was approached by Brennan for an interview, and after a pretty incoherent exchange Brennan forwarded the entire email chain to Penny's editor complete with a threat of a lawsuit. (Oddly enough the whole exchange is posted here, because the site runner seems to think it casts Brennan in a good light. Maybe I'm just reading it wrong?) She also has a dedicated blog for "calling out" pretty much anyone who argues with her online, as well as posting pictures she's found online of trans people with rather unpleasant commentary.

But it's not just adults Brennan targets with her harassment. On at least one occasion previously, Brennan has sent her "informative" emails to school boards in order to attack underage trans people. You might have heard Brennan's name around more than usual in the last week or so, or perhaps even for the first time. This is because she's been involved in a campaign against one teenager in Colorado, that spiraled out to draw in major news outlets like Fox Nation, Daily Mail, and The Examiner.

The whole situation started when "concerned parents" informed conservative political pressure group Pacific Justice Institute that there was a trans student allegedly "harassing" other students in the school bathrooms. At first, the claims were that this student had actively sexually harassed other girls. However Cristin Williams of The Transadvocate did some digging, and it very quickly came to light that this was a complete fabrication.  The school board had looked into the situation, on the insistence of the PJI, and found no evidence of harassment by this girl whatsoever. All the major news outlets that had picked up the story recanted; except Fox Nation, but it's not like this is the first time they've refused to back off a patently untrue story. You would think this would be the end of it.

But oh no. The Pacific Justice Institute has rallied, and while they're apparently unable to provide any evidence that the alleged harassment ever took place, they're now insisting that simply having a trans girl in the locker room with cis girls is inherently harrassing. In an attempt to keep the campaign rolling once the bigger media voices bowed out due to their claims being, well, not true, Cathy Brennan has retaliated by posting the teenager in question's name online, effectively outing them to the whole wide world whether they wanted it or not. If you're wondering why this is such a big deal, take a quick glance through some of the comments collected on the Fox News site in reaction to the original (fabricated) story. I'm sure you can imagine what sort of abuse is being directed at this poor girl now these hateful people know where to send it.

All this, because a teenage girl was going about her life in a way that bothered the PJI, Cathy Brennan, and their TERF supporters. For the record, I haven't been able to find any public statements by anyone from this girl's school stating that they have any problem with her at all. It's a situation entirely projected on one girl, just trying to live her fucking life. And now Cathy Brennan has given all the hate and vitriol she's helped to whip up a clear direction, by revealing this student's name publicly. Brennan argues that people have a right to know - I would argue that this is a CHILD we're talking about here. Brennan stood up and publicly identified a CHILD that she claims has been engaging in criminal conduct. The thing is, as an alleged lawyer, Brennan should be well aware that even if the charges she has been helping to lay WERE true (which they're not), this is still not only awful, but illegal. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission "Both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice 1985 (the Beijing Rules) refer specifically to a young person’s right to privacy at all stages of juvenile justice proceeding. So even IF Brennan and the PJI had any sort of proof that this girl was sexually harassing students, let alone enough to start a criminal proceeding, it would STILL be unacceptable to release her name. But with no proof, no legal proceedings, no leg to stand on, Brennan has decided to make this girl as much of a target as possible, because she's using what Brennan deems to be the "wrong" bathroom.

This behavior is totally unacceptable. Cathy Brennan's targeting of not only trans people, but trans TEENAGERS is fucking appalling. It's just...it's fucking wrong. I'm sick of seeing it, and I'm sick of Brennan, and I'm sick to DEATH of people saying she's "just a troll", and "pay no attention" and "just ignore it." It's patently, painfully, not working. This isn't a matter of differing opinions, or conflicting interpretations of nebulous terms. Cathy Brennan is targeting trans people, plain and simple, and that's flat out wrong.

Brennan herself says, "It works to push back on folks because then the abuse will stop". She says this as a justification for her behavior, but I don't see any reason those of us who think she's intolerable shouldn't take her advice. A lawsuit bringing charges of harassment would be ideal - just as she keeps threatening anyone and everyone with herself. I don't have the resources to pull that sort of thing together. But there is something I CAN do - I can tell other people what I know, and I can spread the word.

Let's stop trying to ignore her. Let's stop telling her victims to just let it go. Let's ALL have a look at Cathy Brennan. That's what she wants, isn't it? Let's all take a good, long, close look at how she behaves, and the deplorable actions she takes, and let's tell everyone. EVERYONE. Tell your friends, your parents, your co-workers if you can. Tell anyone who will listen what kind of person she is, so if anyone in any position of authority ever gets one of her "Emails of Justice" they will know to treat it with the disdain it deserves. Her power lies in her supposed authority - just look at how often she likes to tell everyone she's a lawyer, as if this is some badge of decency. If everyone knows all the ridiculous, awful, harassing things she's done, we can take that away from her.

So please, share this post around. Copy and paste it if you don't want to link back here, I don't care. Write up your own summary. Repost all the other marvelous writeups on this particular clusterfuck - here is one, and here, and here are more. What I've rounded up here is just the smallest summary of the things Brennan has been involved with other the years, so go read more. Google her, and watch the pages and pages of instances of harassment and threats are right there. Link those around too - let people know. Tell everyone. Let's drag all this shit out in the light, and let her action speak for her. She's had more than enough chances to try and become an even slightly decent human being, and enough is enough.

I know this post isn't perfect, and I know it doesn't cover everything, and maybe it's "too angry" to encourage anyone who doesn't already know about her to listen. I don't know. But it's what I've got, and that will have to do.

A final note on comments: I'm not expecting a lot of comments on this post, because Brennan is well known for tracking down and harassing anyone she sees as a threat. I do allow anonymous commenting, so feel free to use that, but be aware there is a chance Brennan's supporters might attempt to track down your IP anyway. If you want to email me your thoughts rather than post them publicly, my inbox is always open: thereluctantfemme@gmail.com 


  1. Excellent post Cassie! My own thoughts are that TERFS hate trans people because they hate men. Trans women are especially threatening to them because, in the absence of the easily identifiable sex characteristics they were born with, TERFS cannot readily tell who to hate and exclude. This is similar to any bigoted movement, such as White supremacists who are most threatened by white people they see as "traitors" who love other races or as "spies" in the "white" camp.

    1. I can follow this logic - I don't share it, but I can follow the line of thought. Where I get really stuck though is TERF's who also claim to be gender abolitionists - either gender doesn't matter, or it does, you know?

  2. Thank you for posting this. That Cathy Brennan woman sickens me. I will share your blog and hopefully Ms. Brennan can get a taste of the public shaming she seems to so enjoy inflicting on others.

  3. Cathy Brennan is offensive and a bad person.

  4. what a nasty bitch, so she takes pride in trying to get confused teenagers to kill themselves? She should hold her head in a bucket of water for an hour or so....

    1. Let's try and keep anything that could be construed as a violent threat off such a public forum - Brennan is rather litigious about such things.

    2. She's really, truly horrible, but let's not use gendered slurs like "bitch" - hate that word! Using slurs just makes things worse.

    3. Calling the child in question "confused" devalues her identity. She knows who she is or at leas the direction in which she intends to go. She's taken the steps that started her transition.
      "Confused" was used by the people who want to see her stripped of her equality, and see her marked as a deviation among her peers.
      She is not confused. She is a child growing into a young adult. It's that simple.

  5. Brennan is a terrible human being, and her hatred of trans* people is so great that she's now making common cause with avowedly anti-gay, misogyinistic groups. It's appalling. But the rest of us are misogynist homophobes for saying so, and if you don't believe me, just hang in there, she'll accuse you soon enough.

    1. The last time we interacted she just kept repeating "porn sick" at me. I think she's blocked me now, which is a shame because I figure time spent arguing with me is time she can't spend ruining lives.

  6. Thought you might be interested in the following where she's caught lying:


  7. Here's another excellent piece analyzing Brennan's arguments: http://quinnae.com/2013/10/21/enough/.

  8. Someone else who has been targeted by her. Seems to have been a coordinated effort. Brennan and Janice Raymond contact her employer on the same day.


    1. I find it really interesting that this post has been up for a day, and I already have all these verifiable instances of Brennan harrassing detractors, but apparently Bustle couldn't find any....http://www.bustle.com/articles/7351-trans-women-speak-to-bustle-about-cathy-brennan-and-trans-exclusionary-feminism

  9. Hate speech of any type should never be tolerated. The fact that this form is being sold as some twisted version of "gender equality" is reprehensible. Stop persecuting and hating others for the shape of their bodies. And stop saying "feminism always equals gender equality". This notion is how people like her sell their hate speech as "empowement" (which is what the KKK did, as well),

  10. tl;dr - A successful response really requires some organized legal support.
    [standard disclaimer: I'm not, in fact, ANY kind of lawyer myself. None of my comments are intended to be legal advice, substitute for talking to a lawyer, or anything but general observation. If you mistake random internet comments for being legal advice, you have a far bigger problem than your need for legal advice.]

    One thing I wonder is what is the most effective tactic/counter here? I've noticed her using her status as a lawyer to qualify her as an expert in a wide variety of law topics.

    [pause to check]

    So, unless there's a really similar person with the same name, a quick peek at LinkedIn shows that her practice - and expertise - is um.. yeah, working on behalf of people investing in mortgages, car financing and other debt... including payday lenders. And has worked at the same firm since 2004. (If you don't get why I threw the date on there: unless I'm misunderstanding the jargon, in addition to the other things mentioned there's a good chance she's spent most of a decade lawyering for the folks who crashed the economy with ideas like CDOs.)

    It's not necessarily evil, but can we all be clear on the part where - at least looking at her public CV - there's no reason to think that she's got any expertise in civil rights cases, nor criminal cases. Since she doesn't appear to be a prosecutor, she can sue you in a civil case or make a police report; she can't throw you in jail any more than I can though. (Although hopefully we can all agree that doing illegal stuff in pursuit of this just gives her more ammo?) There's also no reason to think she's got any particular expertise with law outside the US (or even law outside the states she practices in).

    Sure, she's got a general background in the process (and knowing how to file what, where to file it and when to file it is a non-trivial thing and a good reason to hire a lawyer for anything remotely serious). But, much like not every doctor is a surgeon (or an anesthesiologist, or a gynecologist, etc), not every lawyer is an expert in [random area of the law being discussed]. In fact, most who have been practicing for a while know a whole lot about what they do but simply don't have time to keep up with every possible area of law.

    I don't have the energy to try to work out number of lawsuit/legal threats vs number of actual lawsuits brought vs number of wins she's racked up (talking specifically about this personal anti-trans stuff, not her regular day job).

    Just spitballing it I'd guess that she relies on fear and the fact that most people can't afford to defend a lawsuit (particularly one that's likely to be brought it the most inconvenient location possible - not because she's a jerk but because she'd be a lousy lawyer if she didn't do that), and REALLY can't afford to lose one. This fear DOES silence people. (It's also reportedly how the WBC makes a lot of its' money... lot of the members are lawyers.)

    Therefore, I'd suggest that one of the best resources we could create would be a network of lawyers who are willing to help with these cases (and people willing to help with costs - which aren't trivial even when the lawyer is willing to donate some time; remember that you DON'T have the right to a lawyer in civil cases).

    Additionally, since allies don't take the same risks when it comes to being 'outed', this is a spot where taking risks wisely is important. In fact: a good first step would be to get a good layman's guide and explanation of the risks, as well as a general information piece about what does and does not count as libel/slander/defamation.

    One of the best things everyone can do immediately is avoid responding in haste - you don't want to actually provide a case she can win out of ignorance.

  11. Brennan is a horrible person for what she has done. She likes to claim that every trans person she has featured (doxxed) on her hate sites did something wrong, but it seems like "doing something wrong" is often no more than having the audacity to disagree with her (which she labels as harassment).

    If you follow her for any time at all, it becomes obvious that she feels she speaks for all lesbians... in fact, all women. When other women disagree with her, she claims they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

    Because of her bullying, Brennan had created deep divides within the radical feminist movement. She has even been known to bully other TERFs... just ask Gallus Mag, FactCheckMe, and other TERF bloggers whom she has threatened with legal action in an effort to silence them. She can't seem to get along with anyone for very long!

    This is a person who has no shame. Others have tried mirroring her tactics by contacting the law firm she works for, but they don't care. Her job is secure, and that emboldens her all the more.

    The whole doxxing thing. There is a reason why Brennan and her kind resort to it, and that foes farther than simply humiliating a person. Potential employers regularly utilize Google, as well as social media sites, in performing background checks on prospective employees. Thanks to doxxing, a Google search of a person's name often turns up these TERF sites very near the top of the list, outing that person as trans, as well as furnishing embarrassing (and inaccurate) information about them. Brennan knows this, and that is why she has several blogs in which she bashes and doxxes trans people (and often her sites cite each other as "evidence"... circular logic at its finest). Even if Brennan loses all credibility, as long as her sites remain, they will continue to do damage to people's lives.

  12. I am a bit shocked, being quite uneducated to the ways and world of feminism. I guess i just thought the word would only be used for describing an enlightened, positive and progressive effort. My heart always hurts when people are harassed for being them selves, and when its a youth especially so. So for Ms.Brennan I say, people like you are what's wrong with the world! I hope someday you become comfortable with what ever you are repressing in your self by lashing out at others. To the author, thank you for the information and insight!

  13. Thanks for posting this. The Bug has harassed several of my friends.

  14. Thank You dearly for this wonderfully thought out and rallying write up on the
    number one most evil person in our time. Please everyone visiting this page we
    all need to come together as a group and file a class action law suit against
    this vile person. Just as you stated Cassie if I tried to list all the
    dispicable evil things this person has done to me it would be many miles long.
    How many more people must suffer or die before we do something at the very least
    because of good moral obligation. She has destroyed me finacialy so I won't lie
    like her, do yes I desperately long got finacial retribution to and seeing how
    she always proclaims to be a millionaire.

    Also I have around 100 physical pages and a hard drive all packaged up with many
    gigs of data from a vicious War witch took place 15 months ago on Tumblr. Plus
    an IC3 file all of which may be enough on its own. Course I personaly wish to
    see her behind Prison Bars where she belongs and there is exelent evidence for
    that to involving her local police department partners in crime for
    investigating her victims through law enforcement for personal vigilantism.

    Yeah tell me that's not a felony.


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I live for comments, good or bad.

Anonymous commenting IS allowed on this blog, but in order to reduce the amount of spam, comments on posts more than 14 days old will be moderated.