Furor Erupts Over Cathy Brennan and Gender Identity Watch

Last week SFGN published “‘I am not a bigot’ Says Gender Identity Watch’s Cathy Brennan,” which was in response to a previous article “Should ‘Gender Identity Watch’ Be Labeled a Hate Group?” Both articles have received widespread praise and condemnation. The first published article lays out the case against Gender Identity Watch, while the second gave Brennan a chance to respond. The “I am not a bigot” article has received thousands of views, and hundreds of comments mostly from people upset that it portrays Brennan and GIW too favorably.

Below we’ve taken some of those comments to share with you this week.

Tina W.

I just read the SFGN article by John McDonald titled, "I am not a bigot Says Gender identity Watch's Cathy Brennan" and as a trans woman, I feel that the article is extremely lacking. SFGN claims to be "a paper that pulls no punches, protects our friends, defends our allies, and defines our adversaries.” I think that you didn't even swing this time.

Once again it seems as if the T in LGBT was left dangling. The article speaks of "inappropriate and insensitive acts" from Brennan but it is never mentioned what those acts are or who they are against.

“'I am not a bigot nor a homophobe,' Brennan said."

Correct, she's not a homophobe, bur she is extremely transphobic. If the author had simply Googled Brennan he would have seen the hatred towards transgender women that she has displayed over the past few years.

Cathy Brennan abuses transwomen through harassment and online attacks. This article mentions nothing of this, only briefly mentioning the trans community. 


Analysis: Should ‘Gender Identity Watch’ Be Labeled a Hate Group?

‘I am not a bigot’ Says Gender Identity Watch’s Cathy Brennan

At least the author did speak to Transadvocate to get some insight, but even then he uses one quote and doesn't get to the heart of the issue.

Some examples of her attacks on trans woman include:

-Working WITH the Pacific Justice Institute (a known right wing, anti-gay activist organization) to keep a transgender teen girl from Colorado from being able to use the women's restroom. She even outed the teen while the teen was being bullied and was put on suicide watch.

-She threatened legal action against the magazine Jacobin for publishing an article by Samantha Allen that discussed the discrimination of transgender women by Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).

By not reporting the actual issues related to the trans community, you are actively contributing to trans-erasure. I ask of your author to please take this into consideration and revise the piece.

Thank you for your time.

Lisa Harney

Of course Cathy Brennan doesn't hate trans women. She just contacts their physicians to try to deny them medical care, contacts their workplace to get them fired, gives the name and address of a teenaged trans girl to a conservative anti-gay group that supports "reparative therapy" for LGBT people (Pacific Justice Institute), which leads to said teenaged girl being harassed to the point of being under a suicide watch. She threatens websites that post the truth about her actions with lawsuits, and posts names, old names, and addresses for transgender women online so that stalkers or others might be able to more easily track them down.

She is technically not a homophobe, because irrational hatred of and aversion to transgender women is not called "homophobia." It is specifically called transmisogyny, and Catherine Brennan is an extremely prominent and active transmisogynist who does her level best to harm trans women - specifically trans women.

This isn't a "feud." This isn't a situation where both sides have equal power and influence. Brennan uses her position to harass, out, and harm trans women, whereas the trans women she lashes out against rarely have the resources necessary to defend themselves. This is not a controversy, this is one affluent cisgender white woman using her privilege and her power to harm an entire community while insisting that somehow we magically oppress her.

Jess Tea

She hates an entire class of people, that's what being a bigot is. She harasses transgender people, their doctors, employers, and families. She's outed trans people over and again costing them their jobs. She's an evil sack of crap, simple. And if she was so conformable with who she is then why does she always have to mention it?


Cathy Brennan is not accused by random trans* activists of "inappropriate and insensitive acts." She has a documented history of engaging in online harassment and frivolous litigation against transgender people and their supporters. She has threatened journalists with frivolous litigation, including the online magazine Jacobin for merely reporting on her antics. And she teamed up with the bigoted right-wing Pacific Justice Institute to harass transgender students in public schools, regardless of her official denials to mainstream sites like ThinkProgress. Cristan Williams at Transadvocate has screenshots of Gender Identity Watch's tweets and Facebook updates where GIW speaks on behalf of PJI. This information ain't exactly hard to find, a simple Google search could have turned this up.

Miss Sudo Khaleesi

Bigotry destroys basic human emotions like compassion, empathy and remorse towards a group of people. Cathy has none of these qualities towards trans women. Even after a trans teen was put on suicide watch her site still kept updating and included the teen's full name.

Cristan Williams

Some have claimed that the article failed to adequately describe the issues. The piece is short an only briefly quotes the interview questions I answered. Missing from the SFGN piece is any historical context. For the sake of clarity, here are my complete answers to the SDGN’s interview questions:

SFGN: What is your prior experience with Cathy Brennan and Gender Identity Watch?

CW: The historical TERF movement was directly involved in stripping access to psychological and medical care from the trans community in the 1980s. The term TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) was popularized in 2008 by the non-transgender feminist community because these women felt as if their discourse was being colonized by an extremist faction. Feminist women began using this term as a way to distinguish the TERF rhetoric from larger feminist discourse.

I encountered Brennan as being an opinion leader in the modern iteration of the TERF movement. I became aware of Brennan a few years ago as the power behind an effort to have trans people stripped of UN protections. The ideology promoted by Brennan’s group is featured in TERF conferences, meetings, lectures and direct actions across the globe.

GIW calls itself a team, not a group. The GIW team promotes a world view in which trans people and protections are not only watched, but correlated with the suffering of cisgender women. Racist groups employ similar tactics by tracking improvements in racial equality while correlating gains in equality with perceived wrongs committed by groups they exist to oppress.

For instance, here are a few posts from today’s GIW social media stream:

In Brennan’s reality, this isn’t bigotry

Promoting propaganda from an ex-gay group

Note that GIW features the talking points of a known ex-gay group and proudly attacks known trans activists.

Brennan’s group asserts that the term TERF is a pejorative and rejects the idea that people are born with a subjective awareness of the body’s physical sex. Brennan’s brand of “feminism” promotes the notion that women can and probably should choose to become lesbians (the so-called political lesbian) and that people – like myself – who disagree with her are men’s rights activists (MRAs).

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