SPLC Response to Petition

Secular Woman recently presented a petition asking the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group.  

“I think that what the petition does is show that several thousand people regard the behavior of Brennan’s groups to be consistent with the behavior of a ‘hate group.’ Also, I think that the petition offered a safe space – perhaps for the first time – for Brennan’s victims to publicly share their many stories,” said Cristan Williams, editor of Transadvocate.

Despite the evidence presented to them by trans activists and the outpouring of support for the petition (over 7,000 signers), it is unlikely that the SPLC will officially list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group.

Given the criteria that the organization uses to define a “group,” the SPLC communicated that they were unable to justify that Gender Identity Watch constitutes a “group.”  Although Gender Identity Watch refers to themselves as a “team” and various individuals are reported to be involved in their actions, the bulk of the activities appear to be performed by one person and the connections between various involved individuals are not formalized as a demonstrable membership.

The SPLC gave the following statement to Secular Woman:

Thanks for talking with me today. Let me reiterate that the SPLC is committed to working against discrimination and violence against the transgender community. We have in the past written about this issue several times. Here are some recent examples of our work:

Obviously, this is disappointing.  However, we are hopeful that the petition and the ongoing communications that the transgender community and allies have made with the SPLC may further impress upon them the depth of the need for support against anti-trans hate. We are confident that they will honor their commitment and play an important role in delegitimizing the dehumanizing rhetoric, fear-mongering and hurtful actions, advanced by Gender Identity Watch and other anti-trans hate groups.

They have asked for our help:

We'd very much appreciate any information you or your allies could provide of the major players, websites, etc., in the anti-trans world. We would like to take a look at this for a possible investigative story for our magazine, Intelligence Report. I'm especially interested in links between the groups. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Information can be provided to the SPLC through their website:


Secular Woman, as a feminist organization, will continue to stand against transmisogyny.  As intersectionalists, will be continue to stand against cissexism.  We will continue to seek various avenues to advance the goal of gender equality and attempt to minimize the toxic impact of trans exclusionary radical feminism.

Feminist Petition Fighting Anti-Trans Harassment Reaches 5,000 Signatures


For more information, please contact:
Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727 E-mail
Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail
M.A. Melby, Petition Author Email

A petition urging that Cathy Brennan’s organization Gender Identity Watch be monitored as a hate group has accumulated over 5,000 signatures in just one week. On November 23, members of the secular feminist organization Secular Woman teamed up with fellow social justice organizations Skepchick and Stop Abuse Online to present the petition opposing the group’s repeated targeting of transgender individuals for bullying and harassment, and asking the Southern Poverty Law Center to officially designate and monitor Gender Identity Watch as a hate group.

“The response has been amazing. The petition has been promoted by several trans activist and feminist organizations, shared on Facebook, re-blogged hundreds of times on Tumblr, and retweeted more times than I could possibly know. There are signers from over 60 countries. It’s very humbling,” says M. A. Melby, primary author of the petition.

The petition describes Brennan and her organization––fringe feminists known as “TERFS” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists)––exposing the private information of transgender individuals including former names and also reportedly contacting doctors, employers, and other authorities of those she targets. Several petition signers have shared their personal stories of being targeted and victimized by Brennan’s organization, in an attack on privacy, health, and safety.

“If the SPLC recognizes violence, harassment and bullying against trans women as a whole, which is currently ignored and enabled by the mainstream, it would be a pivotal step towards making the lives of transgender individuals safer,” says Trinity Aodh, Secular Woman Advisory Council member.

“Secular Woman is proud to stand with others that are supporting this petition,” says Kim Rippere, president of Secular Woman. “Thank you to all that are promoting the petition, working to raise awareness, and communicating to Southern Poverty Law Center ensuring that this petition is meaningful in the long run.”

(Below: screen shots of responses by petition signers)

Gender Identity Watch Petition

Secular Woman supports gender equality and affirms that gender expression, sexual orientation, and matters of intimacy are for individuals to determine. We abhor hate, sexism, intolerance, and misogyny.


Secular Woman members have teamed up to present a petition opposing the transphobic actions of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch. She and her group forward an agenda that is abusive and harmful to transgender women.  Their tactics include targeting named individuals.  


The Gender Identity Watch group include those who intersectional feminists refer to as trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs)––spreading hate and silencing transgender people under the guise of feminism. “The TERFs essentially take the patriarchy to entirely conspiratorial levels where trans women are seen as infiltrators,” explains Veronica Berglyd Olsen, author of the blog Purple Noize. “They will gladly reduce a human being to their genitals or to chromosomes or to whatever they find suits them at the moment.”


Olsen adds, “Aside from the complete lack of understanding of human biology, they also claim to be an authority of what identities people are allowed to have. They feel entitled to deny people both their gender identity and their sexual orientation. They will frequently deny cis lesbians who are trans allies the identity as lesbians. Reducing human beings to carefully selected biological properties is a basis of both oppression of women and of racism throughout human history.”


“Silencing is one of the techniques that TERFs use, which is ironic as they cry about being silenced every single day. Their silencing technique is to make people scared to death of them,” says Dana Taylor, founder of StopAbuseOnline.org. Taylor has personally experienced silencing in the form of a coordinated attack via her employer. “When we see these kind of attacks but have never experienced them before, it is hard to fully understand the damage it causes. It has caused some to commit suicide,” she says.


Secular Woman is an intersectional feminist organization; we reject definitions of feminism that erase transgender people’s identity. Kim Rippere, president of Secular Woman, says, “Gender Identity Watch and related sites work in direct opposition to the vision of Secular Woman; namely, a future in which women––anyone who presents herself as a woman or says she is one––without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in every aspect of society.”


“Brennan, and TERFs at large, are one reason people often refuse to label themselves as feminists,” explains Trinity Aodh, member of Secular Woman’s advisory council. “Feminism, which should be about empowering those who are oppressed along the gender spectrum, is instead being used to attack those who are vulnerable. Instead of embracing people whose experiences undoubtedly show the modern need for feminism, she goes out of her way to place their lives in danger.”

We invite fellow feminists and secularists, as well as others concerned, to proactively affirm the inclusion of all women as women.  Condemn the toxic ideologies used to rationalize hate, fear, and discrimination based on gender.  Stand with us in petitioning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track the activities of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch as a hate group in accordance with SPLC’s stated mission.