Know Your Enemy: An Analysis of the November 2, 2019 Panel of Hate

Web of Hate v2.0

(Click on the above image or here to access the interactive map.)

UPDATE as of November 1, 2019 12:30pm: The panel has found a new venue which they will release shortly before the event takes place. Follow this facebook event page for updates about the rally/protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/529386161147677/.


Overview

This analysis was created and written on unceded Coast Salish territory by nonbinary, trans, and Two-Spirit people. We seek to work in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in the struggle for autonomy and self-determination. We recognize that the gender binary is a colonial construct and affirm the diversity of gender identity and gender expression of people around the world, especially those who are reclaiming identities and roles lost, erased and vilified due to colonization.

So-called Vancouver, Canada has a history of trans exclusionary radical feminism (TERF) and sex worker exclusionary radical feminism (SWERF) dating back to the 1970s when the local feminist movement splintered. Under the smokescreen of a radical feminism, these oppressive groups and individuals have sought to exclude trans women from their crisis centres and organizing circles, and have played both sides of colonial Canada’s criminal legal system in their attempts to further criminalize sex work and prevent human rights protection from discrimination for trans people, particularly trans women.

Throughout 2019 there has been a considerable rise in anti-trans hostility in Vancouver and the surrounding region, with noted collaboration among TERF/SWERFs, Christian fundamentalists, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, including: GIDYVR, Culture Guard, Soldiers of Odin, People’s Party of Canada, and Proud Boys. Some of the talks were hosted at venues provided by the Vancouver Public Library, University of British Columbia, and the District of Oak Bay.

On November 2, 2019, Lindsay Shepherd, Jonathan Kay, Anna Slatz, and Meghan Murphy were scheduled to speak at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Their talk was focused on propagating misinformation about trans people, Two Spirit people, and multiply marginalized communities, as well as inciting hatred and violence. Due to security concerns, the sponsoring professor, Mark Collard, cancelled the booking. This document provides a brief background of the panelists, examples of anti-trans hate speech written by them, and their connections to the larger network of supremacists in so-called Vancouver. All quotations have been published in two online right-wing publications: Quillette and The Post Millennial. All four presenters have close connections to these publications.

Quillette and The Post Millennial

Quillette and The Post Millennial are online, right-wing publications in which the presenters have published their anti-trans articles (alongside targeting Indigenous peoples, people of colour, disabled people, and many other multiply marginalized communities). Jonathan Kay, one of the panelists, is a senior editor for Quillette and Lindsay Shepherd, the moderator, is engaged to the editor for The Post Millennial. These publications began to include anti-trans rhetoric two years ago, which contributed to the increasing volume of anti-trans hate speech in right-wing politics. This acceleration of anti-trans sentiment parallels the uptick in anti-trans events over the past ten months in our region, as well as the historical events when fascist organizations attacked 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and other marginalized groups.

Lindsay Shepherd

Lindsay Shepherd gained notoriety when she was a Wilfrid Laurier student and teaching assistant (TA) in November 2017. She was a TA for a class on technical writing and grammar when she showed a video of Jordan Peterson—a known white, cis, hetero, male supremacist with little-to-no expertise in the topics he writes and speaks about—spouting anti-trans bigotry regarding gender-neutral pronouns. She was disciplined by the school in a meeting she secretly recorded, adding to her viral moment.

Shepherd has since become a darling of alt-right Canadian circles. In 2018 she hosted a speaker series that included Faith Goldy (an alt-right white supremacist and contributor to Rebel Media) and Frances Widdowson (an academic who focuses on promoting colonialism and racism against Indigenous peoples).

Shepherd, like the three panelists, has used Jessica Yaniv’s case as justification for broader slander and violence toward trans women. This past August, Shepherd co-authored an article with Kay in Quillette, stating that “[Yaniv] exemplifies the perceived threats to women and children when male-bodied individuals can declare their gender to be whatever they like.” Shepherd and Kay use Yaniv to perpetuate transmisogyny, reinforcing the stereotype that trans women are inherently sexual predators, and inciting hostility and violence toward trans women.

Shepherd has written several articles for the Post Millennial. In one, she writes that the “assertion that Albertan universities are required by human rights law to provide students with Islamic facilities undermines Canadian identity,” clearly showing her racist and Islam antagonist belief that Muslim people are incompatible with public spaces in so-called Canada. In another article, she writes, “Are European and Euro-descended people not allowed to express a soft regret that the societies they grew up in are rapidly changing due to mass migration?” This deeply ahistorical and white supremacist statement erases centuries of European colonial and imperial genocide enacted around the world, and the white supremacist structural violence that forces people to migrate from their homes–many of whom are women.

One must ask oneself, if Meghan Murphy is a feminist, as she claims, why would she align herself with Shepherd?

Jonathan Kay

Jonathan Kay is a senior editor of Quillette. His mother, Barbara Kay, is also a contributor. He was a founding member of the editorial board for the National Post, to which he still occasionally contributes to, and the editor-in-chief of The Walrus. He resigned from The Walrus in 2017 because he felt pressure to “self-censor” himself. This occurred just after outrage was expressed by Indigenous writers surrounding the “appropriation prize” controversy that had suggested white writers explore the lives of ‘people who aren’t like you’, to which Kay defended.

Kay has a history of publishing racist, anti-Indigenous, anti-Muslim content, including work that has been disseminated by the far-right Jewish Defense League, stating, “The continued vibrancy and economic success of Jewish civilization — so close to Islam’s very heartland — is precisely what has fed Muslim rage and jealousy for 14 centuries”. More recently, Kay has published articles targeting trans people. This past March, he gave platform to a researcher who dismisses many trans teenagers as suffering from “peer contagion,” arguing that for the sake of children, trans teens shouldn’t be believed and their trans identity should be denied.

Through his commentary on the National Post, Kay has criticized the #MeToo movement, stating that men losing their jobs for being outed as rapists is worse than the Inquisition, in which people were burned at the stake. Conveniently, Kay does show concern about sexual assault when it positions trans women as the perpetrators. In an article published this past August and co-authored by Shepherd, they write, “This policy [of trans self-identification as women] has put women at risk of violent sexual assault.”

One must ask oneself, If Meghan Murphy is a feminist, as she claims, why would she align herself with Kay?

Anna Slatz

Anna Slatz, also known as Anna de Luca, is a writer for The Post Millennial with a long history of publishing vitriolic articles, particularly against trans women. In March of this year, in an article for The Post Millennial, Slatz wrote about Vancouver Rape Relief receiving termination funding from the City of Vancouver for excluding trans women from their services, stating, “Othering females so as to differentiate and separate them from their own sex—cis women, how I hate that term – as though we were anything but authentically, simply, women. The lovely Barbara Kay precisely defined this as the “dilution of women.””

Slatz’s arguments rely on gender essentialist and biological determinist rhetoric that posits womanhood as being directly in opposition to trans people’s experiences, creating a false divide between cis women and trans women and erasing intersex women altogether. This narrative reinforces the gender binary, which harms people of all genders and reduces womanhood to reproductive function and genitalia.

In the same article, Slatz writes, “The misogyny of these trans-activists should be inherent in their delusion that they can become women, totally.” Her arguments equate being trans with having a mental illness, implying mentally ill people do not have the same right to bodily autonomy that neurotypical people do.

During her brief period as editor of the University of New Brunswick student newspaper, The Baron, Slatz published an article written by Jonathan Furlow with explicitly Nazi ideology. For this, she was fired from The Baron, who issued an apology. Slatz has also written hit pieces on Zoë Quinn, a cis woman who has been the target of misogynistic and ableist harassment for years, seeking to discredit Quinn’s allegations of sexual assault.

One must ask oneself, if Meghan Murphy is a feminist, as she claims, why would she align herself with Slatz?

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy is an anti-trans, anti–sex work blogger who lives in Vancouver. She has slowly and gradually garnered support and notoriety, specifically for her anti-trans, anti–sex worker ideology through online blogging and various media publications. In 2008, Murphy ran a radio show on Vancouver Co-op Radio entitled “The F Word,” where she invited anti-trans, anti–sex worker bigots to speak until she was eventually ousted around 2012 by co-op members who threatened to pull membership funding. That same year, Murphy founded Feminist Current, an online blog that propagates hatred and misinformation about trans women, trans people as a whole, and sex workers. This blog is widely recognized as being a part of a larger hate movement called “gender critical feminism.”

Murphy has written for Quillette, as well as for the eco-fascist group Deep Green Resistance, who have been denounced by student, eco, and Indigenous groups. She is a former contributor to rabble.ca, and in 2015, a petition was created by trans and sex worker communities and their allies across Canada to have Murphy fired for using the website to espouse her bigotry and hate. Murphy was never fired and was able to freely contribute until she eventually quit because an article she wrote was pulled for containing trans antagonist language.

In May 2017, Murphy flew to Ottawa to speak out against Bill C-16, legislation in Canada that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Murphy sat alongside a representative of Vancouver Rape Relief and Christian fundamentalist Paul Dirks (formerly of New West Community Church), which falls in line with her repeated arguments that, “new gender identity policies and legislation hurt girls and women.”

At one of her events in Vancouver this year, Murphy spoke to the audience saying, “there is no such thing as a “trans kid.”” In her publications, she consistently invalidates trans women, referring to them as “biological males” or “trans-identified males”. There are endless examples, online and offline, of the ways in which Murphy has perpetuated harm toward trans women, trans people as a whole, and sex workers. At her events, Murphy creates hostile and oppressive environments for trans people and incites hate speech from her supporters.

Aside from spreading misinformation, Murphy has posted online the personal information of trans people and sex workers without their consent, including photos, deadnames (birth names), place of work, etc., which has led to her being banned from Twitter. She has also instigated online swarms, where her followers hone in on individuals and harass them. Some people have taken their own lives as a response.

These examples indicate that the extent of these harms would not exist without Murphy having access to platforms to normalize these ideas and behaviours. These examples also give further context to understand why we and other people have asked, and continue to ask, for Murphy (and anyone who shares her hatred of trans people and sex workers) to not be provided a platform, especially by institutions both public and corporate.

At this point, one must ask oneself, how is Murphy a feminist?

A Web of Hate, Spin, and Lies

Trans people, sex workers, people of colour, disabled people, working class people, people with low income, and multiply marginalized folks have continuously asserted that Murphy and her followers’ so-called “feminism” is white supremacist. The panel on November 2 demonstrates, now more than ever, the kinds of people and ideas Murphy is willing to associate with. Her ease and willingness to collaborate with individuals and publications with a known history of promoting misinformation, targeting marginalized communities, and fostering fear and hatred  clearly demonstrate her anti-Indigenous, anti-Muslim, anti-disabled, anti-women, anti–sex workers, and anti-trans sentiments.

While the links among the panelists and the aforementioned publications are clear, it is merely the highly visible tip of a larger supremacist sentiment–a larger web of supremacists remains to be seen. Vancouver Rape Relief, the Vancouver Women’s Library, Grumpy Old Dykes, Vancouver Lesbian Collective, and countless known and unknown individuals, groups, and organizations in our city have ties to Murphy, especially, as well as many of the panelists. On January 10, 2019 when Murphy hosted an event at the Vancouver Public Library, the former Executive Director of Vancouver Rape Relief, Lee Lakeman, was a featured guest. During the Yaniv case, Slatz promoted a fundraiser through The Post Millennial in which “[a]ny funds unable to be distributed to an esthetician will be split and donated to Vancouver Rape Relief….and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.”

Despite these connections, many individuals and organizations continue to struggle with grasping the severity of anti-trans and anti-sex worker ideologies and its impact on our communities. It is also likely that many of us as individuals are connected to, or have a few degrees of separation from, TERF/SWERFs and white supremacists. Perhaps when supremacist sentiments are pointed out, especially coming from the people and communities whose lives are most directly affected by these views, we can take them seriously and act accordingly.

Many of the aforementioned quotations are measured against the “Hallmarks of Hate”, a tool determined by the Supreme Court of Canada in Saskatchewan to be an acceptable form of evaluating hate speech. Despite clear examples of hate speech by the panelists, institutions like SFU continue to platform supremacists under the guise of “freedom of expression”. By providing rental space and by having an SFU professor sponsor the event, SFU is complicit in enabling and normalizing anti-trans violence, among other forms of oppression. The cancellation of the room booking by Collard due to security concerns highlights the reality that institutions are not sincere in “diversity” and “inclusion” or creating safer environments for multiply marginalized people, and are solely interested in the security and maintenance of the status quo. SFU is more interested in prioritizing ideas, profit, and property over the safety and dignity of people.

#NoTERFsNoSWERFs #ShutDownHate #TakeBackSFU #FuckYouSFU #ShameOnSFU


This dossier was made possible due to the generous volunteer labour of trans people and their allies. If you appreciate this work and the ongoing work of the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism, send us some love and donate to us here

Trans and Sex Worker Communities & The Vancouver Public Library: A Reflection by CATA

This letter was submitted at the Vancouver Public Library board meeting on April 24th, 2019.

Vancouver Public Library
350 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 6B1
unceded Coast Salish territory

To Christina De Castell, Head Librarian;
Councillor Christine Boyle, Board Member;
Jennifer Chan, Vice Chair, Library Board;
Kurt Heinrich, Board Member;
Zahra Hussein, Board Member;
Rebecca Jules, Board Member;
Kevin Lowe, Board Member;
Stuart MacKinnon, Board Member;
Raji Mangat, Vice Chair, Library Board;
Barb Parrott, Board Member;
Harlan Pruden, Board Member;
John Schaub, Chair, Library Board; and
Rhonda Sherwood, Board Member:

April 24, 2019

We are writing to you as residents of Vancouver, patrons of the Vancouver Public Library (VPL), and members of Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA) regarding the VPL Meeting Rooms & Facilities Rental Policy and the talk hosted at the VPL-Central Branch on January 10th, 2019 entitled, “Gender Identity Ideology & Women’s Rights: A Talk and Q&A”.

CATA is a grassroots community group whose mission is to identify and challenge oppressive ideologies and practices within (and not limited to) governmental bodies, non-profits, academia, unions, community organizations, and individuals, to reduce and eliminate the harms experienced by trans and sex worker communities. We are made up of members who are trans, Two Spirit, intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming, some of whom have experience with sex work. We envision a world where there is safety, support, acceptance, dignity, autonomy and self-determination for trans people, especially trans women, and sex workers.

On January 10th, CATA organized a rally and shared a press release speaking out against the talk and the VPL’s rental policy, and now we are reaching out to the VPL in hopes of working together in finding solutions to ensure that further harms towards trans and sex worker communities no longer occur.

CATA has witnessed the VPL Head Librarian, board, and employees minimize the safety and concerns of trans and sex worker communities by allowing Meghan Murphy to rent at the VPL despite the very strong and well-articulated community opposition. Murphy is widely known and understood as a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) and SWERF (sex worker exclusionary radical feminist) who promotes hate speech and rhetoric that targets trans women, trans people as a whole, and sex workers. Framing this issue as a difference of opinion demonstrates a lack of understanding and relationship to local trans and sex worker communities, many of whom rely on the VPL as a safer space and a site of community connection and resources. We expect the VPL to believe people who have experienced violence, marginalization and oppression, and respond to these instances with the seriousness it requires and deserves.

The VPL Head Librarian, board, and staff are in need of deeper education about current and relevant trans and sex worker issues led by trans people and sex workers local to Vancouver. We have consolidated a list of requests based on community discussions CATA has hosted over the past 6 months at our Trans Community Town Halls, as well as our own collective expertise rooted in our lived experiences.

CATA requests the VPL to:

  1. Release a public apology to trans and sex worker communities, acknowledging the harms caused by the VPL hosting an event by Meghan Murphy, an internationally-known racist, anti-trans, anti-sex worker fascist, whose oppressive ideas are well documented.
    • We also ask that in this apology, the VPL’s statement from November 2018 is re-posted onto the VPL website and that the VPL takes responsibility for its role in enabling anti-trans, anti-sex worker bigots such as Meghan Murphy in having a platform.
  2. Develop a robust space rental policy that prevents anti-trans, anti-sex worker ideology—and by extension, any and all fascist ideologies—from having access to a platform to spread exclusionary ideas, including ideas that question the validity of people’s identities and existence.
    • Provide opportunities for trans and sex worker communities to review the VPL board’s progress and offer input.
  3. Commit to, at the very minimum, annual trans and sex worker sensitivity training for all VPL staff and board members led specifically by trans women and sex workers (and preferably trans women and sex workers of colour).
  4. Co-host trans and sex worker community dialogues with CATA for VPL staff and board members to hear directly from trans and sex worker community members in the spirit of transformative justice, especially because CATA is not representative of the entire community.
  5. Provide free rental space for trans and sex worker groups and individuals as a form of reparations and as a commitment to ongoing relationship-building with trans and sex worker communities.
    • Vancouver is sorely lacking in free and accessible spaces to gather, organize, and build community; the VPL has an opportunity to fill this gap.

Action #1:

Release a public apology to trans and sex worker communities, acknowledging the harms caused by the VPL hosting an event by Meghan Murphy, an internationally-known racist, anti-trans, anti-sex worker fascist, whose oppressive ideas are well documented.

  • We also ask that in this apology, the VPL’s statement from November 2018 is re-posted onto the VPL website and that the VPL takes responsibility for its role in enabling anti-trans, anti-sex worker bigots such as Meghan Murphy in having a platform.

We cannot solve a problem without first acknowledging that it exists. Many trans, sex working, and queer individuals, groups, and organizations (and cis hetero allies) have spoken up about their disappointment with the VPL’s actions through letter-writing and emails, in private meetings with VPL staff, by pulling their organization’s programming from the VPL, and at the final Open Book series event.

Sadly, the calls from the local community to cancel the event featuring Murphy were not met, and instead a public statement was released by the VPL claiming that while the VPL did not agree with the views of Murphy, the VPL is committed to free speech and intellectual freedom. As such, “[VPL] will not refuse to rent to an individual or organization simply because they are discussing controversial topics or views, even those we find offensive.” This statement is no longer accessible on the VPL website. For the sake of transparency and historical record, we ask that the VPL re-post this statement, as well as address this statement in the apology.

In order to more fully comprehend the anger, outrage, and hurt expressed by trans, sex working, and queer communities, it is important to know the history of TERF/SWERF organizing in Vancouver, including Murphy’s history here in Vancouver and beyond. In the mid to late ‘80s, the feminist movement in Vancouver began to diverge, with a small contingent of cisgender women coming together behind the banner of “Radical Feminism.” This contingent took a conservative and staunch gender essentialist anti-male position, thereby rejecting the validity and existence of trans women, who they see as men, and rejecting the reality of consensual, by-choice sex work, which they believe cannot exist and is inherently exploitative. The remaining feminist movement embraced intersectionality and decolonization as important, foundational principles integral to fighting oppression and injustice. Despite TERFs and SWERFs not being representative of contemporary feminist ideas, they continue to organize in Vancouver, with the most notable organization being Vancouver Rape Relief (who has also previously rented with the VPL). Other examples include the TERF/SWERF contingent who show up annually at the Vancouver Dyke March with anti-trans signage, the Vancouver Women’s Library which only recently closed down due to lack of funding, and, of course, Meghan Murphy’s Feminist Current.

At her events, Murphy creates hostile and oppressive environments for trans people, and incites hate speech from her supporters. For example, when a trans person spoke at the January 10th event during the Q&A, a Murphy supporter and attendee shouted, “Pedophile!” at the trans person, and Murphy did not address or correct this comment. While Murphy may not necessarily say these things out loud, in public, these beliefs and statements are inferred through her speeches and in her writings.

There are endless examples, online and offline, of the ways in which Murphy has perpetuated harm towards trans women, trans people as a whole, and sex workers. Aside from spreading misinformation, Murphy has posted online the personal information of trans people and sex workers without their consent, including photos, deadnames (birth names), place of work, etc. (which led to her being banned from Twitter). She has also instigated online swarms, where her followers hone in on individuals and harass them. Some people have taken their own lives as a response. All of these examples indicate that the extent of these harms would not exist without Murphy having access to platforms to normalize these ideas and behaviours in the first place. Also, the examples give further context to understand why we and other people have asked, and continue to ask, for Murphy (and anyone who shares her hatred of trans people and sex workers) to not be provided a platform, especially by a public institution.
As such, the VPL needs to acknowledge and apologize for its role in enabling anti-trans, anti-sex worker bigots such as Murphy in having a platform, enabling the resurgence of TERF/SWERF activity in Vancouver, and undoing the decades-long work of community organizers and activists burdened with speaking out and pushing back against TERFs and SWERFs.

Action #2:

Develop a robust space rental policy that prevents anti-trans, anti-sex worker ideology—and by extension, any and all fascist ideologies—from having access to a platform to spread exclusionary ideas, including ideas that question the validity of people’s identities and existence.

  • Provide opportunities for trans and sex worker communities to review the VPL board’s progress and offer input.

CATA recognizes the importance for public institutions to uphold intellectual freedom. At the same time, the freedom to express oneself does not mean entitlement and access to a platform, and shouldn’t come at the cost of marginalized communities. An individual’s gender identity and expression and whether someone engages in consensual sex work should not be minimized and treated as academic and intellectual fodder.

The VPL’s decision to allow a platform for an anti-trans and anti-sex worker speaker to espouse their hateful ideas is a direct violation of the principles put forth in the VPL’s mission, vision, values and statement on diversity and inclusion. It is the responsibility of the VPL to listen to and work with marginalized communities, and to ensure that such under-represented groups are outreached to and engaged with in regards to VPL services, resources, and facilities.

Hate speech is not only limited to what is recognized legally through legislation and court decisions – it should be defined by the people who are affected by the rhetoric. It goes beyond overt, obvious bigoted language, as hate speech also includes narratives, philosophies, or ideas that question the validity of the existence of marginalized people – in this case, trans and sex worker communities.

All the above have negative, material effects on individuals and groups. These beliefs and attitudes have a profound impact on trans people in relation to securing stable employment, finding permanent housing, accessing health services, pursuing education, and living day-to-day life with a sense of security and dignity. Trans and sex worker individuals are also negatively impacted in their personal relationships, including whether or not they are accepted and supported by their families, partners, friends, neighbours, and coworkers. Some people have taken their lives because of these attitudes, and many people, especially trans women and trans feminine people, are murdered.

The decision to allow Murphy to speak contravenes Vancouver City Council’s diversity and inclusion policies, statements, and Council decisions regarding trans and gender-variant inclusion within the City of Vancouver and its public facilities and services, including the Vancouver Public Library. The VPL has pushed the narrative that any group is able to rent a space because it is viewed as a “private event”. While contractually this may be true, the VPL is still funded by the City of Vancouver. Therefore, the VPL has a responsibility to have policies in place which ensure that discrimination, oppression, and violence are not promoted and/or does not occur as a result of the use of resources provided by the VPL.

Action #3:

Commit to, at the very minimum, annual trans and sex worker sensitivity training for all VPL staff and board members led specifically by trans women and sex workers (and preferably trans women and sex workers of colour).

A significant reason why the VPL is in the position it is in today, is because of the lack of in-depth education regarding trans and sex worker issues, and to a larger extent a lack of understanding anti-oppression theory and principles. Sensitivity training should be consistent and frequent, and led by those most affected by the issues of trans antagonism and sex worker antagonism.

Participating in workshops and trainings about these subjects will provide the VPL opportunities to develop a better understanding about the marginalized communities who use the VPL and the oppressions they face daily. This will also build the VPL’s overall capacity to better engage trans and sex worker patrons and respond more appropriately when conflict and issues arise.

Action #4:

Co-host trans and sex worker community dialogues with CATA for VPL staff and board members to hear directly from trans and sex worker community members in the spirit of transformative justice, especially because CATA is not representative of the entire community.

This is a chance for the VPL to take accountability and to directly engage with community members that have been harmed by the platforming of an anti-trans, anti-sex worker bigot. It is important for the VPL to bear witness to these harms and an opportunity for the VPL to practice what they preach regarding trans inclusion. It is essential for the VPL to move towards a place where trans and sex worker patrons genuinely feel accepted.

We feel these community dialogues are important for moving forward and that they are in-line with the VPL’s stated mission and vision of a free place for everyone to discover, create, and share ideas and information to make an informed, engaged, and connected city. We want to be clear that CATA’s intentions are to engage in transformative justice and host a meaningful dialogue that is not about placing blame on specific individuals. We are interested in looking at the structures and policies that allowed this to be possible, and to figure out solutions collaboratively to transform these harms. We hope that one day the community can look back and point to this time as the pivotal moment where the VPL shifted from being an enabler of oppression to an institution working in allyship with marginalized communities.

Action #5:

Provide free rental space for trans and sex worker groups and individuals as a form of reparations and as a commitment to ongoing relationship-building with trans and sex worker communities.

Due to gentrification, the City of Vancouver is sorely lacking in free and accessible spaces to gather, organize, and build community. The VPL is uniquely positioned as a public institution with the opportunity to fill this gap. While the VPL hosts programming for trans people, it would be important for community-led initiatives to also take place at the library so they can maintain their own autonomy.

This is a tangible act of repairing harm that can be undertaken by the VPL to rebuild trust and to demonstrate a desire to commit to the VPL’s stated values of diversity, access for all, patron-centred services, community-led planning, community partnerships, respectful spaces and communication, and effective use of resources. It is also a way to signal to the community that the VPL aims to be a safer space for trans and sex worker individuals and communities, and to a greater extent, marginalized communities overall.

Conclusion:

CATA’s members have our own personal memories of VPL as a site of inclusion and as a starting point for community – reading books, accessing the Internet, building skills, learning English, and accessing a variety of resources. The VPL has also acted as a form of sanctuary, for those of us who were homeless or did not have safe homes to live in. Libraries should be as accessible as possible to continue being a recognizable, relevant, and important institution in our communities.

As trans people who have come together to address issues faced by trans and sex worker communities local to the region, we feel it is an unfortunate reality that we must dedicate our time to protesting events like January 10th. We would rather dedicate our energy and resources towards trans and sex worker community-building. We don’t want the harms of the January 10th event to go unaddressed, nor do we want this to be the defining moment of the relationship between the VPL and trans and sex worker communities. Our hope is to move forward once the VPL apologizes and implements the requests made above.

We encourage board members to deliberate over this letter, as well as undertake your own research regarding these issues. Please do keep in touch with us as we seek to keep this conversation going and work toward solutions.

With fierceness and sincerity,

Coalition Against Trans Antagonism
againsttransantagonism[@]protonmail[.]com

How Vancouver Rape Relief is at Odds with Indigenous Self-Determination

Winona Laduke featured as a speaker for Vancouver Rape Relief's event for International Women's Day

Winona Laduke is a keynote speaker for Vancouver Rape Relief’s 2019 International Women’s Day event, alongside Indigenous women local to the region.

March 8, 2019

My name is Tami Starlight. I am Cree/Nehiyawak and Norwegian from Peguis Nation (Treaty 1 territory), in what is colonially known as Manitoba, Canada. I am Two Spirit, trans, queer, low-income, disabled and currently residing on unceded Coast Salish territory (Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh nations), in what is colonially known as Vancouver, Canada.

I am writing as a long-time community organizer in this region (almost 20 years) (anti-poverty, anti-drug war, and anti-homelessness organizing in the Downtown Eastside1 2 3, environmental/renewable energy work4, alternative media5, trans community organizing6, and anti-oppression work7, to name a few), and as someone who has lived experience with homelessness, addiction8, incarceration, and sex work. I am also a member and co-founder of Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA), whom I am speaking on behalf of.

I recently learned that six Indigenous cis women have been invited as speakers for an event hosted by Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR). I feel it is my responsibility to inform the speakers and the wider community of the history of this organization and the harms that continue to be perpetrated by its leadership over the past 30 years in our community.

VRR sees itself as a rape crisis centre for women. However, those who have lived long enough in this city and who have organized around feminism and violence against women know that VRR has proven themselves to operate using exclusionary and oppressive ideology. They will not provide services to trans women, nor will they accept trans women as volunteers9 10. They have turned away women seeking to access their resources because the women are drug users, and have been patronizing and unsupportive if survivors/victims who attempt to access their resources are sex workers. If lesbian or queer women are assaulted by other women and seek VRR’s services, they are turned away. Many women who have been turned away and who are a combination of the above identities are also Indigenous women. (Much of the above information, unfortunately, does not have media sources, as this information is only known through the lived experience of women who have attempted to access VRR’s services or who have formerly volunteered for VRR and passed it on through community whisper networks.)

VRR and its leadership see themselves as “radical feminists” and firmly and openly believe that trans women are men. They also conflate consensual, by-choice sex work with sex trafficking. Most community organizers and organizations in Vancouver (including, but not limited to, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW)11, PACE Society, West Coast LEAF12, BC Federation of Labour (BCFED)13 14, BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), and others15) recognize them as TERFs and SWERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists and sex worker exclusionary radical feminists16) and, thankfully, refuse to work with VRR, fund them, support them or refer survivors/victims to them. The majority of VRR’s volunteers and supporters are people from the mainstream – those who are new to Vancouver, those who are new to feminism, or those who already align with their ideology.

VRR’s leadership comprises of women who are cisgender, mostly heterosexual, white settlers. They tokenize the few cisgender women of colour (including Black and Indigenous) who share their views to present themselves as having broad support. One of their key tactics involves convening a group of people who align on a specific topic together, and then frame these folks as supporters of VRR’s overall ideology (anti-trans and anti-sex worker). Sadly, one Indigenous woman in particular has been used by them to discredit the existence of Two Spirit, trans, and queer Indigenous people, including recently.17

This past January, a local TERF/SWERF named Meghan Murphy hosted an event in Vancouver18 19 where the Executive Director of VRR, Lee Lakeman, was a guest speaker20. Murphy runs an online hate-rag, FeministCurrent. It is a platform for her hatred and bigotry toward trans people — especially trans women — sex workers, and feminists of colour21. She travels (mostly to the UK, USA, and Australia) and makes money by speaking at various events where she spews misinformation, stokes fear and confusion, and incites violence. She is considered a significant factor for the current uprising of anti-trans bigotry in the UK22, where she is highly regarded. Murphy is also connected to Deep Green Resistance (DGR)23, an eco-fascist group whose leaders, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, have been denounced by student, eco, and Indigenous groups23 for DGR’s trans antagonist, racist, and overall oppressive ideologies25.

VRR and Murphy have a long history together and have played both sides of so-called Canada’s colonial criminal legal system. When legislation was being passed to to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression (Bill C-16), both Murphy and representatives of VRR flew to Ottawa, sitting alongside a Christian fundamentalist, in unsuccessful attempts to block and speak against the bill.26 27 VRR also used their resources to push for Bill C-36, legislation which reintroduces the same harms as the previous laws while making it more difficult for sex workers to work in safer indoor locations.28

The talk held in January was denounced by various LGBTQ organizations, sex worker advocates, community groups and individuals19. Letters were written to the Vancouver Public Library to cancel the space rental with Murphy, and a protest rally took place. VPL did not cancel the event on the grounds of free speech, and at the same time publicly stated that they do not agree with Murphy’s discriminatory views19. Despite public outcry, VRR continues to strongly associate themselves with Murphy.

There are various initiatives currently being undertaken by individuals, community groups, and non-profit organizations to challenge the oppression and harm that TERFs & SWERFs like VRR are responsible for in our communities. Part of this includes redirecting social capital and financial support from VRR to rape crisis centres such as WAVAW, who intentionally seek to do their work rooted in an inclusive, anti-oppressive, intersectional, and decolonial framework. We believe that no survivor of sexual assault should ever have to experience further trauma, violence and oppression while seeking resources and services.

It is important to emphasize that, aside from pushing for harmful policies in all levels of government, TERF/SWERF ideology poses real, direct, material harms to trans people, especially trans women, and sex workers. The promotion and platforming of this ideology validates the misinformed fears about trans people in society, presenting us as perverted, mentally ill, and/or violent – reaching our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbours. It also creates unsafe, hostile, and violent conditions for trans people and sex workers to exist in.

Trans women, in Vancouver and also abroad, have been doxxed – their deadnames (former names), photos, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and workplaces have been posted online without their permission. These women are constantly harassed and receive death threats. I, myself, have a photo online posted by a TERF/SWERF from Victoria, B.C. exclaiming that I am a “white man pretending to be an Indigenous woman”.29 Some women have even ended their own lives because of this.

Two-Spirit people have always been here. We were called many things. It is time we reclaim our identities on our own terms.

“Top right is We’wha who was a Lhamana two-spirit of the Zuni nation. The Zuni people once had four traditional gender roles which include lhamana and katotse. They also have a Kachina or Zuni spirit named Ko’lhamana, a divine androgynous spirit who is said to appear when the people and the land are in desperate need of help. We’wha herself was a dedicated caregiver, craftsmaker, and a cultural ambassador of the Zuni people and went to DC to meet with President Grover.

….

Bottom left is presumably Osh-Tisch with her wife in the Apsáalooke (Crow) nation. The Crow’s third gender or Two-Spirit people are traditionally known in their language as Boté or Badé. Osh-Tisch was a master craftsmaker just like We’wha, and she was also a leader. She was one of the last of the Crow nation’s Boté people in antiquity just after her people were forced into the reservation. The Boté people, including Osh-Tisch, were brutally enslaved by Briskow from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Also the Baptist missionary was especially cruel to her Boté community, and they did everything they could to wipe out the cultural memory of Boté two-spirits in the Crow nation after Osh-Tisch’s death in 1929.” – Julius Areola

source: https://www.facebook.com/IIYCFamily/photos/a.290942567944166/769926246712460/

It is no accident that so-called feminists who are entrenched in anti-trans, anti-sex worker bigotry network with and organize alongside white supremacists and anti-LGBTQ groups30. Many Indigenous people, Black people, and people of colour have made the connections between trans antagonism and white supremacy, and how both are rooted in colonialism31. It is ironic, then, for groups like VRR to present themselves as allies to Indigenous peoples while simultaneously ignoring Two Spirit voices and endorsing the harmful narrative of us not existing or being real, despite experience and evidence pointing to otherwise32 33 34 35.

People who promote hatred, bigotry, and violence deserve no platform, space or credibility in our movements for social justice and must be held accountable, especially those who claim to be in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and our struggles for self-determination and autonomy. Two Spirit, trans, queer Indigenous people exist. Some of us are sex workers. Some of us are homeless, poor, and low-income. Some of us are incarcerated or have been. Some of us are drug users. Many of us are still uncovering and reclaiming identities lost through colonization. All of us deserve to be a part of the circle and to be protected from violence and harm.

I am asking for those invited to speak at this event to:

  1. Denounce Vancouver Rape Relief and their anti-trans, anti-sex worker ideology;
  2. Affirm the diversity of gender identity and gender expression of people around the world, especially those who are reclaiming identities and roles lost, erased, and vilified due to colonization;
  3. Redirect the funds received from this speaking engagement to trans and sex worker communities (I suggest PACE Society, who hire and also work directly with Indigenous Two Spirit, trans women who are also sex workers36).

My motivation for this communication is to, at the very least, provide information for greater awareness and so that those invited to participate in VRR’s events, now and in the future, can make a fuller, more informed decision. There are many others who can give their own perspectives with regard to this organization and the greater impacts of TERF/SWERF ideology here in so-called Vancouver. I hope we can have these conversations as a community and continue to expose the harms that VRR is responsible for.

With respect, rage, and solidarity.

All our relations,
Tami Starlight


Footnotes:

1 Future of Downtown Eastside: Inside the Planning Process
https://web.archive.org/web/20160810182206/http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/07/DTES-Planning-Process/

* please note the link is a snapshot from August 10, 2016. the live version can be found here: https://donotlink.it/yNPw.

2 Pidgin protesters target new Vancouver restaurant
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/pidgin-protesters-target-new-vancouver-restaurant-1.1392632

3 Tara Chee
https://www.transrightsbc.ca/activist-profiles/thip-taraoranger/

4 Greenpeace (Canada) occupies Enbridge office in downtown Vancouver
http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/greenpeace-canada-occupies-enbridge-office-downtown-vancouver/4315

5 The Sinixt Nation: “We are still here”
http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/greenpeace-canada-occupies-enbridge-office-downtown-vancouver/4315

6 B.C. cities mark international Trans Day of Remembrance — some for the first time
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-cities-mark-international-trans-day-of-remembrance-1.4913484

7 decolonization | The Anti-Oppression Network
https://theantioppressionnetwork.com/tag/decolonization/

8 Spirit Matters and HIV
http://www.thebody.com/content/72106/spirit-matters-and-hiv.html

9 Fighting to do a woman’s work
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/fighting-to-do-a-womans-work/article4169736/

10 Rape Relief wins
https://www.dailyxtra.com/rape-relief-wins-19610

11 How do we refuse complicity with transphobia when it’s conflated with feminism?
https://www.wavaw.ca/how-do-we-refuse-complicity-with-transphobia-when-its-conflated-with-feminism/

12 Ending Sexual Assault
http://www.westcoastleaf.org/sa/

13 VRR is open with it’s anti-trans practices and philosophy. @BCTF stands with @BCFED and other affiliates in no longer supporting VRR. Here is our statement on trans-inclusion: https://bctf.ca/publications/B…
https://twitter.com/bctf/status/992802496358662144

14 Supporting trans-inclusive organizations
https://bctf.ca/publications/BCTFNews.aspx?id=44438#6

15 No Unity with Transmisogynists or Sex Work Prohibitionists: AAD’s position on Vancouver Rape Relief
https://web.archive.org/web/20180904020118/http://www.stopdisplacement.ca/2018/07/03/aad-position-on-vancouver-rape-relief/

16 The TERFs
http://theterfs.com/

17 Fay Blaney on gender identity and Indigenous cultures at the Vancouver Public Library
https://web.archive.org/web/20190205031111/https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/01/29/fay-blaney-on-gender-identity-and-indigenous-cultures-at-the-vancouver-public-library/

* please note that I am intentionally linking to a snapshot/web archive of FeministCurrent. If you feel the need to look at the live version, please use this link https://donotlink.it/pLQk.

18 Meghan Murphy speaks to sold-out crowd in Vancouver Public Library meeting room
https://www.straight.com/life/1186501/meghan-murphy-speaks-sold-out-crowd-vancouver-public-library-meeting-room

19 Feminist speaker deemed ‘anti-trans’ by critics speaks at Vancouver Public Library
https://globalnews.ca/news/4836690/feminist-speaker-anti-trans-vancouver-public-library/

20 Gender Identity Ideology & Women’s Rights: A talk & Q&A
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156856677370996&set=gm.2104892576224169&type=3&theater

21 We demand that Rabble.ca end your association with Meghan Murphy as editor and columnist.
https://www.change.org/p/rabble-ca-we-demand-that-rabble-ca-end-your-association-with-meghan-murphy-as-editor-and-columnist

22 How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/opinion/terf-trans-women-britain.html

23 People & Groups Archives: Journalists » Meghan Murphy
https://web.archive.org/web/20161021150535/https://dgrnewsservice.org/journalists/meghan-murphy/

* please note that the web archive snapshot is from 2016 and there has since been continued writing from Murphy on DGR’s website. If you feel the need to visit the live version please use: https://donotlink.it/vQjL

24 Student, Eco and Indigenous Groups Oppose Transphobia at Conference
https://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2014/02/17/student-eco-and-indigenous-groups-oppose-transphobia-at-environmental-law-conference/

25 Deep Green Transphobia
https://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/05/15/deep-green-transphobia/

26 Legal and Constitutional Affairs – May 10, 2017
http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/in-committee-from-the-senate-of-canada/episodes/51104746/

27 When Toxic Radical “Feminism” and (Christian) Fundamentalism Converge
https://theantioppressionnetwork.com/2017/05/15/when-toxic-radical-feminism-and-christian-fundamentalism-converge/

28 Bill C-36 hearings told not to conflate prostitution and trafficking
https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bill-c-36-hearings-told-not-to-conflate-prostitution-and-trafficking-1.2702095

29 Gender Is War
https://web.archive.org/web/20190226222717/https://genderiswar.tumblr.com/post/144173589239/why-is-this-white-man-claiming-to-be-an-indigenous

* please note that the web archive snapshot is from February 2019. If you feel the need to visit the site, please use this link: https://donotlink.it/7P7L

30 Anti-Trans Feminists Appear at Panel of Right-Wing Heritage Foundation
https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2019/1/30/anti-trans-feminists-appear-panel-right-wing-heritage-foundation

31 Transphobia is a White Supremacist Legacy of Colonialism
https://medium.com/@Michael_Paramo/transphobia-is-a-white-supremacist-legacy-of-colonialism-e50f57240650

32 Language, culture, and Two-Spirit identity.
https://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/03/language-culture-and-two-spirit-identity/

33 Reclaiming Spaces Between: Coast Salish Two Spirit Identities and Experiences
https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/9993/Sparrow_Corrina_MSWI_2018.pdf

34 OSKISIHCIKÊWAK / NEW TRADITIONS IN CREE TWO-SPIRIT, GAY AND QUEER NARRATIVES
https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0228786

35 Letter from the Zapatista Women to Women in Struggle Around the World http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2019/02/13/letter-from-the-zapatista-women-to-women-in-struggle-around-the-world/

36 ‘I’m grateful and happy’
http://www.megaphonemagazine.com/_im_grateful_and_happy

No TERFs, No KKK, No Fascists Here Today! – A Response to Vancouver Dyke March

Written on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, this letter is put together by Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA). We are publicly addressing the presence of cis supremacists at the 2018 Vancouver Dyke March (VDM), the inadequate actions by the organizers of VDM leading up to, during, and after the march, and the overall disappointing response by the community at large. (Please note: the examples and details we provide in this letter are not exhaustive of all the harmful actions by TERFs/SWERFs at this year’s VDM.)

In early June, a member of CATA posted specific questions and concerns to the facebook event page for this year’s march. This was in regards to the ongoing fascist organizing by TERFs/SWERFs locally, including what VDM’s stance was on TERFs/SWERFs and what VDM’s plans were to address the presence of cis supremacists at the march. The motivation of the posting was based on a very real concern rooted in lived experience about TERF/SWERF fascist violence in the march (considering their presence last year) and the personal safety of members of the trans community who hoped to attend.

The facebook thread exploded and was subsequently swarmed by TERFs/SWERFs. VDM responded by deleting the thread, comments, and all other original posts by community members, and by disabling all discussion on the event page. We are incredibly disappointed by the erasure of the labour put in by the local community responding to the bigotry as well as the erasure of the calls for accountability. The deletion of these posts are a direct silencing of the community, an indication of a lack of commitment to maintaining safer spaces for those multiply marginalized (including online), and an erasure of community history.

In mid-July, an autonomous sex worker, trans and BDSM positive (SWT-BDSMP) contingent was organized to create a safer space for those who identified under the umbrella to participate in the march and in anticipation of the presence of TERFs/SWERFs. In late July, the organizers of this contingent had a conference call with some of the VDM board members. They were assured by Clarissa, Danielle, and Elizabeth (of VDM) that various safety plans were in place to address TERF/SWERF/fascist presence, rooted in a framework of de-escalation. This plan was asked not to be made public, and therefore the rest of the SWT-BDSMP contingent, and the community at large, were not informed of the details.

Before the march began, on August 4th, the SWT-BDSMP contingent, who were asked by VDM to march out front, noticed that the Grumpy Old Dykes (GOD) were gathering with trans antagonistic signs towards the rear of the event. Members of the SWT-BDSMP contingent asked volunteer board members of VDM to deal with the TERF presence, to ask them to not march, and to remove their hateful signs and banners. Unfortunately, the march commenced without their removal.

During the march itself, the SWT-BDSMP contingent primarily marched out front with various trans affirming signs including an LGBT anti-fascist flag and a banner that read “No TERFs and SWERFs in Anti-Capitalism”, which alluded to the rampant complicity of leftist social justice organizing with TERFs and SWERFs in Vancouver and beyond. Individual contingent members and VDM volunteers surrounded the TERF group and shouted trans affirming chants. To prevent the TERF marchers from entering the VDM festivities at Grandview Park, individuals and SWT-BDSMP contingent members pooled at the entrance of the park at Commercial and Charles Street. Activists held signs and chanted “No TERFs, no KKK, no fascists here today,” declaring that so-called LGBT community members with fascist politics were not welcome to celebrate pride for all.

After the march at Grandview Park, SWT-BDSMP contingent members approached VDM board members in an attempt to understand why TERFs/SWERFs were allowed to march at the back. VDM board members were defensive and regurgitated non-profit rhetoric in an effort to deflect and not address concerns that were being brought to them. They claimed that their hands were tied, that they could not prevent the TERFs from demonstrating, and that these marchers were free to carry whatever messages they desired. By saying this they invoked tropes that conflated the right to free speech with hate speech.

Leading up to this year’s march, VDM has made public statements about who the march is for, who is included, and who they wanted to be present at the march, and at the same time no statements were made about meaningfully mitigating the presence of TERFs/SWERFs and fascists as a whole. The latter negates the former, preventing trans people and sex workers from feeling safe to march. VDM also has a “Trans, Two-Spirit, and Intersex Policy” in a commitment to trans inclusion at VDM-related events and in VDM-related organizing. Their policy, however, lacks a process to address what happens when this policy is breached. An inclusion statement and rejection statement, alongside a policy and strategy to remove harassers and fascists from event spaces, are some of the necessary steps required to ensure a safer space at VDM.

VDM must:

  • Commit to creating more space and support for trans people, sex workers, people of colour, disabled people, and other marginalized people within the dyke community to hold meaningful positions of leadership within VDM (avoiding tokenization).
  • Commit to publicly recognizing the history of dyke marches as anti-trans organizing spaces and VDM’s historical complicity.
  • Commit to devote a portion of VDM’s year-round organizing to specifically affirming trans women as women and advocating for trans dyke women politically in all spheres where VDM operates or is visible.
  • Commit to publicly recognizing that sex work is work, understanding that dyke sex workers exist and are deserving of safety and autonomy.
  • Build on VDM’s existing “Code of Conduct” to more effectively communicate that harassment, abuse, oppressive behaviours, and fascist ideologies are not welcome; and develop, implement, and clearly state a process in how these issues will be addressed by VDM at VDM-related events and in VDM-related organizing.
    • Incorporate into the process steps that range from calling a person in, calling them out, and removing a participant from the event altogether.
  • Work with the trans and sex worker community to draft a rejection statement of cis supremacists, TERFs/SWERFs and fascists in general to be used in all VDM-related events and organizing. The statement must include a formal recognition that people promoting fascist, cis supremacist and TERF/SWERF ideology cannot be included or participate in VDM events in any form.
    • Specifically commit to ensuring that if a person brings a trans-eradicationist or an anti-sex worker sign to VDM-related events, they will not march even if they put away their sign.
    • Whether in inclusion or rejection statements, specifically mention trans feminine communities and transmisogyny, not simply trans communities and trans antagonism. There is a specific hatred of trans feminine people that underlies TERF ideology and it demands a clear and specific response at all times.
    • Commit to require a similar statement of rejection from any groups or organizations formally participating as partners in VDM-related events and in VDM-related organizing.
  • Develop and implement a social media policy and design a role where posts made by the public are monitored, and fascistic rhetoric and the people who post them are removed and banned.
    • Include in the policy a commitment to transparency through the archiving of posts and comments by community members, especially when it involves calling organizers to account.

As a trans person from Montreal eloquently states in the comment section of VDM’s facebook post about the TERF/SWERF presence at the march: “…[A]n organised hate movement….demands an organised response.”

We believe that part of creating and ensuring safer spaces requires an ongoing learning process and we are calling on the organizers, board members, volunteers, and patrons of VDM–as well as the greater community–to learn from this year’s march and to take very seriously the dangerous and harmful beliefs promoted by TERFs/SWERFs.

The fact that TERFs/SWERFs were able to march along the entire route amongst VDM participants is a clear indication that VDM’s de-escalation strategy has failed. VDM must acknowledge this reality. VDM must develop and implement a strategy of removal in order to effectively address, deter, and prevent the presence of fascists in future events and organizing.

If VDM is sincere and serious about creating a safer space at the march, particularly for Two-Spirit, trans, and intersex people, and especially for trans women and trans feminine people, then concrete change and actions are required to reflect VDM’s stated intentions of inclusion.

This call for accountability applies beyond VDM and includes all organizations, groups, and individuals committed to social justice, who continue to create space for, work with, endorse, and maintain personal relationships with those who espouse fascist, anti-trans, anti-sex worker ideologies. For far too long, many who claim to fight for the oppressed are complicit in the normalizing of and providing platforms for hatred and bigotry directed towards trans women, trans people as a whole, and sex workers in Vancouver and beyond. Organizing in this way is unacceptable and must be held to account.

We can and must do better.

With fierceness,
Coalition Against Trans Antagonism

Update: CATA’s Demands Have Yet to Be Met

Vancouver and District Labour Council, CUPE BC and Chinatown Action Group continue to fail trans women and sex workers

(to view this as a note on facebook visit: https://www.facebook.com/notes/coalition-against-trans-antagonism/update-catas-demands-have-yet-to-be-met/2557503281141854/)

In the afternoon of May 1st, 2018, Organize BC informed CATA about the cancellation of the Evening Panel scheduled to take place this Friday, May 4th, 2018, and that this decision was made by VDLC that same morning.

At this point, neither VDLC nor CUPE BC have contacted CATA to communicate this, and have simply removed any information related to the panel from their promotion without any communication or transparency to the community. In fact, VDLC has not communicated with us at any point in time throughout the past month, and we have not heard a response from CUPE BC except our first contact with Nathan Allen on April 6th, 2018, when this issue was first brought to their attention via facebook.

CATA’s three demands have still not been met. We did not ask for the panel to be cancelled, and in fact the decision to do so has exacerbated the issue. This decision harms people on the panel who have important information to share that is not rooted in supremacist TERF/SWERF ideology and whose views would contribute to the forum. In our list of demands, we asked Organize BC, VLDC, and CUPE BC to remove Yuly Chan from the panel and as an organization, to address their harmful views and actions as a documented TERF/SWERF organizer, not to cancel the event altogether.

The cancellation of the panel also impacts our members and the communities we seek to support and represent — it plays into the false narrative that CATA has “ruined the event for everyone” or that we seek to silence any and all dialogues on labour issues. On the contrary, we aim to centre discussions on the future of labour rights within a framework that fiercely recognizes and vehemently protects the rights of trans women and sex workers. No respectful or healthy discussion, however, would or should take place with any TERF/SWERF individual who has actively organized against our rights, livelihoods, and dignity.

It is imperative to understand that the situation unfolding is a direct result of a lack of policy and policy implementation in regards to vetting and protections of marginalized people by VDLC, CUPE BC, and Organize BC for this event and in their organizational structure. This issue is systemic, and remains rampant in so-called social justice community organizing in our city and beyond.

We want to take this opportunity to clarify our viewpoints and address the misinformation currently being spread by TERF/SWERF apologists/enablers/sympathizers as well as TERFs/SWERFs themselves:

  • CATA is made up of more than 3 people
  • None of us are cis, hetero, abled, white men
  • More than half of our group are IPOC – Indigenous and people of colour
  • None of us are academics
  • Pointing out oppressive behaviour and ideology is not lateral violence, racism or oppression, regardless of the identities of the people exhibiting these behaviours or expressing these ideologies — marginalized people can be oppressive too, especially with regards to their positions of privilege
    • Lateral violence exists amongst individuals of shared marginalization; Yuly Chan is a cis Chinese woman — our members are not
    • Equating CATA’s actions to racism and sexism is a deflection from addressing the root issues being presented, which is cis supremacy and sex worker antagonism
      • It undermines the reality that members of our group who are people of colour are not East Asian, and therefore do not benefit from East Asian privilege as Indigenous or non-East Asian people
      • It also erases the trans identities of our group members, and promotes the notion that trans people seeking to hold a cis person accountable is coming from a place of power and privilege when it is actually the other way around
    • Behaviours and ideologies that have been demonstrated to lead to harm and violence towards marginalized groups must be named, addressed, and transformed if our communities are to truly move forward towards a more just society
  • Individuals, groups, and organizations who continue to insist on the innocence of Chan’s behaviours and beliefs on the sole basis of Chan being a Chinese cis woman ignore the realities that Chinese sex workers exist, Chinese trans women exist, Chinese trans people as a whole exist, and that all these folks also deserve to have their issues represented in larger conversations around housing precarity and sex economies.

It is a tragic strategy that anti-trans, anti-sex worker community members make this issue about themselves, while tokenizing working class Chinese residents, to defend their oppressive ideologies. In actuality, our demands pertain to the issues mentioned in our previous letter and which we continue to reiterate. Make no mistake, this is about anti-trans, anti-sex worker violence and oppression, and not solely about Yuly Chan, or their sensitivity to CATA exposing their history.

It is Chan who wrote and published their own tweets publicly and who actively aligned themself with groups such as Vancouver Rape Relief, FeministCurrent, and Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution; it is Chinatown Action Group who has yet to develop a political philosophy and practice that honour, serve and reflect everyone in the community, and that are not exclusively centered on cis women or cis people. In bringing forth this issue and by asking Chan to be removed from the panel, CATA has simply highlighted and made accessible Chan’s well-documented, easily searchable, and extensive TERF/SWERF organizing history.

We’re nothing short of shocked and angry that the organizational bodies involved with putting this conference together did not notice this. Based on the failure to respond to our several inquiries regarding the inclusion of Chan in the past weeks, we find them suspect and likely complicit in their own TERF/SWERF promotion. Thankfully, Organize BC has privately and publicly apologized and acknowledged their part in this issue. VDLC and CUPE BC, however, have minimized, covered up (by cancelling/deleting the Evening Panel information without any announcement) and remained silent about the issue, even though it was clear that the organizers saw the concerns raised online.

We are incredibly encouraged by those who have signed on to our letter, those who understand these issues, and those who are using their social agency to publicly support us and the communities we seek to work in solidarity with. We understand the nuance of fear, discrimination, intimidation and peer pressure, as well as the possibility of workplace reprisals, regarding people possibly wanting to sign this letter and who are unable to as a result. Thank you for expressing your support in private.

We call on supporters — those who seek to work in solidarity with trans women, trans people, and sex workers — to continue signing on to our letter until all three of our demands have been met. We are asking you to step up, if you have the agency to do so, and take a stand for trans women, trans people, and sex workers in our community (and beyond), who also deserve stable housing and safe working conditions, and who have been excluded from physical spaces in social justice organizing and liberation struggles for far too long.

We urge VDLC, CUPE BC, and Organize BC to revisit our demands and hold each other accountable to the community.

Unapologetically,
Coalition Against Trans Antagonism

The Future of the City We Want: Why Sex Work is a Labour Issue

Please see the update to our open letter here: https://noterfsnoswerfs.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/update/


This open letter is written on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples – specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations, in what is colonially known as Vancouver, Canada.

A closed letter, sent April 25th, 2018, was authored and emailed privately to the groups addressed below by the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA), a group of individuals who are Two-Spirit, trans, nonbinary, queer, disabled, Indigenous, people of colour, settlers, white, low-income, working class, youth, sex work-experienced and/or a combination of these identities and more. As a result of a lack of response, we have decided to publish an open letter. This letter has been modified to accommodate organizations and individuals in support of our demands.

CATA’s mission is to educate individuals, groups, and society at large, particularly in Vancouver, about the necessity of prioritizing the wellbeing and self-determination of trans women and sex workers. CATA aims to center and support sex workers and trans women, as well as victims of human trafficking. We collectively seek to differentiate between human trafficking/slavery and by-choice sex economies.


To: Vancouver District Labour Council;
Canadian Union of Public Employees;
& Organize BC

We, the undersigned, have become aware of the Vancouver Crossroads Conference currently being organized and promoted by the above mentioned groups, and that Yuly Chan has been invited to speak at the Evening Panel scheduled for Friday, May 4th, 2018. This issue was first brought to the attention of the organizers on April 6th, 2018. Nathan Allen (CUPE) and Organize BC responded the same day to inquire about CATA’s concerns. Since then CATA has not heard back.

Chan is a well-documented Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) and Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist (SWERF), and is known in the community to promote this ideology. Chan is a member of Asian Women Coalition to End Prostitution, and has been recorded speaking on panels perpetuating stigma about sex work and conflating consensual, by-choice sex work with trafficking. Further documentation detailing Chan’s involvement with trans and sex worker antagonistic organizations can be found by following this link: https://noterfsnoswerfs.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/yulychan/.

Chan has also made statements in her housing organizing work claiming that trans people are against feminism. These statements further perpetuate misogyny, in particular transmisogyny, as trans people, especially trans women, have been at the forefront of a more inclusive feminism and opposing cisheteropatriarchy. Discrimination that trans people face at every level of society, especially familial violence and employment discrimination, forces the most marginalized of us into criminalized survival economies, which includes sex work. Therefore, to be against sex work is to be trans antagonist and transmisogynist.

Trans women are women and sex work is real work – the denial, blatant disregard, and willful ignorance to either of these important realities is to be complicit in the violence that harms sex workers and trans women. Each year, the number of murdered trans people rises, with the majority of them being Black trans women and trans women of colour. More than half of all trans people killed worldwide each year are sex workers and/or do precarious work.

Sex work remains predominantly criminalized by the Canadian state. This legislation, paired with attempts by SWERFs (so-called “prostitution abolitionists”) to further criminalization and regress existing laws and protections, impedes the ability of sex workers to hold conversations around unionization and occupational health and safety. Groups such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the International Labour Organization recognize that sex worker rights are human rights and that sex work is a labour issue. We ask that Vancouver District Labour Council, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Organize BC also take a stand and recognize sex work as a human rights and a labour issue.

While trans people and sex workers would like to participate in discussions around issues such as the precarity of housing and employment the most marginalized of us face, we are stuck having to deal with the bigotry of those who attempt to negate our agency, self-determination and very existence. If individuals and groups who harbour these bigoted views continue to position themselves as the representatives of our collective liberation struggles, those most targeted by their hate will continue to be alienated from conversations and physical spaces.

As people who are affected by the oppression and violence that results from TERF/SWERF ideology, and as people who are working in solidarity with trans women, trans people as a whole, sex workers, and victims of human trafficking, we demand that the VDLC, CUPE, and Organize BC:

  1. Remove Yuly Chan from the Evening Panel at the Vancouver Crossroads Conference;
  2. Write an open letter to the community taking responsibility and apologizing specifically to trans women and sex workers with an actionable commitment to prevent this from happening again;
  3. Implement policy that prevents people who promote any form of oppressive, supremacist, and fascist ideology from being offered and/or provided a platform at any of VDLC, CUPE, and Organize BC’s future events;
    • Develop this policy with the guidance and approval of trans women and sex workers

Trans and sex workers lives are not trivial or negotiable. We demand that these points be acknowledged and rectified.

Coalition Against Trans Antagonism


SIGNATORIES

If you or your organization/collective would like to add your name to this letter, please email againsttransantagonism[at]protonmail[dot]com.

ORGANIZATIONS

  • Spartacus Books Collective
  • SWAN Vancouver Society
  • BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC)
  • Genderfest Winnipeg
  • Queerview
  • The Anti-Oppression Network
  • viet* collective for community justice
  • Vancouver Trans Day of Remembrance Society
  • Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Group (SWWAC)
  • Vancouver Status of Women
  • PACE Society
  • Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Out on Campus Collective
  • SFSS Women’s Centre Collective
  • Canadian Autistics United-Vancouver Chapter

INDIVIDUALS

  • Audrey Wolfe, zinester and sex worker rights advocate
  • Lisa Kreut, union organizer and transgender rights advocate
  • Meenakshi Mannoe, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Sean Orr
  • Ian Moram
  • Srishti Roy
  • Meagan Bristowe, disability studies student, researcher in sex worker rights, and harm reduction activist
  • Claudyne Chevrier, member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition and PhD student
  • Sarah Sheridan, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Kai Rajala, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Abby Rolston, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Franki Harrogate, graduate student in counselling psychology
  • Jonny Mexico
  • Kathryn Rhodes
  • Jaz Papadopoulos
  • Minh Truong
  • Vivian Ly
  • Nathan Dawthorne, PhD candidate, Sociocultrual Anthropology, University of Western Ontario, Thesis: Intelligible variability: Narratives of Male Sex Work in London Ontario
  • Anlina Sheng, sex worker and member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition
  • Charlie Huntley
  • Mareike Brunelli, member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition
  • Andrea Thompson
  • Kerry Porth, former sex worker
  • Dávid Danos
  • Judith Nguyen
  • Jigme Datse Yli-Rasku
  • Sam McCulligh
  • Ysabeau Wills
  • Vanna Lodders
  • Simran Randhawa

Yuly Chan: A Documented History of TERF/SWERF Ideology

Written on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations, in what is colonially known as Vancouver, Canada.

This document serves to archive examples and evidence of a demonstrated effort in the promotion of harmful, violent TERF/SWERF ideology by Yuly Chan for the purposes of public awareness and community accountability. We recognize this ideology to work in tandem with the institutionalization of cisheteropatriarchy in so-called “Canada”, coming into existence on these lands due to colonization.

Yuly Chan is an active member of Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP)1 and Chinatown Action Group (CAG)2. Chan is also connected to labour unions in Vancouver, Canada.3 In their work, they have been witnessed and documented aligning themselves with TERF/SWERF ideology:

  • In February 2018, Chan was witnessed making the statement: “trans people are against feminism.”
  • On February 18th, 2018, Chan retweeted Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR), stating “Working class women have always been on the frontlines of rape crisis centres. Shame on the labour unions that have pulled their funding from orgs like @VanRapeRelief. Shows how much they really don’t care about building a working class movement, or one that supports women”.4
    • VRR has a history of excluding trans women from their services, volunteer positions, and leadership positions.5 VRR also promotes the criminalization of sex work.6
  • On May 14th, 2017, Chan tweeted a link to a FeministCurrent post, entitled “Bill C-16 misunderstands what gender is and how it harms women under patriarchy”.7
      • FeministCurrent is an online bigoted, hateful, fear-mongering rag run by Meghan Murphy, a well-known TERF/SWERF local to Vancouver.
      • Bill C-16 was legislation which sought to amend the Canadian Human Rights Code to include protections for trans and gender nonconforming people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.
      • Meghan Murphy, representatives from VRR, and right-wing Christian clergy flew to Ottawa to argue in parliament against this bill.8
  • On March 27th, 2015, Chan tweeted, “Excellent keynote from #chrislynnhedges on imperialism, colonialism, prostitution, resource extraction, pornography, capitalism…”9
    • Chris Hedges openly promotes anti-sex work and anti-trans women ideology both in writing and through talks. Various groups have attempted to hold him accountable for speaking over the voices of women with lived experience in sex work.10
  • On March 12th, 2015, Chan tweeted, “Open Letter to Stephen Collis organizer of SFU conference ‘State of Extraction’ from AWCEP”.11
    • On March 12th, 2015, AWCEP wrote an open letter to Stephen Collis, one of the organizers of the SFU conference ‘State of Extraction’ demanding Hedges to be re-invited to speak at the conference.12
    • Hedges was originally invited by Collis to speak at the conference, scheduled for March 27th – 29th, 2015. After the invitation, Hedges wrote an article about sex work in the DTES, titled “The Whoredom of the Left”13, comparing the extractive industry to the sexual exploitation of women, perpetuating stigma about sex work, and promoting criminalization and abolition as solutions. As a result, sex work advocates in the community wrote letters expressing their outrage to Collis and the conference organizers.10 Hedges was removed from speaking and then re-invited again.
  • On February 16th, 2015, Chan tweeted an article from Hedges, titled “Pornography is what the end of the world looks like”.14
  • On November 2014, Chan was a speaker at the Earth At Risk Conference in San Francisco15 hosted by Fertile Ground Institute.
    • The institute and conference is a brainchild of Randall Wallace and Derrick Jensen16, the latter of whom is a well known TERF/SWERF17 and co-founder of Deep Green Resistance, an eco-fascist group that has been denounced and boycotted by a variety of student, eco, and Indigenous groups in Canada and USA.18
    • At this conference, Chan spoke on a panel titled, “Confronting Misoygny” described as, “Human trafficking, pornography, and violence against women are serious issues, but receive little attention. This panel will discuss these issues and how to bring the fight for women’s liberation to the center of our work.”19
  • In April 2014, Chan signed an open letter calling for the Nordic Model approach in Canada.20
  • On March 2014, Chan spoke at a panel titled “Buying Sex: Film Screening and Feminist Panel”21, alongside Meghan Murphy.

Footnotes:
Please note: links to sources which are tweets on Yuly Chan’s Twitter account have been made inaccessible due to Chan locking their timeline in response to this open letter. Snapshots through the Internet Archive are now being used as a back-up source and are marked with an asterisk [*].
1 “Speaker Bios” https://donotlink.it/Vjyy; Yuly’s speaker bio at the 2014 Earth At Risk Conference: “Yuly Chan is a first-generation Chinese-Canadian, originally from Venezuela. Based in Vancouver, BC, she has worked extensively with social justice organizations for the last 10 years on health inequalities, fighting patriarchy, racism, and poverty. She began as an organizer with the Vancouver Bus Riders Union focusing public transit and environmental justice. She then co-founded the Alliance for People’s Health, a collective of health workers and students that organized around health and quality of life for working class people. Presently, she is an active member of the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, working to challenge the normalization of human trafficking and prostitution.”
“Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution Newsletter | Fall 2013” https://donotlink.it/bge6
2 “About – Chinatown Action 2017” https://donotlink.it/jNaL
3 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: My sis, Zailda Chan, newly elected president of UNITE HERE local 40. Here with my proud mama, also a union member #unionfamily #powerofwomen” https://donotlink.it/NnOM *https://web.archive.org/web/20180422061124/https:/twitter.com/chanYULY/status/976592782738407424
4 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: Working class women have always been on the frontlines of rape crisis centres. Shame on the labour unions that have pulled their funding from orgs like @VanRapeRelief. Shows how much they really don’t care about building a working class movement, or one that supports women” https://donotlink.it/vbxM *https://web.archive.org/web/20180422061223/https:/twitter.com/chanYULY/status/965402230152093696
5 “Rape Relief Wins” https://www.dailyxtra.com/rape-relief-wins-19610
6 “Bill C-36 hearings told not to conflate prostitution and trafficking” http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bill-c-36-hearings-told-not-to-conflate-prostitution-and-trafficking-1.2702095
7 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: Bill C-16 misunderstands what gender is and how it harms women under patriarchy” https://donotlink.it/xQxL *https://web.archive.org/web/20180422061151/https:/twitter.com/chanYULY/status/863405617989304320
8 “In Committee from the Senate of Canada: Legal and Constitutional Affairs – May 10, 2017” http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/in-committee-from-the-senate-of-canada/episodes/51104746/
9 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: Excellent keynote from #chrislynnhedges on imperialism, colonialism, prostitution, resource extraction, pornography, capitalism…” https://donotlink.it/WjQE *https://web.archive.org/web/20180422060909/https:/twitter.com/chanYULY/status/581679208939663360
10 “the tl;dr version and the long version: Dear Chris Hedges… | kwetoday” https://kwetoday.com/2015/03/17/the-tldr-version-and-the-long-version-dear-chris-hedges/
“Speak with sex workers, not for them – Pivot Legal Society” http://www.pivotlegal.org/speak_with_sex_workers_not_for_them
11 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: Open Letter to Stephen Collis organizer of SFU conference ‘State of Extraction’ from AWCEP“ https://donotlink.it/neXe
12 “Open Letter to Stephen Collis organizer of SFU conference State of Extraction” https://web.archive.org/web/20171018200913/http://www.awcep.org/news/open-letter-stephen-collis-organizer-sfu-conference-state-extraction
13 “The Whoredom of the Left” https://donotlink.it/OnOX
14 “Yuly Chan | 陳尤莉 on Twitter: “‘Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like’ http://tdig.it/1DjMhJM” https://donotlink.it/ZjgN
15 “Earth at Risk 2014: Schedule and Details” https://donotlink.it/4B5Y
16 “Earth at Risk Conference Series” https://donotlink.it/Mn24
17 “How Derrick Jensen’s Deep Green Resistance Supports Transphobia” http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/how-derrick-jensens-deep-green-resistance-supports-transphobia/#sthash.f6qn0dKt.dpuf
“Deep Green Transphobia III: Derrick Jensen’s Hateful Tirade“ http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/05/17/deep-green-transphobia-iii-derrick-jensens-hateful-tirade/
“Why Deep Green Resistance Needs to Just Die Already!!” https://deepgreenburrito.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/why-deep-green-resistance-needs-to-just-die-already/
18 “Student, Eco and Indigenous Groups Oppose Transphobia at Conference” http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2014/02/17/student-eco-and-indigenous-groups-oppose-transphobia-at-environmental-law-conference/
19 “Earth at Risk 2014: Schedule and Details” https://donotlink.it/4B5Y
“Gail Dines, Sarah Mah, Yuly Chan, and Cherry Smiley – Feminist Panel – Earth at Risk Conference” https://donotlink.it/Y3g1
20 “Open letter calls for Nordic approach to prostitution in Canada” https://www.straight.com/news/74235/open-letter-calls-nordic-approach-prostitution-canada
21 “Buying Sex: Film Screening and Feminist Panel” https://donotlink.it/wZxB