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

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