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