It Is Unacceptable: A Statement on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA)’s work is conducted on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, which include the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations (colonially known as Vancouver, Canada). CATA seeks to work in solidarity with Indigenous peoples’ fight for autonomy and self-determination. This piece was written by a member of CATA who is a trans woman of colour currently engaged in the sex industry.

Originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, United States (US) in 2003, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is held annually on December 17 by sex workers, their advocates, friends, families and allies. The day calls attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers worldwide, as well as the need to remove the social stigma and discrimination that have contributed to violence against sex workers. This year, 212 deaths of sex workers were documented, the vast majority of whom are women of colour. Many of these same women were memorialized during this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance.

Here in Canada, colonial laws criminalize sex workers, as well as their clients, their drivers, and the owners and operators of the places where they work. This reality forces the industry underground and weakens the ability to combat strong-arming, exploitative labor conditions, and violence against sex workers. As a result, criminalization empowers and fosters violence against women, men and nonbinary sex workers.  Violence that has become a normalized part of the work environment for sex workers include sexual violence, psychological violence, and economic violence (where theft and robbery become common occurrences). The results are that the right to refuse unsafe work does not apply to sex workers. This is unacceptable.

red umbrella

On this 16th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, CATA recognizes that:

  • When sex work is criminalized, sex workers are vulnerable to violence and obliged to “choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person” (Justice Himel in Bedford v Canada).
  • It is unacceptable that the Canadian Criminal Code (CCC s. 210) makes it illegal for sex workers to work in their own homes or in establishments – the very places where they are safest because they can have security measures in place (i.e. cameras, neighbours, known exits).
  • It is unacceptable that the Canadian Criminal Code (CCC s. 210, 211, 212) makes it illegal for individuals to provide support or security to sex workers by criminalizing drivers, agency personnel and establishment owners.
  • It is unacceptable that street-based sex workers are often charged under Canadian Criminal Code s. 213.
  • It is unacceptable that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR s. 185) authorizes an immigration officer to impose, vary or cancel conditions on work permits if a migrant sex worker is found to be engaged in the sex industry.
  • It is unacceptable that in order to avoid coming to the attention of the police, street-based sex workers are forced to forgo safety strategies such as working in pairs, soliciting in well-lit populated areas, or taking the time to carefully assess a client prior to entering a vehicle.
  • It is unacceptable that sex workers are over-policed but under-protected. As a result, they are hyper-exposed to violence and predators who target them with impunity.
  • It is unacceptable that community members who seek to create a more socially just society leave out and ignore sex workers and sex worker issues from movements.
  • It is unacceptable that justice does not exist for sex workers. Police repression against the sex industry does not address this issue and creates conditions that encourage trafficking.

On this 16th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, CATA calls for awareness that violence against sex workers is a global catastrophe:

  • It is unacceptable that Joel Rifkin confessed to killing 17 sex workers in the New York area between 1989 and 1993, without there having been a single missing persons report filed for any of the women during that time.
  • It is unacceptable that the remains of numerous missing sex workers were found on Robert Pickton’s family farm right here in Metro Vancouver. CATA recognizes that he has probably killed dozens of sex workers though he was only convicted of 6 murders in December 2007.
  • It is unacceptable that Peter Sutcliffe (aka the Yorkshire Ripper) murdered 13 women, from 1975-1980 in Northern England.
  • It is unacceptable that Robert Hansen murdered between 15 to 21 sex workers near Anchorage, Alaska between 1980 and 1983.
  • It is unacceptable that Gary Ridgway (aka the Green River Killer) confessed to killing 48 sex workers from 1982 to 1998 in the US.
  • It is unacceptable that in one month, in December 2006, Steve Wright murdered five sex workers in Ipswich, England.

On this 16th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, CATA works to remind us all that stigma increases violence:

  • In Toronto, 100% of migrant sex workers interviewed by the Migrant Sex Workers Project said they would not call the poliec if they experienced violence.
  • In Vancouver, only 25% of youth who experienced sexual assault as suvival sex workers reported the violence to the police. Of these youth who had been victimized, 18% did not receive help from anyone, including boyfriends, other sex workers, friends, or parents.

On this 16th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, CATA calls for action to end violence against sex workers:

  • People in leadership positions must be trained to be culturally competent towards sex worker communities and sex worker issues.
  • People working with and in service of sex workers can help organize bad date lists, support sex workers in creating programs that meet their needs, and work to create and open leadership positions for people with sex work experience.
  • Community advocates must push back on the conflation of sex work with human trafficking and support policies that increase sex worker access to safety, human rights, justice, and liberation.
  • Communities must support and help create space for peer-led, sex worker-led efforts for safer workplace conditions and meaningful advocacy.
  • Institutions, organizations, and community groups must develop sex work policy to create safer and empowering spaces for sex workers in their own organizations and in the community at large.
  • Institutions, organizations, community groups, and individuals who seek to work in solidarity with sex workers and multiply-marginalized communities must be more vigorous with identifying and exposing sex worker antagonism, anti-sex work sentiment, and SWERFism (sex worker exclusionary radical feminism) in their work.

On this 16th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, CATA seeks to remind the public that sex workers are resilient and robust, and come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. They collaborate and stand up for each other to increase safety and resist violence. They organize bad date reports and participate in information sharing regarding dangerous situations, organizations, police, and people. They are safety buddies for each other and come together to support other sex workers who have experienced violence. They do their own research and draw from their immense lived experiences. Sex workers don’t need rescue. Sex workers deserve rights and they need solidarity in their fight for justice and liberation. Anything less is unacceptable.

For more information:

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:


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.

Mark Collard

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, 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

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


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


1 Future of Downtown Eastside: Inside the Planning Process

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

2 Pidgin protesters target new Vancouver restaurant

3 Tara Chee

4 Greenpeace (Canada) occupies Enbridge office in downtown Vancouver

5 The Sinixt Nation: “We are still here”

6 B.C. cities mark international Trans Day of Remembrance — some for the first time

7 decolonization | The Anti-Oppression Network

8 Spirit Matters and HIV

9 Fighting to do a woman’s work

10 Rape Relief wins

11 How do we refuse complicity with transphobia when it’s conflated with feminism?

12 Ending Sexual Assault

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:…

14 Supporting trans-inclusive organizations

15 No Unity with Transmisogynists or Sex Work Prohibitionists: AAD’s position on Vancouver Rape Relief

16 The TERFs

17 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

18 Meghan Murphy speaks to sold-out crowd in Vancouver Public Library meeting room

19 Feminist speaker deemed ‘anti-trans’ by critics speaks at Vancouver Public Library

20 Gender Identity Ideology & Women’s Rights: A talk & Q&A

21 We demand that end your association with Meghan Murphy as editor and columnist.

22 How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans

23 People & Groups Archives: 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:

24 Student, Eco and Indigenous Groups Oppose Transphobia at Conference

25 Deep Green Transphobia

26 Legal and Constitutional Affairs – May 10, 2017

27 When Toxic Radical “Feminism” and (Christian) Fundamentalism Converge

28 Bill C-36 hearings told not to conflate prostitution and trafficking

29 Gender Is War

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

30 Anti-Trans Feminists Appear at Panel of Right-Wing Heritage Foundation

31 Transphobia is a White Supremacist Legacy of Colonialism

32 Language, culture, and Two-Spirit identity.

33 Reclaiming Spaces Between: Coast Salish Two Spirit Identities and Experiences


35 Letter from the Zapatista Women to Women in Struggle Around the World

36 ‘I’m 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:

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.

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:

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:

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


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


  • 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


  • 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