The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) condemns the upcoming #GIDYVR event to be held at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus on November 2nd, 2019. The #GIDYVR “How Media Bias Shapes the Gender Identity Debate” event has raised concerns among LGBTQ2IA+ communities and allies due to the speakers’ histories with transphobic and other problematic discourses. Known transexclusionary radical feminist and SFU alumna Meghan Murphy is slated as a guest speaker at the event along with similarly controversial speakers, “free-speech” advocate Lindsay Shepherd, Quillette editor Jonathan Kay, and Post-Millennial journalist Anna Slatz. Though this panel is objectionable for several reasons, Murphy has been especially controversial, having been banned from Twitter as a result of their transphobic language, and having caused the Vancouver Public Library to be banned from the Vancouver Pride Parade for hosting an event on their premises.

While SFU has released a statement expressing their concern for “equity, diversity and inclusion,” the permittance of such an event to be held on SFU campus demonstrates a lack of commitment to protecting and advocating for trans/non-binary students, faculty and community members within this institution. Using “free speech” and “academic freedom” as clauses for validating these events neglects the power dynamics of the dominant culture over LGBTQ2IA+ people. Further, the premise that gender identity is up for “debate” fundamentally questions trans and non-binary people’s identities. This event cannot go forward. By allowing it to take place, SFU runs the risk of opening the university to more hate speech events like #GIDYVR, similar to the rise of controversial UBC “free speech” events that have included noted and disgraced white nationalists as speakers.

It is also worth noting this event takes place in the context of rising antagonism towards trans and non-binary people across SFU’s campuses. As the Simon Fraser Student Society’s LGBTQ2IA+ resource centre, Out on Campus, recently wrote:

At a time when our #WeJustNeedToPee posters are being vandalised with transphobic slurs, SFU has decided to host speakers validating these views under the auspices of free speech. Yet the University also claims to be “deeply committed” to the very communities it is harming and neglecting. The University cannot have it both ways; if their commitment to diversity holds any weight at all, they will cancel this event.

As such, it is more important than ever to stand with SFU’s trans, non-binary, and LGBTQ2IA+ communities whose legitimacy, safety, and personhood are directly questioned by this event, listen to them, and take appropriate action to ensure their safety and security on campus.

As a feminist union, the TSSU denounces the #GIDYVR event, stands in solidarity with trans and non-binary people, and calls on the University to cancel this event. We further stand with The Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, SFSS Out on Campus, and all other members and groups who have spoken out against this event. SFU must live up to its values and take accountability for the harm the event will cause to the communities on campus.  

In solidarity,

Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)

tssu@tssu.ca