McGill Students & Supporters Gathered To Protest An 'Anti-Trans' Speaker Event

One activist said the event "makes people feel unwelcome."

Staff Writer
Protest leaders speak behind a handmade sign reading "McGill transphobe." Right: Protesters gather outside McGill's Old Chancellor Day Hall.

Protest leaders speak behind a handmade sign reading "McGill transphobe." Right: Protesters gather outside McGill's Old Chancellor Day Hall.

Willa Holt | MTL Blog

Dozens of students and supporters filled McGill University's Old Chancellor Day Hall on January 10 to protest a talk by a speaker with connections to "anti-trans" organization the LGB Alliance.

The speaker, a lawyer named Robert Wintemute, faced backlash in recent days for his connections to the group, which advocates for gay, lesbian and bisexual rights as separate from trans rights.

The event, and others like it, has left "trans students and staff feel[ing] very unsafe," said Celeste Trianon, a local trans activist and McGill student who co-organized the protest. "It makes people feel unwelcome."

"This is an event designed specifically to attack the trans community," Trianon added. "Separating trans people from the rest of the rainbow [leads to] a significantly weakened community."

Trianon termed McGill's platforming of this supposed discussion "blatantly inappropriate and very disgusting."

She demanded that McGill "actually support trans students," citing past initiatives like the trans ID clinic, which McGill ran in 2014 before it eventually fell to students such as Trianon to maintain the service.

"The Faculty of Law is known before [to have] helped the community, so why have they thrown [us] down the drain?" Trianon asked.

Protesters, crowded near the doors to Old Chancellor Day Hall, held signs reading "Ta yeule TERF," (trans.: Shut up TERF) "no tolerance for intolerance" and "transphobia has no place at McGill."

Two student protesters hold signs reading, "ta yeule TERF" and "no tolerance for intolerance." Right: two protestors hold a sign reading, "transphobia has no place at McGill."Two student protesters hold signs reading, "ta yeule TERF" and "no tolerance for intolerance." Right: two protestors hold a sign reading, "transphobia has no place at McGill."Willa Holt | MTL Blog

Wintemute was seen entering the lecture hall, but it was unclear whether the event was able to proceed as planned. Protesters continued to make noise, chanting "LGB with the T" and stomping in an attempt to disrupt the discussion intended to take place inside.

MTL Blog has reached out to McGill's Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP), which organized the event, to confirm whether or not it went forward as planned.

Speaking to reporters just beyond the crowd spilling out of Old Chancellor Day Hall, Trianon emphasized that Wintemute's connections to the LGB Alliance constitute a "conflict of interest," and is an affront to the trans people whose daily lives she says are threatened by transphobia.

Several people had arrived at the lecture hall to attend Wintemute's discussion, but were met with cries of "No TERFs on our turf" and "get the f*** out" from the crowd of protesters. One woman claimed to have been knocked to the ground by the crowd.

"We came here to listen to a conference," another would-be attendee explained. When asked why she was interested in attending the event, she emphasized her disagreement with "the [protesters'] discourse," especially as expressed through their signs.

"Transphobia and homophobia are two sides of the same coin," Trianon told media in front of the building. "If you get rid of trans rights, the rest of the rainbow is so vulnerable. It's also an attack on our bodily autonomy. Everything is connected."

A protester holds a sign reading, "lesbians for trans rights." A protester holds a sign reading, "lesbians for trans rights."Willa Holt | MTL Blog

Queer McGill's communications coordinator, Abe Berglas, told MTL Blog that the response from the CHRLP has "not been very impressive so far."

"Oftentimes, people are afraid to join in advocacy when it's not about them," Berglas continued. "But it's so exhausting to be a trans activist and to live this life every single day. So I do really appreciate it when cis and straight people support us."

Queer McGill communications coordinator Abe Berglas holding a sign that reads, "Human rights aren't up for debate."Queer McGill communications coordinator Abe Berglas holding a sign that reads, "Human rights aren't up for debate."Willa Holt | MTL Blog.

One protester, who asked to remain anonymous, told MTL Blog that she used to support organizations like the LGB Alliance before eventually coming out as trans herself. "For me, these events are normal," she told MTL Blog on condition of anonymity. "They fake that it's about academic freedom or freedom of speech — we made the same arguments. But fundamentally, it's just about hate. They don't have any rational arguments."

If you or someone you know is struggling with harassment or discrimination related to gender identity or sexual orientation, please reach out to a trusted peer, parent or health care professional, or refer to these resources available in Montreal. If you need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog focused on apartments for rent and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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