by Harleen Kaur Dhillon
Feminism is not only for women. It has grown to include equality for all genders, whatever they may be. Still, an air of transphobia persists in some radical feminist circles.
To counter the arrival of one such transphobic speaker on the Laurier Campus, the Rainbow Centre, the Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), and the Centre for Women and Trans People held the Love Letters to Inclusive Feminism event on Wednesday, Oct 24th. They aimed to provide a safe space for Trans* people – people who identify with anything other than man or woman – and their allies, as well as resources for support and information for anyone who may need them.
Trans* people face isolation and seclusion in a world designed for cisgender people (people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth). Love Letters provided visibility and a sense of community to Trans* people.
“As a trans person, I feel often very secluded and isolated and don’t often get to connect with other trans folks and I think that’s maybe because not all of us are like super crazy different looking, although some of us are and that’s pretty cool,” Naomi Dylan, a general volunteer at Laurier’s Rainbow Centre,said.
“Just being able to be around people who may be are cis or maybe not but everybody is really accepting is a different change.” they said.
The organizers of Love Letters showed support to trans* community and provided a safe space for them and allies to relax away from an increasingly transphobic atmosphere.
“We know that there’s a lot of transphobia that folks are facing on and off campus, […] we just wanted to make sure that there was a supportive space where folks could find out what organizations are supporting them and what sort of people they can go to for support as well,” Miles Hewson, the Administrator for the Rainbow Centre, said.
“[It’s also a] chance to get to know each other, be in a comfortable space at a time when things aren’t so great out there all the time, to be able to provide just a nice, comfortable space is really important,” they said.
Amanda Fitzpatrick, Co-ordinator of the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, was the only representative from a UW-based group. She expressed the importance of community beyond the respective campuses, and the need for a counterevent against the transphobic speaker in a non-aggressive manner.
“Instead of having a protest upfront, we thought it would be better to just do something to distract and take energy away, […] by having a counterevent, we’re able to have a nice space that people can go to instead of always having things that are just aggressive and not great energy,” Fitzpatrick said.
“One of the reasons that I wanted to get involved as Glow […] we’re on the same community, the same people that are going to be listening to the transphobic speaker are the same people that we’re interacting with when we’re off campus […] so it’s important that we create an inclusive community,” she said.
Love Letters included relaxing recreational activities for attendees. Colouring pages were set up in the centre of lots of food and drinks, as well as resource pamphlets, self-care cards, and buttons. Attendees could also make their own fun buttons, many of which had themes of equality, queerness, and inclusivity.
In addition to providing a safe space for trans* people, Love Letters was meant to promote inclusive feminism, one that does not exclude the many other genders also subject to inequality and discrimination.
“It’s important to highlight that feminism means […] gender equity for all genders, not just cisgender women, so it’s important that we have an inclusive definition of feminism and understanding of gender equity.” Karly Rath, Volunteer and Community Engagement Director for LSPIRG, said.
“We want people to have access to what they’re looking for when they come in — so whether that’s a conversation, whether that is just a place to chill — making sure that folks are able to access what they need out of this space is what’s important,” Hewson said.
Love Letters was a one-time event, but the message it sent is everlasting. The organizers also highlighted their ever-present resources and supports for anyone who needs them.
“We just want to emphasize that our groups and the individuals in our groups support trans students and trans people in our community and that’s the most important thing to keep in mind. We’re always here,” Rath said.