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Open Letter Regarding "Gender Identity" Event at SFU

This petition had 1,427 supporters


We write to express our concern with the #GIDYVR event, “How media bias shapes the gender identity debate,” scheduled at Simon Fraser University on November 2, 2019, and to call upon SFU to cancel this event. 

Freedom of expression is a charter right that protects individuals from persecution or censorship by the state. This right does not confer an obligation on universities to devote resources or give a platform to speakers. We expect SFU to uphold the principle of academic freedom, and to also ensure that SFU does not amplify the voices or bolster the legitimacy of those who propagate anti-trans ideology. We must take a firm stand against speech that targets a particular group with the effect of evoking social ostracization, contempt, and violence. 

This series of #GIDYVR events are being held at universities and libraries to lend the appearance that gender identity and the validity of trans lives are topics suited to debate. We believe that this event will unfold in similar fashion (and with identical intent) to the “gender identity debate” held at the Vancouver Public Library earlier this year. At that event, to quote the Vancouver Pride Society in its statement on why it revoked VPL’s participation in Pride this year, “five speakers asserted that trans women are not women and should not be treated as women. VPS asserts that the conduct reflected both at this event, and in past public comments by these speakers, are discriminatory in a way that violates the British Columbia Human Rights Code.”

The legitimacy and validity of trans lives is not an issue for debate, and it is reckless and harmful for SFU to grant these speakers a platform. The views of these speakers, even when characterized as a discussion about "media bias," lead to real world consequences for trans people.

Academic freedom must be balanced with academic responsibility. We expect our colleagues to act with integrity when they engage the public and convene a panel under the auspices of SFU, and we call upon SFU to take a stand in support of the rights, dignity, and humanity of trans people, and to cancel this event.

Sincerely,

Sharalyn Jordan, Associate Professor, Counselling Psychology and Equity Studies

Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor, Publishing

Hazel Jane Plante, Librarian

Baharak Yousefi, Librarian

Lindsey Freeman, Assistant Professor, Sociology & Anthropology

Rosemary Collard, Assistant Professor, Geography

Ann Travers, Professor, Sociology & Anthropology

Rowena Keil, MA student, Sociology

Ean Henninger, Librarian

June Scudeler, Assistant Professor, First Nations Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

Leanna Jantzi, Librarian

Chloe Riley, Librarian

Elizabeth Marshall, Associate Professor, Education 

Carleigh Baker, Writer in Residence, English

Adena Brons, Librarian

Elise Chenier, Professor of History and President, Academic Women

Gwen Bird, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries

Ebony Magnus, Librarian

Faith Jones, Alumna (1994)

Kathleen Reed, PhD student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies 

Tiffany Muller Myrdahl, Senior Lecturer, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Urban Studies

Jen Sookfong Lee, Fiction Mentor and Facilitator, The Writer’s Studio

Laura Dilley, MA Alum



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