LGBT activists and organizations concerned about Vancouver Public Library event featuring controversial speaker

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      Update (December 3): Media has confirmed that, contrary to a CKNW news report, Meghan Murphy's event has not been cancelled. 

      An upcoming event at the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) has sparked outcry due to concerns about the speaker's stance on LGBT people and issues.

      Vancouver writer and editor Meghan Murphy, founder of the website Feminist Current, is slated to give a presentation at the VPL on January 10.

      Murphy has been the subject of controversy due to her opinions about trans people.

      On November 20, Murphy stated in a Feminist Current article that she was suspended from Twitter for "violating rules against hateful conduct" in four tweets with references to a trans person. On November 26, the Feminist Current stated that Murphy had been "permanently suspended" from Twitter.

      Among those calling for a cancellation of the VPL event is B.C. NDP vice-president Morgane Oger, who is transgender and has criticized Murphy's comprehension of trans people and issues.

      Due to concerns and criticism expressed about the VPL event, chief librarian Christina de Castell issued a statement on November 28.

      De Castell stated that it is "not endorsing, or hosting this event" and that it has "zero tolerance for discrimination and does not agree with the views of the Feminist Current".

      Nonetheless, the library asserted that it will permit the rental of their public space to the Feminist Current.

      "Commitment to free speech and intellectual freedom are fundamental values of public libraries and are bedrock values for democratic society," de Castell explained. "As such, we will not refuse to rent to an individual or organization simply because they are discussing controversial topics or views, even those we find offensive. We seek to be a welcoming place for all, and actively find ways to support the trans, gender variant and two-spirit communities."

      De Castell added that the "VPL is not in a position to take action intended to censor speech that is otherwise permissible under Canadian law". She also stated that it has "explicit requirements" in its rental agreements and confirmed with Feminist Current that the presentation will comply with Canadians laws.

      In addition, the VPL has informed the Vancouver Police Department about the event, who will be monitoring the presentation and will take action if the criminal code is breached. If any risk to public safety is anticipated, the VPL will implement additional security measures.   

      "While it is difficult for us as individuals and staff to accept a rental from an organization whose perspectives we disagree with, the fundamental role of libraries as a place for free speech and intellectual freedom must be upheld," de Castell stated.

      However, the statement has sparked criticism from activists and organizations.

      Vancouver-based B.C. queer resource centre Qmunity issued a response today (November 29) to the VPL's statement.

      "Qmunity stands with our trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit community members in protesting the Vancouver Public Library’s decision to allow Meghan Murphy, editor of TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) propaganda publication Feminist Current, to hold an event in their space. Murphy’s trans-exclusionary beliefs are well known and contribute to a climate of hatred, fear, discrimination, and violence against trans people," the Qmunity statement reads.

      The term TERF has been criticized by those who it used against and who consider it a slur, insult, or misrepresentation.

      Qmunity argues that the VPL's claim to be inclusive to all people, including trans and gender-variant people, is contradicted by "their decision to provide a public platform for Murphy’s beliefs".

      The LGBT organization is asking the VPL to cancel the event.

      "As members of Vancouver’s LGBTQ/2S communities, we know all too well that speech does not have to meet a legal test for criminality to cause harm," the Qmunity statement reads.

      Meanwhile, a petition has been launched for the VPL to remove its Safe Place stickers if the event is not cancelled. The Safe Place program, which involves businesses and organizations displaying a rainbow decal in windows or doorways, was launched by the Vancouver Police Department in 2016 to designate places that LGBT people can seek assistance or refuge in a threatening or dangerous situation until officers can arrive.

      In other news this past year about controversial LGBT–related local events, back in June, the Christian-based Get a Grip 2018 Youth Conference, intended to address LGBT issues and featuring social-conservative activist Kari Simpson of anti-SOGI group Culture Guard, was scheduled to be held at a New Westminster centre in July. It was cancelled by the City of New Westminster due to concerns raised about the content of the conference. 

      In August, the Vancouver Dyke March denounced activists who showed up and "sought to reject and exclude valued members of our communities, including trans folks" at their annual march.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.