LGBT activist Nicola Spurling slams double standard in dealing with homophobia and transphobia

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      Nicola Spurling finds it interesting how people react differently to homophobia and transphobia.

      There’s a “double standard”, the transgender woman posted on Twitter.

      Homophobia, prejudice against gay people, “tends to get shut down immediately”.

      However, transphobia, which is aversion or negative actions toward trans people, is “allowed to play out”.

      “Even ‘allies’ seem to hesitate to speak up about one and not the other,” Spurling, who uses the pronouns she and her, observed on the social-media platform.

      When reached at her home in Coquitlam, Spurling noted that there are two reasons for this situation.

      One is that most people aren’t informed about trans issues. Hence, transphobia is “sort of given more of a pass by society at large”.

      “People just haven’t come around to the realization that transphobia is just as bad,” Spurling told the Straight by phone.

      The second reason is that trans advocacy is several years behind the gay movement. “This fits with my own anecdotal evidence,” Spurling noted.

      She related that 20 years ago, it was “incredibly common for people to say, ‘That’s so gay,’ and bullying of gay kids in schools was fairly normalized, although changes were happening”.

      “In Grade 9, I remember a gay man being brought in to discuss what it was like to be gay in society,” Spurling recalled.

      Two decades later, she’s the one being brought into schools to talk about what it’s like to be a trans person in society.

      The Straight asked if she thinks the LGBs aren’t doing enough to help the Ts in the broader LGBT community.

      “I think there’s always more that can be done,” she said. “I don’t want to throw people under the bus and say that they’re not doing work.”

      However, Spurling noted there is a segment in the community that focuses only on sexual orientation instead of including trans issues of gender identity and expression. She specifically mentioned the LGB Alliance, which was born in the U.K. and has a chapter in Canada.

      Spurling started volunteering with the Vancouver Pride Society in 2013. That was when some of the questions she had been dealing with since elementary school “started to make sense”.

      Growing up in Burnaby and Tsawwassen, the White Rock–born advocate lived the life expected of a straight male. Spurling competed as a cross-country skier, played soccer and field hockey, and participated in many physical activities as a young person.

      Spurling was living in “stealth” as a trans woman before she was accidentally outed. It happened when she ran as the B.C. Green candidate in Coquitlam-Maillardville in the 2017 provincial election. She was out to friends but not in public at the time.

      Realizing there was no way to get back to her old life, Spurling decided to become an outspoken advocate for LGBT issues and causes like housing affordability.

      She currently works as a social-justice advocate with The Flag Shop, a Vancouver-headquartered manufacturer and retailer of flags, banners, and other promotional products.

      Spurling successfully pitched the idea of a social-justice colouring book to the company. Copies are expected to be out before the holiday season. “My style of artwork lends itself well to this format, and colouring for me is a meditative experience,” she said about her book.

      In addition to the colouring book, the specialty shop has also produced a trans-lesbian flag designed by Spurling.

      Spurling is hopeful that the trans movement will be able to catch up with the success of the gay movement. To reach the point where transphobia is considered as unacceptable as homophobia, Spurling believes that progressive-minded and, especially, influential individuals should “use their positions of privilege” in society to help fight hatred and discrimination.

      “If they’re scared to speak up, it’s so much worse for trans people,” Spurling said.