By Sébastien Roback
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
When transphobic posters and stickers were found all over Ottawa’s downtown core, the community rallied together with a flyering campaign of their own.
Catching sight of the posters which first appeared on March 15, few in the city’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community were surprised.
“I think a lot of trans folks expect to experience transphobia and to be shown that we aren’t welcome,” says Fae Johnstone, a community organizer and trans rights activist. “Time and time again, Ottawa has shown itself to be unsafe for trans people.”
She describes the posters, which featured the logo of an anti-trans group that uses feminist rhetoric to promote transphobia, as part of a “concerted effort to strip trans people of their rights.”
Postering campaigns like this are one of the ways in which transgender individuals - who face disproportionate levels of harassment, discrimination and violence - are victimized.
But, as Johnstone explains, inaction in the face of transphobic acts is not an option.
“Allowing transphobia to exist, in any form, normalizes and exacerbates violence against trans people.”
Hoping to flip the script on the situation, a coalition of 2SLGBTQIA+ and trans-inclusive activists decided to team up to remove the transphobic posters and replace them with more positive ones.
Posters created to counter anti-trans propaganda campaign.
These new posters feature positive slogans like “trans rights are human rights” and “transphobia is no longer acceptable in the name of feminism.”
They believe this response will show transphobes that Ottawans have little tolerance for hate, and lets trans people know their community stands with them.
One volunteer, named Maëlys, explains that her main motivation for taking down transphobic posters and stickers is to protect young transgender people.
“At this point in my life, I’ve got a pretty thick skin. I’ve been sexually assaulted for being trans, called slurs, and openly mocked by others. A sticker, honestly, is irrelevant to me. Not everyone has that thick skin. Trans youth in particular are being bombarded with vitriol by grown people at the point in their life where they’re the most vulnerable.”
“I remove the stickers for them, to avoid them from being given yet another reminder that the world outside thinks they shouldn’t exist. Every trans person who is my age and has been in the trans community for a decade knows someone who died in their twenties because of this rejection.”
She adds that while transphobic posters and stickers cause damage to transgender communities, their reach is limited. Traditional media and journalistic “both-sidesism” can be even more harmful to trans youth. This shows the need for a shift in how outlets cover trans issues, through centring trans experiences and platforming writers in the community.
How To Help
When asked about what people could do to support the Ottawa 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Johnstone highlighted the important role played by local organizations like Kind Space and SAEFTY, which have continued to provide their services despite the challenges brought by the ongoing pandemic.
But everyone, regardless of their financial means, can help create safer communities for transgender people.
“More than anything, we need people to step up. We need people to intervene, to identify and address transphobia in their families, friend groups and communities,” said Johnstone.
“We need to send a clear message that transphobia is not tolerated in any community or in any part of our city, or country.”
Even small interactions can have a large impact, adds Maëlys.
“You can’t fix the world, but you can influence your circle. Don’t be a silent bystander.”
Some of the posters put up by trans-inclusive activists have been taken down or vandalized. If you would like to help replace them, or put posters in your neighbourhood or city, you can print them off below.
Feel free to use the extra space at the bottom of these posters to highlight 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations in your community.