TORONTO – Several hundred protesters gathered Tuesday outside a Toronto library where a self-described feminist spoke inside about her views on gender identity.
The Toronto Public Library has been under intense criticism in recent weeks in the build up to the talk by freelance writer Meghan Murphy, who said she does not recognize transgender people.
“Trans rights are human rights!” the crowd shouted near the downtown library, which allowed the event to continue, citing the right to free speech.
Gwen Benaway, fresh from winning the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry earlier in the day, said she was there to continue the fight for transgender rights.
“We are part of the community, this is our library and we have a right to be here,” said Benaway, a transgender woman who is offended by Murphy’s stance.
She was backed up by an emotional but peaceful crowd.
“This is transphobia,” said Cheri DiNovo, a longtime LGBTQ activist and former Ontario legislator.
“It is not feminism because she doesn’t include all women, she doesn’t include trans women.”
Inside, about a hundred attendees, mostly women, listened to Murphy talk for 30 minutes.
“It’s ridiculous, but here we are,” Murphy said of the crowd outside.
“I’m told organizers had to go to 20 different spots before coming to the library. I’m glad we’re having this conversation despite some local activists and the seemingly confused local mayor.”
Mayor John Tory had expressed disappointment that the public library allowed the event.
Murphy said she wanted to clarify her position, saying she has been maligned by the media and transgender activists.
“If you’re born male, you remain male for life,” she said.
She also said that the “trans-activist movement has made for the erasure of women.”
Outside, the crowd grew and waited for audience members to leave. Many held signs that read “No hate in our city” and “Trans lives matter.”
They jeered when audience members, who had to be escorted out by police, left.
Ashley Thorsell came down with her three children to “take a stand against transphobia.”
“I think it’s really unfortunate that the Toronto Public Library felt it necessary to give a platform for hate speech,” Thorsell said.