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Transphobic posters on Memorial University campus spark investigation

Memorial University’s St. John’s campus.
Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. - Joe Gibbons

‘TERFs’ have no place in feminism, gender studies head says

A poster reading “Women don’t have penises” put up around Memorial University has sparked an investigation into hateful speech on the St. John’s campus.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Memorial University president Gary Kachanoski says transphobic messages have no place on campus.

“Memorial is committed to providing a safe, respectful environment for all members of the campus community and these messages do not align with our values. We strongly condemn and will not tolerate hateful speech directed towards members of our community,” reads the statement.

The message, which has also been posted on local Facebook group “NL Feminist and Allies,” addresses the notion that transgender women – those whose sexual identity at birth was male, but their gender identity is female – are not to be considered women, and thus must be excluded from the goals of equality sought by feminists.

Jennifer Dyer, interim head of the gender studies department at MUN, says such notions have no place in modern feminism.

“The groups who support this sort of discrimination are called trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). These are people who want to modify feminism from its main and stated goal,” Dyer wrote in an email.

“The goal of feminism involves supporting equality across any identity and experience, supporting those that are oppressed, marginalized, or compromised socially, economically, and politically. Exclusion is not the point of feminism; it is what we challenge.”

For Dyer, the exclusion of transgender women from the notion of womanhood is discrimination that has real-world consequences.

“Gender diversity is real, and to deny the experience of some people because one refuses to learn, to care, and to understand is a form of discrimination that results in real violence,” said Dyer.

“So, some women have penises, and they identify as women, and they expect to be treated as

women, and for better or worse (because in the age of #metoo being treated as a woman is not always great) they often are treated as the women they are.”

Dyer says the posters show there is work left to do to educate the public that trans women are women.

“This sticker tells me, someone who identifies as a woman and a feminist, that we've got some work to do to educate on behalf of our trans sisters and our trans mothers.”

MUN says it is working to remove the offensive stickers from campus and is asking anyone with information about how they were distributed to contact MUN’s facilities management or campus enforcement.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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