Sunday, March 15, 2020

When women's rights and transgender rights clash

The Toronto Public Library put itself into an interesting moral conundrum over an event it scheduled last fall, and which an article in this weekend's Globe and Mail reminded me of. It invited Meghan Murphy, founder of the major Canadian feminist website Feminist Current, to speak at one of its lecture series, and it received a lot of push-back from some quarters.
No-one doubts Ms. Murphy's feminist credentials, and that is not at issue here. Where she is controversial is in her views on transgendered people, and specifically her belief that recent federal legislation to make it illegal in Canada to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression - an apparently laudable proposal in itself - could erode women's rights. As she explained in an interview with the BBC, "Under current trans activist doctrine, we're not allowed to exclude a man from a woman's space if he says that he's female, and I find that quite dangerous and troubling".
Transgender rights activists therefore doubled down and called for a ban on Ms. Murphy's appearance at a Toronto library. Toronto mayor John Tory and some councillors also spoken out against Ms. Murphy. The library, for its part, and chief librarian Vickery Bowles in particular, took the line that the principle of free speech should be paramout, and insisted that the talk went ahead, despite protests, and with enhanced security. You can watch Ms. Bowles defend her position at an Empire Club speech.
And I think I have to agree with her in this particular case, although I am not one who thinks that feee speech ALWAYS trumps every other comsideration. It seems to me to be a genuine and respectful difference of opinion, not one where the rights and opinions of another group is being trampled under foot. This is not hate speech; it is an unfortunate clash between two marginalized groups, and as such it should be respectfully talked out and not just swept under the carpet.
Thank you, Globe, for reminding me that I never did pass comment on this at the time.

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