“Transmisogyny is no joke!” A letter of solidarity from Bread, Roses and Hormones against far-right threats to working class trans women in Montreal
On July 2nd, 2019, the Montreal organization Taking What We Need (TWWN) issued a public statement after their Trans Amour event became the target of violent threats from a far-right online troll. TWWN vowed to continue organizing Trans Amour despite threats. Bread, Roses and Hormones is releasing a solidarity statement because we see this threat against our sisters a threat against all working class trans women, and because we believe it is necessary to understand the social context conditioning biogted attacks against increased trans visibility.
TWWN is an informal volunteer collective of trans women who have been fundraising for trans women, which they call a “redistribution project,” since 2015. TWWN organizes large queer and trans focused parties in order to build a “discretionary fund” for low-income trans women. Over the last four years, TWWN has raised over $35,000, which has been used to offset the legal and social costs of transitioning.
The Trans Amour event started in 2017 due to lack of public spaces for trans women to hang out and cruise in. Marketed as an event for “trans people and the people who love them,” Trans Amour is reminiscent of the bar culture of the early gay liberation days where queens, gays, closted fags, trannies, and other gender rejects frequented bars in order to work, play, and organize without the social presence of straight folks.
It is no surprise that organizing this space would be complicated. Trans Amour straddles cis and trans social sexual worlds, blurring the line between those worlds. Trans Amour offers a space for people who may not be out in public to enter a highly social and sexual environment that is very trans and very gay. Some fragile men who “could not imagine being seen in public with a trans woman” show up to these events, all their patriarchal blemishes on display. More disturbingly, but not shockingly, other men respond with outright hatred.
In late June, someone with a fake Facebook profile named Jay Letel made comments on the Trans Amour Facebook event page stating that all trans women are mentally sick and human trash. He then tagged an organizer in a separate post and said he “could come to Trans Amour with a friend” and then posted a link to the Pulse Nightclub shooting, followed by another comment with Nazi imagery. TWWN decided to go ahead with the event and in the future will be hiring security for Trans Amour. TWWN says they respect anyone’s decision to stop attending the event, but they are holding strong to their project, “The last thing we will do… is let this kind of intimidation stop us from living our lives and claiming social spaces of our own. We have a right to exist in public just like everyone else, and we will not let this kind of intimidation push us back into the closet or anywhere else.”
Not just a dance party, not just an isolated event
The Orlando nightclub shooting happened in 2016. That same year, two queer and trans led spaces in Vancouver, where we organize, were revealed by anarchist website It’s Going Down to be on a Soldiers of Odin (SOO) “hit” list. One space, Finger’s X’d, was an underground queer and trans run music venue that was also home to a Marxist education group and an anti-fascist self-defense group. The other was Blood Alley, an insurrectionary anarchist/anti-fascist space, that had many queer and trans people involved. Both of these spaces have since been shut down by gentrification, a problem similar to the one faced by Montreal bars mentioned in the TWWN statement. Meanwhile, in Oakland, the proprietors of the Ghost Ship warehouse face charges for “criminal negligence causing involuntary death” for the deadly 2016 fire, which killed 36 people, including many from our queer and trans communities.
We must conclude that the closing down of working class queer and trans spaces to make room for boutique shops, condominiums, and expensive cocktail bars is no accident. As gentrification spreads across our formerly working class neighborhoods, queer and trans people have no choice but to occupy more isolated, more marginal, and more dangerous spaces in order to have a social life.
The threat against Trans Amour draws out the connections between transmisogyny, gentrification, and the rise of the far-right. Gentrification and fascist thugs are two forces converging on working class trans and queer people. When Brassiere Beaubien, a working class bar in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood, hosts Trans Amour for our community and organizers and event-goers are threatened with violence, the police barely deign to open a case file. As bars, cafes, and community centres are closed down and our homes are demolished, working class queers find ourselves with nowhere to go. Pushed into illegal, volunteer-run, after-hours events, we are at the risk of violence from emboldened bigots, fire danger, pig raids, and heavy fines. Pushed into the street, we experience beatings and sexual assault from both pigs and thugs. The threat against Trans Amour is not isolated and neither should be our response.
If the destruction of our communities is not enough, the rising far-right at least should be a wake up call to queer and trans people. There has always been a sexist, homophobic, and transmisogynist current to far-right politics. In the Nazi book burning campaign, the archives at the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin, a sexology institute, were torched, destroying scientific research on homosexual and transgender people. Under the Nazis, working class women’s gains from the Weimar Republic were reversed, and targeted gestapo round-ups of sex workers were justified by the myth workers were sleeping with men to lure them into overthrowing Hitler’s regime.
Today, we see similar anti-intellectual, misogynist hate directed at political and revolutionary women; migrant trans women dying in ICE detention centres; and increased fag-bashing and baiting in the streets and online. As BRH organizer Laura Paul argued last year: “Fascism relies on rigid gender roles, they call traditional, where men serve their country as tools for the mother nation’s imperialist war machine and women are servants that reproduce the capability for men to become obedient death dealers.” In this schema, there is no room for independent women, penis or not; men and women who love each other; or people who are neither men nor women. By the fact of our existence, working class trans women are antithetical to fascist resurgence; by virtue of our organizing are we a threat to their movement.
Support trans women and sex workers in Montreal!
BRH is comprised of mostly low-income trans women, so what we can offer TWWN is our minds, bodies, spirits, and all the energy we have to fight back the right.
We urge the trans community of the Lower Mainland who may be better resourced, non-binary people, trans men, queer and straight cis folks, to donate to TWWN so they can continue to organize Trans Amour events in order to both fundraise for low-income trans women and maintain a space where trans women can be social and sexual as safely as possible. Please donate through the TWWN PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org