News and Updates
Open Letter to Seattle Public Library Regarding Rental to Transphobic Group
December 20, 2019
Dear Mr. Turner and Trustees:
We are a group of organizations working toward the civil and legal rights of LGBTQ+ communities and individuals in Seattle and throughout Washington. We write to express our deep concern for the safety and inclusion of transgender and nonbinary individuals at the Seattle Public Library in light of the library’s rental of its space to the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) for a panel entitled “Fighting the New Misogyny: A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity.”
While the event markets itself as offering “feminist critique” against misogyny, its content is explicitly and openly anti-transgender. The organization describes the content of its event thusly:
"Over the last several years, transgender activism has made sweeping gains. From local school boards to the Democratic Party to legislatures around the world, proponents of this ideology have succeeded in positioning "gender identity" as the social justice issue of our day.
But are the claims made by these activists actually true, or even coherent? What does it mean to say that people can be "born in the wrong body"? Does the concept of “gender identity” break down stereotypes about the nature of men and women, or does it reinforce them? And what about the rights of women and girls?"
See Event Website, available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fighting-the-new-misogyny-a-feminist-critique-of-gender-identity-tickets-85012638089 (last viewed 12/18/2019).
As LGBTQ+, feminist, and anti-hate organizations, we reject WoLF’s positioning of gender identity as either a social justice issue or a “claim made by activists.” Gender identity is a descriptive term of one aspect of human identity, alongside but distinct from sex, sexual orientation, gender, and other terms used to articulate human self-expression. See gen. American Psychological Association, APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.) (2015). It is only a social justice issue to the extent that organizations like WoLF seek to limit a particular group of people from engaging in that self-expression. It is only a “claim” to the extent that organizations like WoLF believe the self-expression of transgender people to be less authentic than that of cisgender people.
As individuals working for LGBTQ+ equality, we are uniquely positioned to appreciate the ways in which LGBTQ+, reproductive justice, racial justice, and indigenous justice movements uphold the core tenets of feminism by recognizing the many ways in which women live, love each other, hold autonomy over our bodies, and express our fullest selves. This group discriminates against transgender individuals by denying them the same right to self-expression that cisgender people enjoy, and by positioning recognition of transgender individual’s human rights as harmful to cisgender women. Calling women misogynists based on nothing other than the way they express their own gender is harassing and discriminatory.
We encourage the Seattle Public Library to use this opportunity to reflect upon the duties you hold to the public and to your employees under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination. Under that statute, every person has the right to “full enjoyment” of public accommodations like libraries, and to engage in employment without experiencing discrimination or harassment based on their gender identity. See RCW 49.60.030(a), (b). The Washington Law Against Discrimination is a public policy of the highest order, a broad declaration of civil rights “in fulfillment of the provisions of the Constitution of this state concerning civil rights” which are central to “the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state.” RCW 49.60.010. When Seattle Public Library hosts events like this one, it deprives transgender people of full and equal use – while cisgender people might happily enter the library building unconcerned that their gender identity will be called misogynistic, transgender people now cannot. Similarly, while cisgender library employees can happily go to work, or provide facilities support to private events, without being subjected to harassing and discriminatory statements about their identities, transgender library employees now cannot. By providing a platform for WoLF to make harassing and discriminatory statements which position transgender women as different from and less than cisgender women, Seattle Public Library is creating an environment of exclusion that is contrary to the values and goals of our organizations, and to the values and protections afforded to all people by the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
Requesting that the Seattle Public Library cancel the event would only center WoLF’s hateful and malinformed views, rather than the diversity, beauty, and virtuosity of transgender women. Instead, we encourage Seattle Public Library to take affirmative steps to protect transgender communities for this event by creating public postings affirming that the library values and supports transgender individuals and the importance of their contributions to our communities, providing support to transgender library patrons and employees, offering programming regarding the historical importance of transgender women to feminist movements, and engaging in long-term work with transgender-led organizations and communities to ensure that the library’s values of “free speech and intellectual freedom” are upheld for transgender communities as much as they are for those that would erase them.
Thank you for your consideration.
J. Denise Diskin
QLaw Foundation of Washington
President & CEO
Vice President of Issues and Advocacy
QLaw Association of Washington
ADL Pacific Northwest
Judith R.T. O’Kelley
Asian Counseling & Referral Services
President & CEO
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle