Rant on Anti-Vaxx Protests and Queer Safety

CW: This post contains images of hate symbols and transphobic rhetoric.

Christian Wright

1/30/2022 3 min read

It has been known for a long time that 2Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer people face significant risks to their safety compared to cisgender heterosexual peers, with 2SLGBTQ+ people being four times as likely to experience almost all types of violent crime (including sexual assault and aggravated assault) according to research by UCLA’s Williams Institute.

The Queer community is intmately familiar with this risk and the dangers that are inherent to our identities. Those of us that are visibly transgender or Queer are keenly aware of our lack of safety when navigating public spaces; and the lack of support we have from those around us when we are targeted for harassment and violence. Our communities observe vigils to acknowledge and memorialize hundreds of transgender people, especially transfeminine people, who have lost their lives to transphobic violence throughout the year; in 2021, we honoured 375 beautiful trans individuals.

So when we heard that a convoy of potentially hundreds of anti-vaxx people, a group linked to right-wing radicalization and extremism, was coming to Ottawa, we were understandably concerned, if not scared, for the safety of all 2SLGBTQ+ people in our city and in the path of a ‘freedom convoy’

The far right is deeply intertwined with transphobic ‘activism’ and movements, and is well known for their hateful rhetoric. Unsurprisingly, Billboard Chris Elston, a notorious ‘gender critical’ transphobic protestor that has dedicated his life to harassing parents and transgender youth, was recently spotted at the freedom convoy protest in Ottawa. The protest itself has now been well documented to be hosting individuals waving notorious symbols of hate and white supremacy such as the Front de libération du Québec, Confederate, and Nazi flags. The anti-vaxx sect of the far right is no stranger to transphobia either, having engaged in widespread ridicule against trans identity and platforming transphobic people.

While visibly Queer and Trans people already live their lives especially conscious of their safety, such a large demonstration involving hundreds of individuals aligned with the anti-vaxx movement presents a danger significant enough for many of us to avoid being in public alltogether. Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown actions make core public spaces such as downtowns and city halls inaccessible and dangerous for 2SLGBTQ+ people, intimidating us to remain indoors and avoid places we have the right to access and take up space in.

These protests serve to isolate us as a time where 2SLGBTQ+ need more support than ever, being more risk of COVID-19 complications and disproportionately affected by pandemic-related social isolation on top of the discrimination that transgender and other queer people face in accessing healthcare and  social services every day.

All levels of government can do more to mitigate the impacts that hateful far-right groups and their ‘political’ actions have on marginalized people. The provincial and federal governments must take the rapidly increasing prominence and legitimization of far-right groups like the People’s Party of Canada and Freedom Convoy seriously. Without investments into deradicalization and dismantling the alt-right pipeline and taking serious action to disavow and disrupt these activities, hateful movements will only continue to grow.

City councils can take a more proactive role in fighting radicalization by making strides to build healthier communities through investments in Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQ+ organizations with capacity-building funding. Developing anti-hate strategies for addressing hate-inspired acts and discrimination within their cities and creating meaningful opportunities for marginalized people to involve themselves in public affairs can make their communities inhospitable to hate-groups.

Until our governments start taking these actions and treat the far-right and associated hate movements as serious threats, marginalized groups including 2SLGBTQ+ people will feel unsafe and unwelcome in public spaces and institutions, especially when those institutions so readily bend themselves to the will of groups such as the Freedom Convoy.

Billboard Chris Elston, pictured at Parliament Hill on January 29th, 2022.

Hate flags, pictured in Ottawa on January 29th, 2022, by @YoniFreedhoff (twitter)