The anti-SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) presentation by well-known SOGI 123 opponent, Jenn Smith, was met with strong opposition from the UBC community on June 23.
A counter-demonstration entitled “Rally in Support of Trans Rights!” brought a group of students, faculty, staff and community members together at the Martha Piper Fountain before the event was scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m. Many were dressed in colourful clothing and holding signs with messages of support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
The event was hosted by BC Families for Inclusivity, with UBC Students Against Bigotry (SAB) also participating and giving speeches.
The event began with a speech by SAB members outlining their frustrations with recent bookings of controversial speakers at UBC, including Ben Shapiro, Meghan Murphy, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern.
“There were plans last year to bring in white supremacists, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. We’ve recently seen Jordan Peterson on this campus. We’ve recently seen Ben Shapiro on this campus…,” said the speaker.
Brad Dirks who is a member of BC Families for Inclusivity and the father of a transgender son, also gave a speech where he expressed surprise that UBC did not cancel the event.
“I actually wasn't planning on coming tonight. Because when I woke up this morning, I actually thought that this event would be canceled by now,” he said.
After Dirks finished speaking, another demonstrator spoke out about what she viewed to be the ineffectiveness of teach-ins during previous controversial speaking events, which she had organized for the Ben Shapiro and Meghan Murphy events.
Students from SAB then changed plans and led the charge to move towards the front of the Earth Sciences Building (ESB) where the talk was being held to confront the attendees. All while chanting phrases such as “Fuck Transphobia,” “Trans Power” and “Trans rights are human rights.”
Stacey Wakelin, the founder of BC Families for Inclusivity and one of the event organizers, admitted the original plan was to stay away from the event, and the rally was unlike the group's usual more family-centric peaceful demonstrations.
“But I also recognize that there's a lot of anger. There's a lot of frustration," said Wakelin. "There's a lot of people that are feeling fearful.”
The community rallies
Following the change of location, counter-demonstrators gathered around the front of ESB where they began to chant and cover the glass windows of ESB with signs. When attendees for the anti-SOGI event trickled in demonstrators would chant “Shame.”
Two anti-SOGI supporters stood outside the event and attempted to speak with members of the counter-demonstration about the specifics of SOGI educational resources and their implementation.
One of the event supporters, Evan Nicolson, explained that he was not comfortable with the age at which children were being taught the curriculum. But he mentioned that once pro-SOGI and anti-SOGI supporters start talking, things begin to settle down.
“You find out well we agree on 90 per cent of these issues if not more,” said Nicholson.
At around 7 p.m. a small group of counter-demonstrators entered the building where the talk was being given and sat at the front of the room. Campus Security was called, and a few minutes later the fire alarm was pulled forcing both demonstrators and attendees out of the room.
Soon after RCMP temporarily detained three participants of the sit-in who were later released after questioning. The RCMP could not be reached for comment by press time, but SAB confirmed the detainment to The Ubyssey.
By about 8:30 p.m. event attendees collectively decided to move back to the Martha Piper Fountain, and by 9:00 p.m. the event had dispersed.
Counter-demonstration attendees, including students and members of the UBC administration, had a multitude of reasons for why they attended, but all expressed the need to support trans people at UBC as well as the trans community as a whole.
“I think it's important to support everybody who's trans. And it's clear that the people who are on campus might feel unsafe because a talk is being held,” said Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, Dr. Christina Hendricks.
“...I have a lot of trans friends who can't come today because they're visibly trans, and I really wanted to be there for them," said philosophy graduate student, Kristin Conrad.
"I am a cis person, and I knew I would be able to come to an event like this and sort of stand up and be a representative for that communtiy."
This article has been updated to correct the pronouns of one of the speakers, as well as clarify that only two of the three students pictured were temporarily detained by RCMP. The Ubyssey regrets these errors.