Letter to the President regarding Wilfrid Laurier University's Apology to Lindsay Shepherd on the Issue of Dr. Jordan Peterson's Remarks

Subject: Letter to the President regarding Wilfrid Laurier University's Apology to Lindsay Shepherd on the Issue of Dr. Jordan Peterson's Remarks
From: Kira Williams, PhD candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University
Date: 23 Nov 2017

Dear President MacLatchy:

My name is Kira Williams. I'm a PhD candidate in geography at Wilfrid Laurier University and a transgender woman. This email serves as a response to your apology to Lindsay Shepherd, as well as Dr. Rambukkana's open letter. Specifically, it addresses the appropriateness of Dr. Peterson's political commentary in the classroom. I argue that while I sympathise with Lindsay Shepherd’s position, your actions blatantly ignore trans-related violence and your part in fostering it by failing to make even the most basic acknowledgement of our existence or the hatred of Dr. Peterson’s speech. It is trans people who therefore deserve an apology from you.

As a graduate student, I sympathise with and have compassion for Lindsay Shepherd's position. I agree that teaching assistants should have reasonable freedom to instruct students, and that sometimes this may involve teaching political "controversies". I believe that we should receive appropriate support and understanding from our professors within reason, even where we may politically disagree. I can see how Lindsay likely saw and intended her actions to be conducive to student critical thinking and learning; however, you, Lindsay and Dr. Rambukkana have blatantly ignored trans-related violence in this case.

Regardless of his academic position, Dr. Peterson's remarks do not simply represent "free speech" but hate speech directed towards trans people such as myself. He has repeatedly affirmed not only denying trans people fundamental human rights, like using the bathroom or being correctly gendered, but used free speech as a justification for these dehumanising actions. By advocating the denial and erasure of trans people, Dr. Peterson implicitly advocates subtle, institutionalised forms of violence against us. He also indirectly encourages direct acts of violence done by others - being beaten in the street, murdered, sexually assaulted, verbally harassed and denied access to public facilities. Such violence is the lived reality of being trans in modern Canadian society, whose hatred works through both individual actions and social institutions.

It is all too easy for you, Lindsay, Dr. Rambukkana or Dr. Peterson to sit in your relatively safe and comfortable positions as cisgender women and men and decide whose lives and politics matter more: trans people or free speech. This is because it is not you but I who will have to live through the consequences of your actions. And in this way, not only have you put the right to free speech above our fundamental human rights to life and safety, but neither you, Lindsay nor Dr. Rambukkana have mentioned trans people even once. You have failed to acknowledge that we are the real targets of Dr. Peterson. You have failed to apologise for the violence promoted by sharing his hate speech in the classroom. You have even failed to point out our very existence. It is as if we are invisible to all of you while you, in part, determine the fate of our lives and well-being. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Trans people deserve an apology. We deserve an apology from you, Lindsay and from Dr. Rambukkana. We deserve to hear that ideologues calling for hatred against us will not be played in the classroom. We deserve for you to not simply brush it off "controversial"; as if it had no impact on us. Your controversy is my being solicited for sex at night. Your controversy is my being restricted from medical care I need. Your controversy is my being physically attacked on the street. So you see: your controversy is my life. And I refuse to sit by while you make the choice that the lives of trans people is less important than your political discomfort. I honestly expect better from Wilfrid Laurier University in this case. It suffices to say, though, I'm disappointed in you all.

Trans people deserve an apology. But I don't expect you, President MacLatchy, Lindsay Shepherd, Dr. Rambukkana or Dr. Peterson will ever give one. My last resort is to file this letter as a symbol of protest against your actions.

Kira Williams, PhD candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University