Canadian literary editor fired after supporting free speech

Literary editor Will Johnson was fired from his position at the Humber Literature Review for supporting Meghan Murphy’s right to freedom of speech.

Anna Slatz Montreal QC

Will Johnson, a Canadian literary editor, was fired from his position at the Humber Literary Review for supporting Meghan Murphy’s right to freedom of speech.

Johnson, who had been with Humber for 5 years, said he had never heard of Meghan Murphy prior to the Toronto Public Library scandal, in which Chief Librarian Vickery Bowles made headlines for standing behind her decision to support the rental of library space to Murphy.

“I didn’t know what the word TERF meant. All I saw was internet trolls screaming at feminists.” Johnson said, noting that he did consider himself a feminist—especially on the issue of sexual violence, one of the main themes of his upcoming memoir. “I began to engage, reading tweets and trying to make sense of what was happening.”

Johnson said he tried to engage respectfully in the Toronto Public Library debate by retweeting both Trans Rights Activists and Gender Critical Feminists, but the debate became heated.

“I posted that I love trans people, but I find the activists who claim to be representing them to be petulant, small-minded shitheads. That tweet went a little bit viral, inspiring a cavalcade of conversation on both sides.” Johnson later said, noting he couldn’t keep track of who was on what side.

Johnson says that he received an email from Humber thanking him for his five years of service and dismissing him on the basis of “restructuring.”

“They told me there was restructuring going on at the college, and from that point forward anybody with a role at the magazine had to also be associated with the college. That made sense to me.” Johnson also said he had his suspicions, but he brushed them off, believing “ousting me for a tweet was such an indefensible and silly maneuver they couldn’t possibly be capable of it.”

It was not until December 12th and Johnson received an email from Meaghan Strimas, one of the founding editors of Humber Literature Review, that his suspicions were confirmed.

In the email, provided to The Post Millennial for verification, Strimas is seen claiming her concerns are shared by “all members of the HLR collective,” stating “We have grave concerns about comments on your Twitter account and threads that give rise to transphobic sentiments or question the validity of people of any gender.”

The purpose of Strimas’ email is to demand Johnson remove any reference to his former time at Humber from his Twitter biography section and any other social media, where Johnson had listed himself as a “Former Interviews Editor @HumberLitReview.”

Johnson notes the irony in that he has an extensive history of pro-LGBT editing. As far back as 2017, Johnson was interviewing a non-binary man for the Nelson Star, featuring his narrative on parenting as part of an exclusive.

“Anybody who believes I am capable of expressing or encouraging hate doesn’t know me at all.” He said, noting that he does not intend to sue or otherwise take any legal action against HLR for labelling him a transphobe.

“I am profoundly sad that the editors at HLR decided to nuke our relationship in this way. That being said, I’m hoping the silver lining will be that more people read Yasuko’s Thanh’s memoir Mistakes to Run With. I think it’s an important book and will be an inspiration to young and exploited sex workers.”

The Post Millennial had reached out to Meaghan Strimas and Eufemia Fantetti of the Humber Literature Review for comment did not hear back by the time of publication. However, HLR issued the following tweets after our story ran:

Note: This story has been updated to include a tweet from prior to Mr. Johnson’s termination and clarify the timeline of events and official statements from the Humber Literary Review.


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