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I was involved in an accident the moment I arrived at the Meghan Murphy event. Less than 200 meters away from the Toronto Public Library that hosted the event, a skateboarder careened out of nowhere and hit the Uber car before skating off on his way. We pulled over immediately and I looked to find the injured person but he was long gone.
Thankfully there were three police officers immediately available to take witness statements and I was keen to give my information so I could get to the event. Unfortunately, a helpful bystander kept pointing at me and saying “She’s wrong! I saw everything!!”
This problem of people not wanting to let someone else speak first is precisely the reason Meghan Murphy, an outspoken feminist with hard views on whether or not people born male can actually be women, rallied hundreds of chanting protesters.
Outside the library, slam poetry artists spoke through a megaphone and when they “dropped the mic” to say a line the crowd was cued to repeat that line like a human amplifier. But nothing said actually related to what Meghan Murphy said, because she hadn’t spoken yet.
Just like the “victim” in the car accident that happened moments ago, the only evidence left was a bewildered group of spectators unsure of exactly what was happening. The one thing we were told to be sure of was that the police were “lazy pigs” for protecting Meghan Murphy from the mob outside.
The police in attendance now have my number so they can call me later if they need a witness that they, in fact, were not being lazy.
Inside the event, it was hard to understand what all the fuss was about. Members of the media lined the back wall having made it past security in a sold-out event. Regardless of the words that might come out of Murphy’s mouth in the immediate future we all sensed a major disparity. So much anger against a single, physically small woman.
One of the first things Meghan Murphy said was how strange it was that people responded to her as if the things she was saying didn’t represent what 99% of the population believe: men cannot be women.
“Bigotry” is defined as an intolerance and ignorance for opposing points of view and Murphy quickly made the point that the people calling her a bigot were the ones showing the most intolerance. And surely, insulting police simply for ensuring a person’s physical safety is morally questionable.
Outside the event the poets gave anecdotes of trans people who had suffered attacks and inside the library Meghan Murphy gave anecdotes of women who had been forced to share rooms with male-bodied people who identified as women. The people of whom both sides spoke aren’t just anecdotes, they have real experiences that should be heard. But how do we decide which person’s experiences are more important?
If we choose who we listen to by deciding who can’t speak then it doesn’t seem the problem is properly resolved.
Murphy said she doesn’t have a problem with people pursuing surgery to obtain their “perfect body” but that she worried about the stereotypes at play in pursuit of that perfection. And where the questioning of what makes a person “a woman” somehow became the equivalent of being “non-trans” instead of just human. Murphy criticized that the term “CIS” now substituted as “you identify as a woman at birth.” To Murphy that is insulting.
She described the trans advocacy groups as authoritarian and despaired that events like her speech were mostly only getting attention because of the protesters.
In part, Murphy blamed the media for misrepresenting her point of view and demonizing her. Comically, Murphy specifically mentioned columnist Tabatha Southey who “apparently has a Twitter account” and objected to Murphy being given a platform. Murphy, herself, has been permanently banned from Twitter for the crime of misgendering. Also mentioned was Toronto mayor John Tory who claimed he was disappointed in the public library for allowing Murphy to speak.
One comment that received applause was Murphy’s opinion that “women’s rights are being thrown under the bus so that people can virtue signal online.”
I thought back to my arrival when I tried to explain to the other helpful witness on the scene that I was perfectly happy to let him give a police statement of his own after I finished speaking and understood that he’d seen the car accident from the other side of the street. I’d just seen it as a passenger in the car. Of course both of us were neutral witnesses. It was just an Uber and I had no vested interest. For him, he didn’t know any of us either.
But the man wouldn’t let me speak and I don’t know why. The police actually had to intervene so that I could give my account as best as possible and be on my way. They literally had to move the man away so I could finish my statement and write my information down for later contact. And luckily I had a pen and paper because I was, in fact, on my way to cover the protest of Meghan Murphy just around the corner.
And just as the missing “victim” of the car accident quickly absconded from the scene of the “crime” the angry mob I encountered moments later seemed just as incredibly abstract.
In the end, whether you agree with Meghan Murphy or not, the biggest round of applause must go to Toronto Library’s Palmerston Branch for being brave enough to stand up for freedom of speech despite the intense backlash they faced. As a result, the library will likely be banned from the next Pride parade but it’s a small price to pay for honest conversation.