Toronto City Council votes to review library rental policies following Meghan Murphy event

Toronto Councillors voted to review policies surrounding community space use following Murphy’s event.

Toronto City Councillors voted 20-1 in support of a review of policies governing community spaces in the city, following a large protest at Toronto Public Library’s Palmerston branch over feminist Meghan Murphy’s controversial talk on “Gender Identity: What does it mean for society, the law and women?”

The review was proposed by Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam and will involve the consultation of LGBTQ+ stakeholders, many of whom were aghast at the Toronto Public Library’s pro-free speech stance.

Councilors will now investigate whether third party use of the city’s community spaces are in line and uphold the city’s policies supporting equity, diversity, and human rights, as well as those polices against discriminatory behaviour and speech.

Only one councillor present voted against the review, Stephen Holyday, who believes in “respect[ing] the autonomy of the library board to create its own policies and doesn’t like to see the council “wading into this.”

Ostensibly, Murphy’s event garnered more outrage than support, with hundreds coming to condemn Murphy for her opinion that “men cannot be women, even if they identify as trans”. At the event, Murphy said that she was astounded that so many came out to oppose that stance, “as if a strong majority of the population doesn’t agree with it.”

“Pride Toronto strongly opposes the Toronto Public Library’s decision to host and support an event with guest speaker Meghan Murphy to take place in a publicly funded space,” an open letter from Pride Toronto reads.

“It is well known Meghan Murphy asserts publicly and repeatedly that Trans women cannot be women and will always be men. This is a denial of the lives, experiences and identities of Trans people. It is a crude, hateful and hurtful assertion…”

They go on to deny the validity of Murphy’s concerns, primarily that as Trans rights are propagated, they will begin to infringe upon the rights of biological women—such as the right to women’s only bathrooms and sports. Pride Toronto responded by saying that, looking through an intersectional lens, this is simply not the case, as if Trans women, being real women, win more rights, then so do biological women by extension.

Other notable detractors of the Library were Fay and Fluffy, two drag queen readers of “Fay and Fluffy’s Storytime”, who have chosen to terminate their relationship with the Library.

With the motion to review policies surrounding community spaces, free speech, and hate speech, it is likely that this event will be the last time that the Toronto Public Library can come out unambiguously in favour of promoting free speech.

“As a public library and public institution, we have an obligation to protect free speech. When Toronto Public Library (TPL) makes meeting rooms available to the public we serve, we need to make them available to all on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use,” wrote the Toronto Public Library in a statementon October 15.

The Post Millennial interviewed Murphy last month to ask what she thought of all the controversy following her ban from Twitter and similar outrage she generated for speaking at an event in Vancouver.

In the interview, Murphy says that, in many ways, she depends on social media as a self-employed writer and speaker, and that her banning, as well as the controversy she generated, came as a total shock.

Murphy says that she didn’t realize any of her views were hateful or offensive, or even controversial, until she had been banned on Twitter. However, due to changes in Twitter’s terms of service, which were updated to include a policy on misgendering, Murphy’s trans-exclusionary feminist stance that only biological women are real women was supposedly sufficient for removing her account.

Although Lindsay Shepherd was banned for the same reason, Twitter reversed its decision in that case.