The Seattle Public Library has been inundated with calls and emails from transgender locals and allies demanding cancellation of an upcoming event, reports the Seattle Times.
Is the event a forum on Christian gender roles? Traditional marriage? Shielding children from homosexual activism?
The event will in fact hosted by the Women’s Liberation Front — a self-described “radical feminist organization” that has publicly espoused what critics call anti-trans views.
Titled “Fighting the New Misogyny: A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity,” the event is publicized as “a critical analysis of gender identity” that will “make powerful arguments for sex-based women’s rights,” according to its event page.
Scheduled to be held Feb. 1 in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library, the event has placed the library at the center of a firestorm over evolving ideas of intellectual freedom, access to information for the entire community, and being an “inclusive space” where all patrons feel safe and welcome.
Marcellus Turner, chief librarian for the Seattle Public Library (SPL), said in a statement that the event request from the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) was initially processed because it was labeled as a women’s-rights talk.
Since then, SPL has heard from patrons insisting the event be canceled due to the speakers’ views, as well as from patrons insisting the library has a duty to protect free speech and should allow the event.
Offensive speech and “hate speech” are protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech is deemed targeted harassment or to be a threat. However, when the American Library Association (ALA) considered amending its policies to explicitly allow members of hate groups to rent rooms last year, many ALA members pushed back, arguing that hate speech threatens the physical safety and validity of patrons and library staff from marginalized communities.
Library administrators are consulting other libraries, transgender staff and organizations, and with the city’s legal department to determine their next steps, Turner said.
The Gender Justice League, a Seattle nonprofit that advocates for gender and sexuality justice, said in a statement they will speak with SPL leadership to help them consider the issue’s complexities.
“The end result of a hate group using the library as a venue to ‘critique’ the existence of a minority group creates a hostile environment and is unacceptable,” they wrote.
WoLF is not listed as a hate group in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s extensive documentation of such groups in the U.S. However, WoLF has frequently been referred to by others as a hate group or trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) group.
“Women are female and men are male. It’s just not complicated,” said Kara Dansky, a lawyer, WoLF board member and a scheduled speaker at February’s event.