Dozens of people rallied outside the Vancouver Public Library on Thursday to protest a talk by Meghan Murphy, a feminist blogger whose views on transgender issues have made her a controversial figure.
Murphy appeared at a sold-out event titled "Gender Identity Ideology and Women's Rights," and thanked supporters – some who travelled from the U.S. to see her speak – for coming out despite outside pressures.
During the event, she defended some of her more contentious opinions, including that trans women shouldn't be allowed to compete against cisgender women in sporting events, or use women's change rooms.
"I think women's spaces and programs can be protected," Murphy told CTV News. "Trans-identified people really need services and programs that are specific to them – it doesn't have to be all one thing. I don't think it's necessary to say that people who identify as trans women are literally female, because they're not, and that's not an insult. It's not a judgement, this is just true. You can't change biological sex."
Murphy's supporters told CTV News they appreciate her standing up for "real women."
Outside the event, a crowd of protesters spoke out against Murphy, who some see as a hate-monger spreading bigoted and outdated ideas.
Among them was trans activist Morgane Oger, who was personally targeted with transphobic flyers while running for school board trustee last October.
"It is against the law to discriminate, to ask for special discrimination," she told the crowd. "To say, 'Yeah, but not those people, those people are freaks.' That is not allowed in Canada in 2019."
One thing people in both groups have in common is frustration with the Vancouver Public Library. Murphy was upset that she was forced to hold her event after-hours, while protesters were angry she was allowed to use the public space at all.
The VPL previously addressed the controversy, making clear it was neither endorsing nor hosting the event.
"It is a rental of our public space," the library said in a statement. "VPL has zero tolerance for discrimination and does not agree with the views of (Murphy's blog) the Feminist Current. However, commitment to free speech and intellectual freedom are fundamental values of public libraries and are bedrock values for democratic society."
Given the discussions sparked by the booking, the VPL board said it plans to review its policies for renting out its meeting rooms this year.
"We must continuously adapt and evolve to better listen to the voices of those who are most subject to discrimination," the board said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos