Academics, 2SLGBTQ+ community claim UWinnipeg professor spreading transphobic rhetoric

Advocates in Winnipeg want an upcoming speaking event at the University of Winnipeg, featuring a speaker who promotes what they say are problematic and harmful views for members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, cancelled. Morgan Modjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

Advocates are calling on the University of Winnipeg to cancel an event featuring a speaker who they say promotes transphobic rhetoric.

They claim U of W professor Joanne Boucher’s talk is a platform for harmful, hateful and false information.

“It’s deeply concerning that an event like this is being permitted to proceed at any post-secondary education institution,” said Jenn Rands, Pride Winnipeg’s vice-president of community engagement.

“Spreading misinformed opinion, rather than medical-proven research on gender-affirming care, is frankly walking a very dangerous line between promoting hatred, as opposed to promoting acceptance of fellow human beings.”

The event is titled “The Commodification of the Human Body: The Case of Transgender Identities.”

According to the event poster, Boucher is expected to focus on the “economic interests involved in transgenderism” and the role of “government, corporate-funded lobby groups, the medical industry” to “illustrate the ways the human body itself is increasingly becoming commodified for profit.”

‘Inappropriate and dangerous’ 

Rands says the event and the language used on the poster are both problematic.

“It’s entirely inappropriate and dangerous that transgender health care is being referred to as a commodity,” she said. “These treatments and procedures, they’re not cosmetic. Gender-affirming health care is medically necessary and it’s life-saving care for youth and adults. You can’t in any way approach this as a commodity. You can’t put a price on somebody’s life.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to look at transgender health care in this light. Period.”

Friday’s event was posted under the University of Winnipeg’s logo and appears to be part of the institution’s 2022-23 speaker series.

Requests for an interview with a representative from the University of Winnipeg were not accommodated and interview requests to Boucher went unanswered.

Rands says given the university’s reputation, she was surprised such an event would be taking place on campus. She says a review of how events are approved should take place to ensure other potentially harmful events do not go ahead.

Celebrating trans community 

Other academics want the event cancelled and are staging a Trans Love Cupcake Hour and open roundtable event aimed at supporting members of the trans community.

“What we’re really interested in is not so much hosting a counter-event, but rather just creating a space for connection and community and to celebrate the queer and trans community at the University of Winnipeg and beyond,” said Alyson Brickey, an assistant English professor at the University of Winnipeg.

“It’s really important in this contemporary world, where there is a lot of transphobia and violence against trans people, to combat that whenever we can.”

Brickey says some staff brought concerns forward to administration. She believes the event goes against the U of W’s values.

“University of Winnipeg prides itself on being an inclusive and respectful place where all sorts of folks can come and learn, and work and teach in a respectful, inclusive environment, so I think many of us when we saw the advertisement for the talk, had a feeling that it somewhat contradicted those values.”

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