Trans activist students at Reed College in Portland, OR, protested against “transphobia” in a series of actions focused on intimidating and harassing director Kimberly Peirce, who was invited to hold a Q&A session on campus following the screening of her 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry.
First, the students removed posters advertising the film screening and subsequent Q&A session prior to the event. This action is an attempt to reduce the attendance at the event, allowing the protesters the opportunity to overwhelm non-protesters and appear as though they represent a more significant percentage of students. This is intimidation.
Next they arrived early to hang up posters in the lecture hall where the film screening would take place. Some of these posters featured generic slogans such as, “Fuck Your Transphobia,”and “Trans Lives Do Not Equal $$.” Although it’s clear a lot of time and intention went into these posters, some of the statements feature more ambiguous messages such as “Autonomy for Trans People” and “You Don’t Fucking Get It.” Finally, a sign left at the podium Peirce was invited to speak at read, “Fuck This Cis White Bitch.” This is intimidation. This is harassment.
In a display of transgender activism, the students entered the lecture hall following the screening to disrupt the Q&A session. For several minutes these students interrupted, talked over, and screamed slogans from their posters (among others) at Peirce as she attempted to give her presentation until she left the room. One protester yelled “Fuck you scared bitch” over the crowd. This is harassment. This is misogyny.
Among the students’ complaints were the fact that Peirce, a lesbian who they viewed as a non-trans person, was profiting on the “representation of violence against transgender bodies;” that a non-trans actor was cast as the film’s lead character; and that they didn’t like the “poorly orchestrated” rape scene in the film.
Regardless of whether these concerns hold any validity (hint: they do not) it’s worth noting that the tactics these students used — isolating one’s political adversaries from potential allies, using repetitive slogans to advance an ideology, and publicly attacking an individual to intimidate others who may be considering dissension — are not unique to this incident.
This is trans activism.