Death threats and hate-filled messages forced the cancellation of a Halifax book launch for Montreal-based transgender cartoonist Sophie Labelle.
The event, meant to promote Labelle's book Dating Tips for Trans and Queer Weirdos, was to be held May 17 at Venus Envy, a Barrington Street sex shop and bookstore.
"It was mostly people planning to crash the event, to disrupt it and so we feared for participants' safety," Labelle told CBC's Maritime Noon on Friday.
"We preferred to not take any chances and maybe just reschedule the event at a point during the year."
Thousands of threats
The day of the event, Labelle announced on Facebook that she had received thousands of death threats over the past few days for making her art and that her home address had been posted on several online forums.
Her webpage and Facebook also got hacked.
"I am currently in a safe place and my roommate and I will move away before the end of the week," wrote Labelle, who told CBC it's hard to say where the threats originated from as most people use fake or anonymous accounts.
Labelle told Venus Envy about the threats that day.
Couldn't guarantee people's safety
"We had to discuss as a staff how we felt about posting the event, whether we should continue hosting the event, and given the threats of violence how, or if, we could keep people safe," store owner Marshall Haywood said Friday.
"And because it did escalate quickly, we felt that on such short notice, we couldn't really guarantee people's safety."
Haywood said staff are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support the community has given to them and Labelle since the cancellation.
Venus Envy staff also deleted hundreds of hateful or hurtful comments that appeared on its Facebook page and is continuing to monitor them.
"There was a lot of Nazi or neo-Nazi imagery, there was a lot of slurs and derogatory language, there were definitely some posts that were at least obliquely threatening," Haywood said.
Threats not reported to police
Neither Haywood nor Labelle reported the threats to police.
"We did discuss notifying the police. It's a bit of a touchy issue because the main audience for Sophie's comics are trans people, trans women specifically and, you know, the police ... don't always handle themselves well with transgender folks and many people in the transgender community have had negative interactions with the police," Haywood said.
Having a police presence outside of the store for the launch would not have been a good solution, he added.
Haywood hopes to reschedule the launch for some time this summer.
He said Labelle's book launch at Venus Envy's Ottawa location went off without a hitch or any threats.