Nfld. & Labrador

MUN students slam transphobic stickers appearing in gender-neutral bathrooms

Memorial University students are planning a public meeting to fight back, and the school president says an investigation is underway.

President Gary Kachonoski says university is investigating

Andrew Kenney, the MUN's student union's transgender student representative, says the posters prove that transphobia still exists on campus. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Students at Memorial University are planning to fight back after the appearance of transphobic stickers in gender-neutral washrooms on the school's St. John's campus.

The stickers — which include phrases like "women don't have penises" and "transitioning worsens dysphoria"  — first started appearing last week, and have since been spotted in multiple buildings at the university.

"It makes me uneasy," says second-year student Andrew Kenney, the transgender student rep with MUN's Student Union.

There are gender-neutral washrooms in many buildings on campus. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"Putting the gender-neutral washrooms in place was a huge step for trans people on campus feeling safe, and now that those areas have been targeted it's disheartening, and it's kind of scary."

Bailey Howard, MUNSU's director of external affairs, said Wednesday that the student union is planning two meetings on Thursday and Friday to discuss next steps, and to make it clear that the union, students and faculty won't tolerate these stickers.

"We're going to be having a public meeting for students and community members within the university to come together and talk about ways to counter the transphobia that we're seeing on campus," she said.

MUNSU's Bailey Howard says transphobia on campus will not be tolerated. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

In recent years, Howard said, MUN has been making an active effort to create more gender-neutral bathrooms across the school's campus, adding it's disturbing to see transgender students targeted like this.

"There's some in almost every building now on campus," she said. "People should be able to use whatever bathroom they identify with."

Some students have been tearing down the transphobic stickers and replacing them with positive messaging. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Last year, when Islamophobic posters appeared on campus, the union planned a rally against Islamophobia, and Howard said the community is considering all options on how to respond to the current issue.

'Transphobia exists'

For Kenney, seeing the stickers appear on campus was not a huge surprise.

"Being a trans person I know that transphobia exists. I've seen it before, [but] it's disappointing to see it in my university where I'm supposed to feel safe." 

MUN President Gary Kachanoski issued a statement on Tuesday and said the university is actively working with campus enforcement and facilities management staff to remove the stickers and investigate their source.

Students hang out between classes in the food court at MUN's University Centre. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"We strongly condemn and will not tolerate hateful speech directed toward members of our community," he said.

Howard says some students are already taking steps to address the stickers by ripping them down whenever they see them and putting up new positive posters in their place.

She hopes whoever is putting up the stickers is found and that their name is released.

"Students don't feel safe knowing that they could be also entering a classroom or walking down the halls with someone who is actively targeting them on campus, and they should know who that person or people are," said Howard.

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