Sudbury

Members of Sudbury's LGBT community targeted, harassed, group says

Fierte Sudbury Pride is speaking out about online harassment towards members of the local LGBT community.

Most of the targeted individuals are transgender, non-binary or feminine-presenting

Fierté Sudbury Pride says several members of the local LGBT community have been targeted recently by online harassment.

Fierté Sudbury Pride is speaking out about online harassment toward members of the local LGBT community.

A statement on the group's Facebook page says the online attacks have been happening over the past month by hate groups.

Alex Tétreault, chair of Fierté Sudbury Pride, says the targeted victims are transgender, non-binary or feminine-presenting.

"Sometimes it's using names that are not appropriate for the radio, dead-naming, misgendering. There have been cases where individuals have shown up to people's workplaces," Tétreault said.

Dead-naming is when someone refers to a transgender individual by their previous name given at birth. 

"It's one thing to receive some sort of comment on a Facebook post — we've all had to deal with that at some point," Tétreault said.

"But to have someone intimidate you at your workplace, and you being trapped and not being able to go anywhere or do anything about it. I think that would be terrifying for anyone." 

Tétreault says Fierté Sudbury Pride decided to speak out and draw attention to the escalating problem. 

"The point of the harassment is to terrorize, to try to scare victims into silence and complacency, but we couldn't in good conscience allow that to continue," he said.

First-person account

One person agreed to speak to CBC, but due to safety concerns we have agreed not to identify them.

They believe they were targeted because they're both queer and outspoken about LGBT issues.

"They showed up at my work, they called my boss, they sent emails to me and to, not just my boss, but my boss's boss." the individual said. "They called me some very vulgar names. They were threatening. Some of these threats extended to my friends and family."

The person says their picture and other personal details were posted on local and provincial Facebook group pages.

"Since then I've been harassed by strangers on the street [when I've been] walking around the downtown area."

The individual who was a target says they are also concerned about other marginalized LGBT people in Sudbury, particularly transgender youth who could be publicly outed.

"Whether you're being called the name in real life or on Facebook it still impacts you the same way. You're still being called homophobic things, it still reminds you that you're not actually safe and accepted in all communities," the person said.

They also want others who may have been targeted to know that they are not alone.

"Whatever it was they've said, however it impacted you, it's okay. Your feelings are valid and you matter," they said.

The individual says they reported the posts to Facebook and other social media sites where the alleged online harassment occurred.

"Facebook has repeatedly said it doesn't violate their terms; Facebook says it doesn't violate their community standards."

Police response

The individual who spoke with CBC and at least three others have filed reports with Greater Sudbury Police.

Police say the alleged harassers have been spoken to and told not to contact the individuals or their employers.

They add that "generally unpleasant, unkind and even offensive commentary online rarely crosses the threshold of criminality."

In the meantime, Tétreault says Fierté Sudbury Pride has a message to the LGBT community.

"If any member of the community feels unsafe we want to hear from them, we want to make our events and make our organization as open and accessible to everyone," he said. 

"So that they do have a safe space to just be themselves."

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca