Those whose voices are met with few barriers

So this is where we are.

This week’s controversy about Lindsay Shepherd, the Wilfrid Laurier TA who got in trouble for airing a Jordan Peterson clip in class, has opened up the same old tired debate around “freedom of speech.” This isn’t to say that such debates are of no importance, but they often tend to focus on the voices of white, cis-gender persons who already have a platform to speak from.

Ah. White, cis-gender persons who can grab a platform any time they feel like it. So much for all those efforts to get corporations and universities and politics and basically everything to stop excluding women – that was all a mistake, because [white] women are not being excluded at all. They’re cis, therefore they are dominant and powerful and safe from being excluded or ignored or showered with contempt ever at any time by anyone.

Kidding. They’re not. We’re not.

This is evidenced in the overwhelming support and amplification that people such as Lindsay Shepherd—the TA in question who gained 12,000 Twitter followers in a week—and Jordan Peterson receive when these controversies emerge.

Oh bollocks. How many incidents of the kind are there that didn’t make it to the press and so didn’t get support and amplification? We don’t know. It would be stupid to assume there aren’t any, especially when Shepherd was pounced on for such a footling reason.

For many of us, debates centred around gender pronouns aren’t just intellectual exercises. I’m a trans woman and a PhD student at Carleton University, and little has been heard from the transgender perspective throughout this entire ordeal, despite the fact that we are at the center of this debate.

For freedom of speech to work in practice, the argument goes, we must accommodate even the arguments we don’t like. At its most absolute, this argument advocates giving voice to those who would target the basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

I would like to humbly suggest that free speech is threatened in university campuses across the nation. However, the ways in which I think it’s threatened have been obscured by the entitlement of those whose voices are met with few barriers.

There it is again. Our trans PhD student is saying women’s voices meet with few barriers. Oh really. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true.

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