News / Edmonton

Transgender activists worry Jordan Peterson lecture will 'embolden' anti-LGBTQ views

The controversial University of Toronto professor is scheduled to speak at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre on Feb. 11

LEFT: University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan Peterson has attracted controversy because of his public declaration that he will not use pronouns, such as “they,” to recognize non-binary genders. RIGHT:  Marni Panas is an Edmonton transgender activist.

Carlos Osorio / TorStar news service, Metro file

LEFT: University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan Peterson has attracted controversy because of his public declaration that he will not use pronouns, such as “they,” to recognize non-binary genders. RIGHT: Marni Panas is an Edmonton transgender activist.

An upcoming lecture by a controversial University of Toronto professor could embolden Edmontonians with anti-transgender views, some worry.  

Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor who gained notoriety in 2016 after he said he would refuse to use some transgender students’ proper pronouns, is scheduled to speak at the Citadel Theatre’s Zeidler Hall on Feb. 11, according to his website.

On his website, he says the "precise topic" of discussion "has not yet been determined" for his public lecture at the Citadel, but at least part of it will be about his new book.

“What I think it will do is that, if somebody already has an inclination to hurt people in the Edmonton LGBTQ community, Jordan Peterson will make them feel like they’re validated in that feeling,” said Siobhan O’Leary, a local transgender activist and columnist who has written about Peterson.

“It’s not so much that he can directly hurt people, although he has said a lot of insulting things. It’s more like he’s going to embolden other people to do the hurting.”

Citadel Theatre officials could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Peterson has gained large followings on YouTube and social media, criticizing political correctness, feminism and the term “white privilege" and encouraging students to avoid taking women's studies, ethnic studies and racial studies courses.

He is currently touring in support of his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

In O’Leary’s eyes, Peterson is a “charlatan” with a long record of making incorrect and damaging statements.

“All he sells is fraud. He’s interested in making you feel smart without actually making you do any learning,” O’Leary said.

Last May, Edmonton transgender activist Marni Panas was in Ottawa testifying in favour of Bill C-16 – which added gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act – when Peterson was there to testify against the bill, claiming it would harm his freedom of speech.

Panas said Peterson uses his stature as a professor to share opinions that are not grounded in empirical evidence.

“There is a difference between free speech, and somebody who is using myths and misunderstandings, purposely, to devalue other humans. And that is what he had done to our community,” Panas said.

She shares O'Leary's concern that some of the language Peterson has used against women and transgender individuals will embolden others with hateful views.

“They have the potential to create an unsafe environment,” Panas said.

Peterson’s publicist told Metro in an e-mail Monday that Peterson is on a book tour in the U.K. and not available to provide comment.

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