Trans cartoonist forced to cancel Halifax book launch 'overwhelmed' by community support
Sophie Labelle said positive messages from local residents condemning hate was overwhelming.
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Although Montreal-based trans cartoonist Sophie Labelle had to cancel a Wednesday night book launch in Halifax due to death threats and hate-filled messages, she says the outpouring of community support has overwhelmed her.
Labelle’s newest comic book, ‘Dating Tips for Trans and Queer Weirdos,’ was released last week. The outspoken activist said an orchestrated online attack was launched against her last Saturday. Her attackers posted her home address on several forums and forced her to take down her web page and social media accounts.
“They have a very clear eugenics agenda where they use Nazi imagery to promote their transphobic, homophobic and racist views,” Labelle said in an interview in downtown Halifax on Thursday before her return to Montreal.
“A lot of Islamaphobia is mixed with that, as one of the main characters from my comic is Muslim and Arab.”
Labelle, a former school teacher, is well known for taking on transphobia and transmisogyny via her comic strip Assigned Male.
“What I want is to empower trans people, to make them laugh, to show them relatable content that they can identify with,” she said of her comic strip and books.
When Labelle’s plane landed at the Halifax airport Wednesday afternoon and she turned on her phone to see the deluge of hateful messages from people threatening to crash the Halifax book launch, she knew the event would have to be cancelled.
“We didn’t only cancel it, we deleted traces of it because Venus Envy (the host) was getting threats too,” Labelle said in an interview in downtown Halifax on Thursday before returning to Montreal.
“Personally I would have gone forward with the event because I don’t believe the threats or those internet trolls would actually go out of their basements to face the sunlight…But since trans people are a very vulnerable group in society, many people didn’t feel safe going anymore and I would rather cancel the event than to have them be potentially traumatized.”
Labelle said she wanted to assure Halifax fans and supporters that she’ll return.
“I am pretty sure that the threats we got yesterday weren’t from people in Halifax. They were probably from people in the United States and in other countries,” she said.
“The support that I’ve seen from the communities in Halifax has been outstanding. I’m really sad this event couldn’t happen, but we’re already planning to do something else later this summer.”
Labelle planned to put all her social media accounts back online sometime on Friday. She can be found at www.facebook.com/assignedmale.
“Don’t worry Halifax. I don’t hate you,” she laughed. “I’ll be back.”
Marshall Haywood, owner of Venus Envy Halifax, said they were disappointed to have to cancel the event but were obligated to do so out of concern they could not guarantee the security of those who wanted to attend.
"Our staff have been working very hard since (Wednesday) to delete hateful or hurtful comments as they appear on our Facebook page and will continue to monitor it," Haywood said. "On the brighter side, we've been happily overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who have posted positive reviews and messages of support."