My experience at the Jordan Peterson protest

Hatred on both sides fuels the result of day at Grant Hall

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 “I am not going to give this guy with his hand raised like in a classroom the megaphone because I do not care what he has to say.”

Shouted by one of the protest leaders that afternoon outside of Grant Hall, these words concerned me as I attended the anti-Jordan Peterson protest on Mar. 5.

Across from me was a line of people who waited to attend the lecture given by Bruce Pardy and Jordan Peterson. I didn’t know anyone in the line, let alone what they thought. But as a group of boys pointed and made jokes at the protesters, it became clear they had no intention of taking our presence seriously.

Like me, many people who failed to register for the lecture on time consequently thought they would be denied admittance. I tried to sneak in well before it started, telling security there was a mistake and I had signed up. As I stood in the line of students who had the possibility of getting in after those who had registered, it seemed dauntingly long. I felt my chances of attending were minimal.

As a genderqueer student, I wanted to attend the Peterson and Pardy lecture despite it being tough to see those with authority, like professors, misrepresent the basics of my community. Even though I don’t agree with them, I felt compelled to hear them speak in person.

The night before, I had been studying a debate Peterson and Party gave to the Queen’s Faculty of Law in 2017. I had written a list of oppositional questions because I was sure I’d find myself challenging them if I got into that lecture. They’ve spent a significant amount of energy arguing against respecting trans identities and, as a result, I was motivated to provide a platform for those who may have found speaking in the lecture emotionally taxing.

In Peterson and Pardy’s view, Bill C-16 is a slippery slope towards the forced recognition of a plethora of gender identities without a “reasonable limit.” In their view, the amendment is characterized by the pathological ideologies of social constructivists.

To them, personal gender negotiations should be kept within the private sphere and as Pardy told the Faculty of Law, “gender should be irrelevant .... just like race should be
irrelevant ... why would you distinguish between someone who is white and someone who is dark? Same question with gender.”

To oppose them on these statements, I planned multiple questions I never got to ask: Why do you believe this legislation will result in an unruly amount of identities being forced upon you to recognize? Would this fully and completely limit your freedom of speech? How did you come to believe postmodernists think gender is a purely subjective construct with no external influences? Distinguishing between races being the same as distinguishing genders is a logical fallacy known as circular reasoning, how can they be equated?

But as soon as I saw friends of mine protesting across from me, I changed my mind. I discarded my chance to ask those questions. 

In that moment, leaving the line at Grant Hall to stand with my friends seemed more important. Even though this decision meant I could no longer debate these questions with Peterson and Pardy, it didn’t mean my voice was inhibited.

Throughout the events that transpired outside, those with the megaphone rarely relinquished their hold on it because they feared someone would hijack the protest. After spews of profanity, attempted scraps and waves of angered put-downs, I thought I would speak up and articulate what I believed we were truly opposing.

For me, my point was summed up well by a sign at the protest. The sign quoted Evelyn Beatrice Hall who once said, “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The reason this summarizes my argument so well is because I don’t believe the academic
debate of free speech was the foundation of our protest. No one outside the walls of Grant Hall “hated free speech.” As well, the people inside the lecture weren’t “shameful.”

The foundation of the protest was the fact that their platform has been popularized by supporters who think sensitive “social justice warriors” are fighting to silence them. This is a dangerous misunderstanding because it distorts the real reason people — like those who stood outside Grant Hall on Monday — are angry. At least for me, my primary concern isn’t what and when Peterson and Pardy utter.

The uproar last week was in response to how Peterson and Pardy’s movement is derived from a consciousness that undermines trans folks’ existence. Their arguments around the “slippery slope” of compelled speech may seem logical, but such positionality is motivated by a misunderstanding of what it means to be trans.

We can’t forget that people don’t make up gender identities out of thin air. It’s an error of interpretation to assume people will create so many gender identities that we can’t keep track of them.

Compelled speech isn’t a rising tide. The push for trans-solidarity is a wave within an ocean of liberation. If Peterson and Pardy navigated their academia with an understanding of trans-identities, I don’t believe such a spark against their lecture would’ve occurred.

Pronouns aren’t a weapon of silence and recognizing someone for who they are isn’t about legal philosophy. Rather, it’s about love.

This is what I planned to say into that megaphone. I could no longer stand between the two energies: one of misunderstood anger, the other of sneering laughter.

Walking up to the girl with the megaphone, I asked if I could use it for a moment. She told me, “I do not know you so I do not trust what you have to say. You cannot speak.”

That was when it struck me — Peterson and Pardy’s supporters hated our protest because they perceive our message to be a refusal to hear others’ voices. They can’t understand the pain this lecture has caused because, to them, our hurt looks like loathing. Truly, it only becomes loathing after cycles of “bitch,” “shame” and “fuck you” are yelled for hours on end. We feed off each other’s intentions, so by presenting distrust, it inevitably comes back around even harder.

What divided the groups last week wasn’t the walls of Grant Hall. It was whether we allowed hate for the other to be what brought us to campus that afternoon. Violence against trans people is an everyday occurrence and reaffirming their experiences should’ve been held above all else.

Fighting for your right to free speech is a logical movement but when it’s initiated against a group who currently exists with less freedom, it suffocates them. It won’t soon be forgotten how Peterson and Pardy have wielded trans peoples’ humanity as their stepping stone to stardom.

To combat this, we need to cultivate communication in order to overcome misunderstanding, distrust and hate. I’m sure Peterson and Pardy are genuinely concerned with promoting their rights and freedoms. But if they think the gender movement is trying to silence them, they haven’t understood it.

Daisy is a second-year, gender studies major and political studies minor. They identify as gender-queer. 

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