After a turbulent few months, summer at the Third Space (formerly the UVic Women’s Centre) is drawing to a close.
Since classes ended in April, the centre has undergone a name change, temporarily closed its doors to the collective, had a staffing turnover, and faced a spike in online harassment and bullying against members of the Third Space community. Heading into a new school year, however, coordinators and collective members have their heads held high, unwavering in the face of discrimination and online trolls.
To start at the beginning of the summer: Third Space outreach coordinator Kay Gallivan describes the transition of the UVSS Women’s Centre to the Third Space as a reflection of its efforts to be more inclusive of non-binary and gender-fluid people. The new name was the result of a year-long consultation and survey, reflecting the history of the centre and the passion and dedication of collective members — both past and present — that went into the Thirdspace zine.
“This change from the UVSS Women’s Centre to the Third Space doesn’t mean that we aren’t providing services for women,” Gallivan notes, explaining the centre offers additional services for the unique needs of transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid individuals. “We’re still providing plenty of services to women, and we still participate in initiatives likes the Stolen Sisters Memorial March that address violence against women.”
On June 7, the centre closed its doors for what Gallivan refers to as “staff-related turnover and changes.”
“We just had a brief moment where we needed to close in order to reconfigure as a collective and make some decisions about how we wanted to run,” Gallivan says. “But there was always the plan of reopening within less than two weeks, so it was a really contained timeframe, and it was also really intentional that it happened over the summer when less people access the space.”
The Third Space reopened on June 23 after the collective held a community debrief.
On July 15, Third Space coordinators emailed collective members regarding a Twitter account that was created earlier in the week going by the handle ‘UVic Womyn’s Centre’ (@uvicwomyn).
“This page is posting trans-aggressive and violent posts regarding trans-feminine people,” the email reads. “This is a form of bullying and harassment and we will not tolerate it continuing. The UVSS and Third Space Coordinators [sic] have taken steps to get this page removed.”
Both Gallivan and Emma Kinakin — UVSS director of student affairs — described the group as trans-exclusionary radical feminists (or TERFs for short), and characterized their actions as hateful and violent.
In addition to facing online backlash against transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid people in what some consider should be a (cisgender) “women’s-only” space, hateful pamphlets were also found being distributed around the SUB earlier this year.
Hate speech and discrimination, either online or on campus, are not tolerated by the Third Space or the UVSS, says Kinakin.
“We always want our members to feel safe in the community that we put here.
“We’ve been taking actions to crack [down on] this [harassment], so we’re working with [the Equity and Human Rights office] and other folks on campus to make sure that these spaces are inclusive spaces, and we found that this group has really been promoting materials that are not okay and are really harmful for some people.”
However, Gallivan stresses that the majority of the harassment directed at the Third Space is online. She estimates there are only between one and three individuals active on UVic campus advocating for trans-exclusionary radical feminism.
“It is a very, very small group of people who are trying to make themselves look like a larger group of people,” she says.
“I think it’s important to note that the vast majority of cisgender women in this space want these changes,” she adds.
Kinakin hopes one of the takeaways from all this is “an emphasis on community.” Citing the Anti-Violence Project, Third Space, and Pride, she encouraged students to seek out support on campus when needed.
“The Twitter harassment is ongoing, and I expect that it’s going to continue to be ongoing as we change our policies to be more gender-inclusive,” says Gallivan.
“As an organization right now, I think we have a responsibility to figure out how we can best alleviate that, and how we can make this process of our policy changes not be something that incites violence against trans people.”
As the new school year rolls around, the Third Space and the UVSS Board of Directors will have to work in tandem to create a campus where female, non-binary, gender-fluid, and transgender students feel safe.
“The current UVSS slate has expressed opposition to the harassment of transgender students by TERFs, as would be expected of most reasonable, compassionate people who hear about the actions of a hate group,” Gallivan wrote in an email to the Martlet.
“Moving forward in the year, this slate can do much more for transgender students than that . . . I hope to see this slate work with UVic Pride (and specifically the transfeminine caucus) to learn about more ways they can improve the student experience for transgender and non-binary students,” she added.
“Hopefully the actions of this hate group can be a wake-up call about how much violence and adversity is still faced by transgender and non-binary students every day, because this issue needs attention all over campus and not just in our centre.”
The Martlet has included a community safety notice that has been posted at various locations around the SUB below if you need support.