A Canadian trans cartoonist is searching for a new place to live after her home address was posted online this week amid a torrent of harassment.
Sophie Labelle’s Facebook page was inundated with Nazi memes, her website was hacked and she says she received death threats that forced her to cancel her comic book launch in Halifax on Wednesday.
Labelle, who draws the popular comic Assigned Male about a trans girl, says this attack is one example of what trans people face online every day, but this one was “particularly vicious.”
“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people who decided to basically flood the internet with hateful comments and Nazi propaganda,” she told VICE News over the phone Friday.
“I’m trying to use this opportunity to educate the public on this matter because this is a reality that trans people face.”
The volume of vitriol pasted to Labelle’s Facebook page is staggering. Much of it contains alt-right memes associated with sites like 4chan, with a myriad of posters suggesting that Labelle ought to be sent to a concentration camp or gas chamber.
Feeling isolated or lacking acceptance from their families, many trans people choose to come out online in supportive communities, as Labelle did when she was a teenager.
“Often trans communities online are the only safe space that people have, and so seeing how those communities are being targeted by neo-Nazis and alt-right people and transphobes from all around the planet should be a big issue.”
She has not reported the harassment to police, saying she believes they aren’t in a position to take action since much of the harassment came from outside of Canada.
Death threats are so common that “no one will take them seriously,” she said. “Anytime I have dealt with police, I ended up being a victim of their transphobia.”
Trans people need more recognition of their rights in Canadian law, she said, including Bill C-16, which would amend the Human Rights Act to protect gender identity and expression. It would also make advocating genocide against transgender people, based on their identity or expression, a crime.
“I do think more policies need to be in place. It shouldn’t stop at C-16, it should go into corporations’ policies, it should go into school boards’ policies that trans people will be supported and recognized as their gender. This goes a lot further than C-16, but it’s a really good start.”
Canada also needs stronger laws against cyberbullying, she added. “People are using their anonymity to harass us. We need more tools to protect us from those people who feel emboldened in their bullying.”
In response to the harassment, she has received messages of support from all over the world, including parents of trans kids. “That gives me a lot of energy to keep going.”
She wants people to understand that this is a societal problem.
“This is our daily lives, this is what we are going through.”