An Open Letter to the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Dear PIELC organizers,

We the undersigned, as pro-feminist, pro-environment, social justice organizations of the Pacific Northwest, call on you to cancel Lierre Keith’s keynote at PIELC.

Keith and Deep Green Resistance actively support prejudice and bigotry against transgender people. Their acceptance of harassment targeting transgender people and supporters of transgender people contributes to a climate of violence and discrimination within their organization and this will affect your conference as well. This is not a simple issue of disagreement or academic debate. It will send a clear message to activists and community members who are transgender that they are not welcome at PIELC and may experience harassment if they attend. This is especially impactful to a population that is at exceptional risk of harassment and assault at school, at work, in activist spaces, in health care, and at the hands of police and the criminal justice system as outlined in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

Keith has stated that transgender women are “men pretending to be women” and are “absurd”, and that transgender related health care is “mutilating people’s bodies”. DGR representatives have stated that these are official organizational standpoints, however, co-founder Aric McBay found it necessary to leave DGR after a transgender inclusion policy was cancelled and the group’s other leaders refused to address in-group prejudice and bigotry targeting transgender people. Many other activists have also found it necessary to leave DGR due to harassment and discrimination on this issue. These attitudes also reinforce the belief that a woman’s worth is based on her sexual or reproductive anatomy, thereby supporting the systems that seek to control and harm all women’s bodies, whether they are transgender or not. Judging women based on their sexual and reproductive anatomy is not a radical feminist act, and is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Furthermore, former DGR members have reported needing to leave the organization due to anti-Indigenous statements made by Keith and other DGR leaders, as well as an organizational environment that prevents people of color from attaining leadership positions. Inviting a speaker who has so seriously failed in the area of racial justice sends the message to PIELC attendees that racial justice is not important in environmental movements. In a context where communities of color are affected by environmental racism in drastic and disproportionate ways, this is disrespectful and dangerous.

Transgender people, people of color, and allies are valuable members of both environmentalist communities and the UO community. Inviting Kieth to speak will make PIELC a dangerous and demeaning environment that will deny these activists the right to attend PIELC safely. This will be a loss both to activists who feel unable to attend PIELC, and to PIELC attendees who will be not have the opportunity to network and learn from them.

PIELC has a long history of creating a powerful, diverse environment, welcoming people of all backgrounds and enriched by active anti-oppression work. We urge you not to destroy this legacy by inviting Lierre Keith to your conference and condoning the hatred of transgender people.


Gender Justice League
Seattle Clinic Defense
The Survival Center
LGBTQ Allyship
Equal Rights Washington