Gender Justice League & Trans Pride Seattle Public Statement on Denying Table to Seattle Public Library

This year we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Trans Pride Seattle: the second largest Trans Pride event in the U.S., and one of the largest trans-specific festivals and celebrations of Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse people’s lives, arts, and culture. Each year, TPS is organized and produced by Gender Justice League, along with over 100 volunteers and a community-led steering committee. For ten years, our event has been heralded publicly for its elevation of the political and social issues facing our community, as well as showcasing the diverse and brilliant talents of our community.

As part of the event, TPS hosts a tabling fair, and for a decade we have always been clear that, although we openly welcome everyone, our event prioritizes multiply-marginalized communities, particularly BIPOC, Two-Spirit, and trans performers and vendors; and that we reserve the right to deny anyone attendance who threatens our organization or the communities we represent. We have stood unabashed in our steadfast commitment to center these communities. 

We also work to recruit a myriad of medical and mental health providers, social service organizations, community groups, and trans artists that we know have and will continue to benefit our community. This year, TPS received a record 68 requests for tables. However, our rental company only had 60 canopies and tables to provide. Consistent with the history of all Pride events in this country, we made the executive decision as a committee to limit participation to groups that were not prioritized: i.e., not run by or for Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse people or non-profit organizations.

Seattle Public Library was denied a table this year. Our decision as a committee was unanimous. 

SPL has a history of trans antagonism, steming from engaging in illegal discrimination against trans people, hosting hate events, and recently hosting a “book reading” by anti-gay and anti-drag bigot Kirk Cameron. We take the ongoing decision by SPL and the City of Seattle to platform these hate groups seriously, and recognize the harm that this has caused to our communities.

Unlike we saw during the marriage equality movement and during the North Carolina bathroom bill HB2, the City of Seattle has remained largely silent on the more than 450+ anti-trans bills across the country attacking the trans community. The city council has passed no new legislation, and the mayor has made statements only during a pride flag raising ceremony. This is a council that has also made no new funds available to support trans refugees fleeing to Seattle from all over and outside of the country, as well as a Department of Human Services that cut funding for trans-specific domestic violence services this year. SPL continuing to host anti-trans hate groups on its property is a part of this legacy of indifference. On trans issues, the City of Seattle gets a grade of D-. 

Trans Pride Seattle is a holy, sacred, and inviolable space by-and-for Two Spirit, trans, and gender diverse people. We make no apologies for denying access to our space to cisgender-led state institutions such as SPL, who host hate mongers and bigots. 

Even after SPL reached out to us to ask why we declined to provide them with a table, they continued to violate our community’s trust. After we explained our decision, asking them to reconsider their position, they chose to forward our email to reporters rather than continue to engage in direct conversation with us in a regenerative process. It is beyond laughable for a tax-funded government entity to seek press attention—positioning themselves as a “victim” for being denied a table, given their history of illegal discrimination against trans people, while national 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are in a state of emergency during our Pride season.

The City of Seattle and Seattle Public Library has a choice. They can choose to stand with Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse people by refusing to use tax dollars to provide security, staffing, space, and promotion to hate mongers, and make the conscious decision to defend themselves in court should they be sued for doing so.

Or, they can continue their current course of action of trans antagonism. Ignoring trans people 11 months out of the year, hosting hostile hate mongers, and then demanding access to one of the only sacred community spaces trans people have—that is not intended for them—simply so they can “put a rainbow on it”, check off a diversity box, and continue benefiting from our oppression, while remaining neutral and untargeted politically.

Seattle is home to one of the largest Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse communities in the country—with more than 3.8% of Seattlites responding that they identify as “transgender” to the U.S. Census Bureau’s PULSE survey.

It is long past time that the City Council and Mayor’s office develop a Trans Justice Action Plan under a Sanctuary City Framework, and spell out specifically how they will keep our community safe, and increase capacity to address the economic and political crisis we are facing. We need them to take a strong stand in legally defending themselves against hate groups that they refuse to platform going forward.

We look forward to the city librarian, the library staff, and the City of Seattle taking this opportunity to reflect on the harm that platforming hate groups has caused our community. We are no longer interested in hollow talk of dialogue in the press followed by inaction and silence. We want to see concrete actions by the Mayor, City Council and City Departments—until then, the Seattle Public Library will not be welcome at Trans Pride Seattle.


Gender Justice League & Trans Pride Seattle

Media Contact: Kai Aprill-Tomlin
Communications Manager, Gender Justice League & Trans Pride Seattle