Content warning: The following blog post includes mentions of transphobia, transmisogyny, slurs, and hate.
My name is Fae Johnstone. I am a 27-year-old trans woman, queer and feminist activist, and the Executive Director of Wisdom2Action, a small consulting firm where we use some of our profits to fuel 2S/LGBTQIA+ advocacy. In the past 3 years, I have risen to dubious prominence as one of few visible queer and trans advocates in Canada. And paid a steep price for it.
As we mark the International Trans Day of Visibility (March 31) — a day to celebrate, uplift and amplify trans people — I want to talk about the devastating double-edged sword of trans visibility, and why we need our queer siblings and our allies to speak up now more than ever.
A few weeks ago, I was included — as one of 5 young women — in a Hershey's Canada ad campaign for special edition chocolate bars to mark International Women’s Day. Within an hour of the campaign going live on March 1st, I was targeted with a tsunami of hate, not for anything I said, but for my inclusion as a trans woman in a campaign celebrating International Women’s Day.
Almost immediately after launch, far right and anti-trans groups across North America zeroed in on the campaign. My inclusion spawned an international effort to boycott Hersheys. Within hours, #BoycottHersheys and #TransWomenAreConMen were trending on Twitter across Canada and the US. Right wing media across North America and around the world covered the issue with zeal. Tucker Carlson, Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro and Michael Knowles — all leading voices of the American far right — did segments on my inclusion in the Hershey's campaign. Seemingly overnight, I became more visible than ever before. And not in a good way.
Thousands of hateful tweets, emails, and direct messages were sent my way. I was called a freak, pedophile, groomer, f*g, and tr*nny with such frequency I couldn’t possibly keep count. I was encouraged to kill myself across dozens of messages. People dug up pre-transition photos of me. My deadname was found and shared publicly. Memes mocking my appearance like the ones you see below were made and shared across social media. This isn’t the first time I’ve been targeted by the far right, but nothing prepared me for this. My privacy was violated and my humanity discarded.
In an era of unprecedented visibility for trans people, we often conflate that visibility with progress, acceptance, and safety. But that’s not necessarily the case.
What happened to me wasn’t an anomaly or an accident. Rather, it is indicative of a disturbing rise in anti-2S/LGBTQIA+ hate. Across Canada, drag spaces are under attack, efforts are underway to roll back inclusion in schools, and rhetoric equating queer people with pedophilia and grooming is surging. Our communities are under threat to a degree we haven’t seen since before marriage equality.
We would be naive to imagine this hate is just going to go away, and while it’s zeroed in on trans people right now, we’d be equally as naive to imagine it’s just a problem for trans people. Those fueling hate towards trans people have a broader agenda: to roll back the rights and inclusion of marginalized people writ large. Trans people are just a convenient target. If they can shift public opinion on trans rights, incense stigma and hatred against trans people, they can do it to others too. It might have started with trans people, but it won’t end with us.
We undoubtedly need more visibility for trans people, but right now, we need our allies to be visible too. While I know we aren’t alone in this fight, it still feels lonely. Trans people, as a community, lack the social, political, and economic resources to fight this battle alone.
Today, for Trans Day of Visibility, we should uplift, celebrate, and amplify trans voices. Tomorrow though, and every day thereafter, I implore you to take action. Trans people are more visible than ever, but the gains we’ve made are precarious at best.
I have faced hate online and harassment in person for my trans womanhood and for my advocacy for queer, trans, and feminist movements. I have taken punch after punch for my work. And I pay a price every time. My spouse has seen me fall apart time and again when the hate becomes simply too much for me to bear. I know I am not alone in this fight — but it feels like I am. Trans people cannot take on this burden on our own, not with the sheer volume of hate we are receiving right now.
I implore you to join us in the fight for trans rights. Help us confront hate head-on. Bring your families, your friends, and your organizations with you. Because this isn’t just a battle for trans rights—it’s a fight for social justice, equity, and human rights.
Here are some opportunities to take action and support trans communities:
- Volunteer with, donate to or otherwise support your local trans and 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations. Find an organization near you here.
- Sign an amplify Wisdom2Action’s #WeDeserveSafer campaign here.
- Sign this petition calling on the Government of Canada to support trans and gender diverse people fleeing rising hate in the US.
- Amplify and uplift advocacy efforts from trans and gender diverse communities and activists.
By Fae Johnstone, Executive Director of Wisdom2Action