Open Letter from UVic Pride Regarding: “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

Open Letter from UVic Pride

UVic Pride contacts you today about the upcoming event “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”, and our collective’s concerns about the continuation of the event this year; as well as our recommendations for the future. UVic Pride recognizes the important work that the Victoria Sexual Assault Center does for the community, and that VSAC has announced this year to be the final year that they organize “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”.
While this is important to note, we must hold VSAC accountable for continuing to hold this event this year. VSAC has organized “Walk a Mile” for the past seven years. In continuing with this year’s “Walk a Mile” event, VSAC is effectively back-pedalling on their promise to be more trans-inclusive. This event is an act of violence against trans feminine folks, in particular, trans women, and definitely does not “challenge gender norms in an environment that feels safe to do so” (Open Letter 2013). UVic Pride recognizes that this event is a major source of funding for VSAC, however in continuing to organize the event this year VSAC is knowingly benefiting from and enacting transmisogyny. As an organization committing to trans inclusivity, we expect more of you, and the community you serve deserves better, both now and in the future. The open letter issued disclosing that this will be the final year for “Walk a Mile” proves that VSAC needs to put a higher priority on practising what they preach. This decentered apology erases VSAC’s accountability towards perpetuating transmisogyny and violent exclusion against trans women. Trans women are the primary people impacted by the “edgy” act of men wearing female-gendered things (shoes, in this case), yet there has been a deliberate vagueness over this fact in VSAC’s statements. This does not hurt “trans people”, it hurt trans women and other trans people designated male at birth. To shy away from explicitly talking about that fact is disingenuous.
VSAC’s recent initiative to be more “trans inclusive” has been about welcoming trans men and nonbinary people to VSAC’s services. There is a long history of AFAB (“assigned female at birth”) trans people being included in women’s spaces and events due to anatomy or myths about socialization, which directly carries implications against the womanhood of trans women, and leads to trans women being less welcome. In VSAC’s recent efforts to become more trans-inclusive, Pride feels that trans women, a subset of women that are hyper-vulnerable to sexual violence, have been consistently ignored or decentered from the conversation about inclusivity and trans-friendliness, which participation in this year’s “Walk A Mile” can only further contribute to.
Additionally, the continued use of “trans*”, which is a term with binary-centric implications (that nonbinary people cannot associate as trans or transgender and need a new label), is troubling. Trans* is a buzzword “in the know” term, does not include anyone not already included by the existing umbrella of trans, and is often used as a kind of inclusivity/solidarity whitewashing tool.
Moving forward Pride would like to see, and asks, that VSAC makes accessible and available the shoes for “Walk a Mile” to trans women and other trans feminine people in our community. If VSAC does not have any resource initiative for trans feminine people, Uvic Pride would happily be willing to provide the shoes through our resources.

Uvic Pride Collective
Friday May 23rd 2014