Transgender Creator Of Assigned Male Webcomic Facing Death Threats From Online Trolls

For the past two years, Montreal-based artist Sophie Labelle has published Assigned Male, a webcomic about an 11-year-old transgender girl named Stephanie who is in earliest stages of transitioning and coming out to the people around her. While Labelle's work has been noted in the queer webcomics community for its frank and powerful portrayals of everyday life for trans youth, the artist has recently become a victim of a targeted attack from online trolls, who have sent her death threats and doxxed her personal information such as her address in an attempt to scare her.

Sophie Labelle

Last week, Labelle was slated to host a launch event for the release of her new book Dating Tips for Trans and Queer Weirdos. After receiving thousands of threats of violence from people who said they planned on crashing the launch, though, Labelle chose to cancel it for the protection of the guests.

"We had to discuss as a staff how we felt about posting the event, whether we should continue hosting the event, and given the threats of violence how, or if, we could keep people safe," Marshall Haywood, owner of the store for the event, told CBC News. "And because it did escalate quickly, we felt that on such short notice, we couldn't really guarantee people's safety."

Sophie Labelle

Following the cancellation of her book launch, Labelle continued to receive abuse from online trolls who eventually managed to gain access to her Facebook page for Assigned Male and delete nearly three years of her work. After the page became inundated with transphobic slurs, it was temporarily shut down by Facebook's moderators before being restored to her, but at that point, Labelle had already preemptively moved to shut down some of her other sites for the comic.

"Their goal is explicitly to raise the suicide rate in trans communities," Labelle told the Toronto Star. "They want us to despair and that's why they attack support groups and pages like mine."

While Labelle initially considered calling the police, she ended up refraining because she was unsure as to whether or not the authorities would take the harassment seriously and how they might attempt to handle the situation. Labelle has returned to posting comics and is now moved out of her old apartment.

"They think they are saving civilisation by posting some memes about how I should get killed. And when they start feeling bad about how violent and abusive they are, they say it's just a joke. They accuse their victims of being 'triggered,'" Labelle posted to Facebook yesterday. "That's weird, because from my point of view, you're definitely the ones being 'triggered' by my existence."


Comments

    Sad she is being trolled however the real travesty here is her lack of faith in the Police.

      No one gets results in online crimes like the trusty police.

      It's an unfortunate fact that police are often not as sensitive to these issues as one might hope, or simply don't know what to do about them. A friend of mine got a barrage of online abuse (including rape and death threats) through Facebook a couple of years back, and when she went to the cops initially they weren't sure what to do... eventually the dude went to court and was found guilty, but it was a long, drawn out and difficult process. And that was with only one harasser whose identity was already known.

      I imagine getting the cops involved in this, where its a lot of people, many of whom are presumably taking pains to stay anonymous... I'm not saying the cops wouldn't try to help - I'm not one of those people who think the police are all scumbags - but it might not actually improve the situation for the victim in any meaningful way and would likely be a massive hassle for them.

      In some parts of the US the cops are the most hateful, violent n potentially deadly trolls of all. That is the real travesty, mate. Sorry, I don't mean to offend you, but bur distress at her lack of faith in the police seems a lil naive at best and insensitive to the genuine issue here at worst (her and her audiences' safety and their right to express and simply be who they wanna be) . Why do you give a shit about her perception of the police and her being (sensibly) wary of their behaviour? They aren't exactly renowned for their behaviour n actions toward minority groups these days. Are you an officer? If you are it's a worry that you seem more concerned with your brotherhood's image than civilian safety. Boooooo, Hiss if that's the case!

        I feel like you probably read a lot of biased articles about the alleged bad things the minority of Police do in a single country as opposed to the good things the majority of Police do in many countries.

          She was basing her opinion on the actions of police in the US. There is a real problem with how police act in the USA. She does not trust the police in her country. I would not trust the police in the USA either, Especially if i was african american. Yes police do good in other countries. But it does not cancel out the bad done in America.

          Its not biased to report what is happening in america.

          Stuff like Civil Forfeture for example would give anyone a very good reason not to trust the police (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJks)

            Yet statistics show a black man in America is more likely to be shot by another black man than the cops.

              How in fuck is that relevant? The issue isn't who shoots more or who, it's that US cops - who are meant to be protecting the people - to this day are still far more likely to shoot someone who is black.

              Honestly, some people

              Last edited 24/05/17 2:40 pm

              And that means what exactly, in the context of this discussion? Does that fact make it okay for the cops - who are tasked to serve and protect - to shoot black people?

              "The VAST majority of people who commit crimes are criminals, so there's no point even worrying about cops who commit crimes."

              or even more fundamentally:

              COP: You are under arrest for this crime.
              STABBY GUY: Oh, but, actually this crime is not the worst possible crime I could have committed so you can't arrest me.
              COP: Damn... excellent logic, move along.
              DUDE BLEEDING OUT: Seriously?!

          Police do a lot of good yes. But pretending like there is not a problem in the USA is only going to make the issue worse. People like you who claim all police are infallible and can never do wrong are why USA is having issues.

          I respect the Police in Australia, Why? Because they arent trigger happy morons like in the USA where your skin color means you get treated differently by the police.

          Last edited 24/05/17 1:00 am

            You may of read my comment incorrectly. I stated a minority of Police do bad things, I didn't imply all Police are infallible. They are human after all and there is always going to be bad eggs that slip through the cracks whether they were bad to begin with or the constant exposure to terrible people and terrible justice systems slowly wears them down.

              Thats good. But you also have to realize the person in the article has very good reason to not trust the police. I remember a while back there was this story of a woman who's ex partner posted nude pics of her online as revenge. She went to the cops and they laughed at her and said she shouldnt have taken them in the first place. The Police forces in the US need a massive overhaul.

              "the constant exposure to terrible people and terrible justice systems slowly wears them down."

              Still not an excuse for them to slaughter unarmed civilians, If they are in that bad of a mental condition they should be removed from their position as they are not fit to hold it.

              Anyway. Glad to debate this with you none the less :)

          Nope. I have the utmost respect for police (or anyone) that do not abuse their powers. Quite a few years ago if it wasn't for a cop I wouldn't be alive. They are people like anyone else. But I do notice you have entirely avoided my question of your bias by questioning mine. Nice going there.

      Most agree their best album is Synchronicity.

      not a real woman (putting on girls clothes DOES NOT COUNT), and the comic is terrible
      wow my sympathy could not be any lower for this attention seeker

        So you are saying that because someone does something you disagree with, though doesn't affect you at all, that person deserves death threats and the loss of their livelihood?

    It amazes me how some people go out of their way to ruin the happiness of others...

    "You think differently than I do, so instead of letting us both be happy with our respective, non criss-crossing lives, I'll just be a shitty human being and ruin your life."

    Thank you so much for writing this! I'm a big fan of her and her work and I'm horrified that this has happened to her. She doesn't deserve this at all. Nobody does, but especially not her.

      They only wrote it because it will get tons of divisive comments that will ultimately inflame the situation.

        I dunno, I think if we should take away anything it is less about the comic (even if the subject is all sorts of cringe) and more about people being assholes to someone that really didn't deserve it.

        Not everybody is as cynical as you. Which of course is something hard to believe for someone as cynical as you, so carry on, I guess.

    What a dick move! I think her opinion on gender is stupid, but to delete her work is pretty fucking scumbag-ish. Especially when these people likely also don't like where Youtube is with its current advert system and claim it is censorship (I am of the camp that some of the early moderation was).

      Just like using the down vote button on comments you disagree with.

        Fair call, I will take that. I do remember commenting ages ago about something like that.

    Someone should doxx the trolls.

      Yeah, because nothing says being better people like throwing a group of asshole's information out into the wild. Don't get me wrong, I think these guys deserve punishment, but nothing ever good comes from doxxing anyone. Worse yet what if the wrong people are doxxed? Who takes responsibility for possibly ruining an innocent persons life.

      Everyone always listens (and acts) to the instant dramatic head line, but no one ever comes back for the fine text retraction/clarification.

        I know it's not sensible or realistic. That's emotion for you :)
        But honestly, there is nothing in the legal system to help people who this happens to. Nothing.
        There are people out there who behave exactly like they want with no consequences at all. It's bullshit.

          Ok, but ignoring whether its objectively acceptable to oust someone's information; there is also the issue of the wrong person being doxxed. It has happened before where judgment by social media has hit the wrong person and even though the initial accusations have been retracted, the victim of the dox continues to be hounded because people become committed to a cause.

          The police need to be informed discreetly if any information is found, trial by mob is a horrible idea.

      Some of them use real accounts, but the ones i checked didn't have employer information

    I do like how her supporters say it's alt right people doing it. Kinda devalues her argument.

      I'm not seeing how "Hey, please don't send me death threats and trash my livelihood! That is not a good thing to do!" is devalued as an argument because some of your supporters made an assumption about the political banner of the individuals responsible.

        I'm not seeing it either, because that's not what I said.
        I said the supporter devalued their own comment.

        Being a supporter of equality while discriminating against stereotypes, is a bit pot kettle.

      "They filled my page with neo-Nazi imagery and references to the Second World War and the Holocaust," Sounds pretty alt-right-y to me.

      Ah yes, the key difference between the leftist-progressive and the right-winger:

      RIGHTIST: You tree-hugging greenie prick!
      LEFTIST: Yes! I hug trees! Trees are important!

      LEFTIST: You racist prick! Shut up, racist, no one wants to hear your racism and bigotry! Your hateful opinions are emblematic of the alt-right!
      RIGHTIST: Wh... I am NOT a racist! You can't call me a racist! And you can't assume I'm part of the alt-right! This isn't about [blah blah self-justification], you can't call me a [moan moan, defensive fury].

      Greenies and LGBT activists and socialists and smelly hippies might be super-annoying, might be totally wrong about half the stuff they believe in (or more), but at least they OWN their crazy intolerant ranting political ideology. No Greenie, when accused of being a Greenie, says "I am not!"

      Only the alt-right starts every argument by demanding that everyone take back whatever it is they just said about them. Only the alt-right angrily refuses to be categorised as followers of their own political ideology.

      In all fairness, while not all bigots are alt-righters, alt-righters are, by definition bigots. So it's not a terrible unjust assumption.

    Anybody else find it odd that the tweets that they used here, arent hateful at all, they are just saying that the person who write these webcomics is wrong with her opinions?

      Well if they didnt react with utter hyperbole they wouldnt get the attention they desire. People are caring less and less about this crap and while you would think thats a good thing there are some special snowflakes who dont want to stop being special snowflakes.

      On topic, personally, I think this whole thing is bollocks. There are men and woman. Thats it. That however doesnt justify any action taken against someone just trying to express themselves. They have every right too do so, like I just did. The sooner people realise and accept this the better because lets be honest, if someone speaks their mind regarding this and the opinion differs from the "trans" community they can be just as abrasive about it.

        I find it weird people argue against genetics, your chromosomes define your gender. You just can't change it.
        If you want to dress and act as some of someone of a different gender as defined by your culture that's fine. It doesn't how ever rewrite your genetics.

          You could argue that chromosomes give rise to cells and tissues and organs, therefore producing the CNS and eventually elements of the psyche such as consciousness, sentience, and intellect, which in turn directly influence the sociocultural framework of our world. That, in an incredibly roundabout manner, would mean chromosomes do determine our gender, but the endpoint would also mean gender is fluid.
          So yeah, turns out people can change gender.

          Unless of course you meant chromosomes determine sex, which they do.

            Correlation doesn't equal causation, but when 99.7% of the population's gender identity matches their biological sex I have trouble seeing this fluidity. It would seem that there are some outliers but by and large gender and biological sex are intrinsically linked.

            The 99.7% stat coming from here: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf

            Last edited 24/05/17 11:49 am

              ...and that still means 1 in 300 people it doesn't. Or 75000 Australians.

              For gender fluidity to be a thing, and it is, we need to be able to observe the underlying and associated individuals, groups, and systems, including structure and language. These things all exist and are readily observed. Regardless of "by and large", gender fluidity does exist, people with lived experience of gender fluidity are going about they're daily business, and we're having a discussion about it right now.

              Historically we're seeing an increase in people and groups that don't conform to traditional views of gender and sex, part of that is cultural, another is a greater understanding in various sciences. Quite a lot of weight is placed on the latter, that science will explain everything, and it may well, but the explanation comes after the phenomena - facilitated by the former. Sex and gender are so much more than the classical rigid model that's struggling to remain contemporary; we're in a position to engage new information and strive for understanding, acknowledgement and, hopefully, respect.

                My understanding is that "gender fluid" means that at any time a person can feel male or female or perhaps no gender. I accept that this is a real thing and some people are like this. What I'm saying though is that it is such a vast minority of the population that the statement "gender is fluid" is drawing a pretty long bow.
                It is fluid - for 0.3% of the population (and actually less, since I'd hazard a guess that a lot of transgender people identify strictly with the opposite of their biological sex and that doesn't interchange). For 99.7% of the population gender is a fixed construct that aligns with the biological sex they were born with.

                  Yup, that's my bad, I've been using fluidity in this discussion to signify changes to traditional gender roles. It would have been more accurate to differentiate between my usage, which is more aligned to genderqueer, from gender fluid.

                  Currently we have little data on the actual composition of gender within various societies. The study you've supplied says as much and if you look into their methodology you should be able to see why that 0.3% is tenuous at best but more likely irrelevant to the conversation.

                  With regard to data and public perception, take Australia as an example. In 2016 the ABS updated the Standard for Sex and Gender Variables to distinguish between sex and gender in data collection, and provide an other category. The 2016 census subsequently contained an option for other in both the sex and gender question modules. We're at a time where we can acknowledge non-binary sex and gender, but in this case we won't see the actual data for years.

                  For me the question is "is gender solid or fluid?". Everything we can observe indicates that yes, even if only for a proportionally small population, gender is fluid; non-binary genders exist and are valid. There was the perception that sex and gender were inextricably linked but, much like the Gordian knot, that view has come apart.

          Excellent - people who are XX are women and people who are XY are men. That's easy.

          What about XXY,? XYY? XXX? These are well-understood chromosomal abnormalities.

          What about androgen insensitivity syndrome?

          What about people who are intersex?

          There's a LOT more to developmental biology than XX/XY, and there's a lot more to gender than sex.

            Pretty much any combination that isn't XX/XY ends in some degree of handicap.

              Yes, that's mostly true. The degree of severity of symptoms is highly variable, especially in Turner or Kleinfelter syndromes where some individuals don't get diagnosed until well into adulthood, usually as a result of fertility issues.

              But that doesn't diminish the point - there's a shitload more to sex and gender than "you have some sex chromosomes and that's who you'll be".

                Genetically, he's right though - if you have the SRY gene, you're genetically male. You can be XXXY, XXY, XXYY - doesn't matter. Whether it functions physiologically is another matter, and both are entirely separate from gender.

                Sex characteristics can be objectively examined and explained by anatomy and physiology - there can't be any 'interpretation' of it because it's pure science. Gender is a social construct and can be whatever people are willing to accept. Trying to mix the two is ridiculous.

                  Unless you're a bird. If you're a bird you need to be homomorphic to be male (ZZ) and heteromorphic to be female (ZW).

                  Also air only flows through your lungs in one direction, you can't taste the spiciness of chilli, and (especially if you are a little bird) your normal blood temperature can be as high as 43 degrees.

                  Birds are cool.

          Chromosomes and thus biological sex HEAVILY INFLUENCE gender, but they do not always define it. Gender has been decoupled from biological sex since 1955, and the World Health Organization specifically draws a distinction between "gender" and "sex".

          This is not a bunch of weirdos making stuff up. This is established knowledge, upheld by an international peak body. If you want to insist that gender and sex are inextricably linked, you are being regressive.

          And why? What is even your objection? Because really what you are objecting to is a person cutting their hair a certain way and wearing clothes a certain way that makes it hard for you to immediately identify them as male or female.

          Why is that a problem? Why do you care? At least people who object to "Asians" moving into their neighbourhood have an (unfair but logically sensible) fear that these "Asians" might take all their jobs, or buy all the good property. How does a person in a kaftan with a pink fringe actually impact your life in any way?

          You seem pretty hung up on this chromosomal stuff, so how's this for a shocker: some transgender people have no chromosomal atypicalities at all. Some people who want to be called non-binary just hate the way society is so hung up about labelling you male or female and how that railroads your life in certain way. And some dudes aren't even gay or transgender, they just really love to wear beautiful dresses.

          If you're on the street and you see a person and your immediate thought is "that person is not wearing a valid social uniform!" you should ask yourself "Wait... why do I care?"

          I think it's telling that the ONLY objection to gender-nonconforming people these days, in this country, is "they are forcing their views and opinions down our throats!" So even you admit there's nothing wrong with being gay or transgender, you just want them to shut up about it.

          So here's the deal: you shut up first, wait a little while, and you might find the blessed silence you crave will descend.

          You'll still have to see fabulous divas and funky little Ziggy Stardusts on the street though. Sorry.

          Last edited 25/05/17 1:16 am

        "Men and woman" - Freudian slip? Worried about the competition

        No seriously, can you see there's a really big difference between the "trans community" being angry that you won't accept they exist, and you insisting that "the whole thing is bollocks"?

        You want transgender or non-gendered people to not exist (not stop physically existing, of course, I mean stop claiming that transgender is a thing). They just want you to stop being mean.

        "We should raise taxes" vs "No we shouln't!" is a debate. "I am transgender and I exist" vs "No you don't exist" isn't. It's just negation.

        Big difference.

        Last edited 25/05/17 1:02 am

      The thing with some people that preach equality and free speech are they are just preaching there own ideas and masking it as equality. Any one with different ideals is wrong. The preachers turn into what they preach against and are to wound up in their crusade to see the irony.

      Freedom of thought and speech goes both ways. Don't get me wrong I am against hateful speech and threats but everyone should be entitled to their own opinions, emotions and beliefs. Along with the ability to have rational discussion taking all points of view into account.

        Your understanding of this issue is, to use an insensitive word, retarded.

        The DIFFERENCE between your definition of free speech and valid opinion, and inclusive progressive social ideology is this:

        Someone demanding you call xi by a made-up new pronoun (xi) can be annoying.

        But less than 60 years ago, gay people used to be locked up for being gay. And before that, they would be murdered.

        To us, your opinion that there are only two genders, is WRONG.
        To you, a non-binary person or an intersex person should NOT EXIST.

        They are fundamentally different philosophical positions. FUNDAMENTALLY different. And demanding that one STOP while the other be allowed to continue is VALID and logically consistent.

        Insisting that there are only two genders or that gay marriage shouldn't be allowed, will make certain types of people hate your ideology. You will be hated for having those opinions. But a gay person? An intersex person? They are hated for who they ARE.

        We hate that you won't let gays be married. You hate gays.*

        And that very particular kind of hate, if left unchecked, always - ALWAYS - eventually leads to murder.

        (* If you actually support marriage equality - which I doubt given the tenor of your posts, but people are nothing if not inconsistent - then I apologise, but for the purposes of illustrating the point, you know what I mean.)

        Last edited 25/05/17 12:44 am

    I've read some of these and find the entire premise ridiculous (young kids talking like adults with a degree in gender studies...?) but this is a dick move. Disagree with her if you like but deleting her work is going too far.

      Why wouldn't "young kids" who are affected by gender issues go and read the literature?

        Have you read her work? Main character "Stephie" is 13 and breaks into borderline monologues where she talks like a 28 year old gender politics academic. The entire comic really has little to do with children except for the fact that the author forced it in there to appeal to audiences (I guess, I honestly don't know why).

    well, looks like I have a new webcomic to read, thanks Kotaku and the Alt-Right for bringing it to my attention :)

    I think it's real sad that these guys (the "alt-right" as they're called) work so diligently to try and shut down this artist's work, but to also try and make the transgender community hate and hurt themselves. I don't understand how a human being can think that this is okay and justifiable.

    In a way, it's strangely ironic. The alt-right guys carry on so much, like whining, spoiled children, claiming that these people (the people of the transgender-community) are "snowflakes", "SJWs" or whatever they might call them, yet they (alt-right) get so angry and hateful because people think/feel differently to them?

    I reckon these alt-right dickheads have absolutely no right to use the word "triggered" because honestly, that's exactly what they are right now.

    They think they are saving civilisation by posting some memes about how I should get killed.

    How could you even start doing this and not know you are pure evil? Like, if someone says something you don't like, how would you EVER think petty threats make you right? I feel like these situations turn into a whirlpool and pulls every miscreant into it. How is the internet so easily influenced, it feels like it brings out and legitimises every gross insecurity any random idiot might have.

    meh.
    not even real, credible threats for the most part I'd imagine.

      lol thanks for that officer zeitgeist, I think we can rest easy now that you've decided all is well.

      Last edited 24/05/17 5:19 pm

      What's your point exactly? That it's okay to send people death threats and hack their accounts to delete years of their work as long as you don't ACTUALLY intend to kill them? What does it matter if the threats are credible or not?

      On top of that, if somebody who I have no reason to suspect is joking sends me a message like "I know you live at [MY ACTUAL ADDRESS] and I'm coming to kill you" you can bet I'm going to take that shit seriously. If a dozen people say the same thing, it only takes one of them actually being crazy enough to mean it.

      If your post was intended to be sarcastic, it didn't come across.

        Don't waste your breath. His posts on other articles have pretty much betrayed him as an alt-righter.

    If there's anything to take from this, it's make sure you have back ups! I'm sure most of you, people reading this comment, have valuable data that's either online or offline. Update your backups or create a backup, before you lose something important!

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