Assigned Male, a webcomic about an 11-year-old transgender girl named Stephanie who is in the early phases of transitioning and coming out to the people around her, has been published for the past two years by Montreal-based artist Sophie Labelle.
While the queer webcomics community has praised Labelle’s work for its frank and compelling depictions of the lives of trans youth, the artist has most recently been the target of a targeted attack from online trolls who have sent her death threats and doxxed her personal information like her address in an effort to frighten her.
Labelle was supposed to give a launch party for her new book, Dating Tips for Trans and Queer Weirdos, last week. But Labelle decided to cancel the event for the safety of the guests after receiving thousands of violent threats from people who said they intended to crash the opening.
According to Marshall Haywood, owner of the store sponsoring the event, “We had to consider as a staff how we felt about posting the event if we should continue hosting the event, and given the threats of violence how, or if, we could keep people safe.” “And because it did get out of hand so rapidly, we felt we couldn’t really ensure people’s safety”
After her book launch was postponed, Labelle continued to experience harassment online. Eventually, these trolls gained access to her Facebook page for Assigned Male and deleted over three years’ worth of her work.
Labelle had previously taken preventative action to shut down some of her other sites for the comic before the page was temporarily suspended by Facebook moderators after it was overrun with transphobic epithets.
According to Labelle, their objective is “explicitly to increase the suicide rate in trans groups.” They target support groups and pages like mine because they want us to feel hopeless.
A horde of alt-right assholes deleted my friend Sophie's webcomic, all three years of it. It was her primary source of income. All of it.
— Morgan M Page (@morganmpage) May 17, 2017
— Sophie draws comics (@AssignedMale) May 12, 2017
Although Labelle thought about calling the police, she ultimately decided against it because she was unsure of how the police would approach the matter and whether they would take the harassment seriously. Labelle has resumed uploading comics and has since left her previous residence.
“They believe that by spreading some memes about how I ought to be killed, they are preserving civilization. They then claim it to be a joke when they start to feel awful about how nasty and abusive they are. They claim that their victims are ‘triggered,'” Labelle said on Facebook the day before. That’s strange because, in my opinion, you are the ones who are being “triggered” by my presence.