On November 20, 2023, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a solemn occasion to honour the lives of trans people who have been killed by transphobia, was marred by a cyberattack. The organizers of TDOR had shared a public Zoom link on a Facebook page, intending to create a safe and inclusive space for the community. However, a group hijacked the online event hosted by The 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity at the University of New Brunswick and spewed transphobic slurs, threats, and misinformation. The attack, which lasted for about 15 minutes, shocked and traumatized the participants, who were mostly trans people and their allies.
Dr. Casey Burkholder, a white bisexual femme and a professor at UNB, was witness to this disturbing incident. In an exclusive interview, she shared her perspective on the events that unfolded during the TDOR vigil. Dr. Burkholder recounted that trolls exploited this openness to unleash a barrage of explicit images, slurs in the chat function, and offensive disruptions during the event.
“I felt sad for the community, concerned for the host, disappointed in the state of hateful online rhetoric, and thankful that my kid was not watching with me (as we had originally planned),” Dr. Burkholder expressed when asked about her initial reaction to the hacking incident.
The impact of the cyberattack extended beyond mere shock; it highlighted the ongoing violence, both physical and discursive, faced by trans and queer communities in their everyday lives. Despite the trauma, Dr. Burkholder emphasized the resilience and care within these communities. The organizers swiftly took action to rectify the situation, ensuring a debrief session hosted by local queer and trans therapists and fostering a supportive environment in the aftermath.
“We take care of each other,” Dr. Burkholder reflected, underlining the strength of the community’s bonds even in the face of adversity.
The hacking incident not only disrupted the solemnity of the TDOR, but also raised questions about safety in online spaces, particularly for events focusing on sensitive topics. Dr. Burkholder acknowledged the broader implications, noting that the incident served as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by the transgender community both on and offline. However, after the incident it became evident that, while deeply unsettling, also strengthened the resolve to address the broader challenges faced by the transgender community in these spaces.