This year as a SACHA collective we have made the decision for Take Back the Night to welcome and include people of all genders. We understand that, historically, Take Back The Night has been held for women and children, and that as Hamilton has continued to come together for this annual rally, the language has grown to women and non-binary folks. It is through this lens that we are recommending a shift within Take Back The Night to include all survivors, all people cannot walk at night without the fear of being a target of street harassment, and our allies.
We know that historically there has been a reason for the space to be limited to only women (and non-binary people). In a world where men hold so much power has been an act of resistance to have one night where women (and later including non-binary people) have center stage. While we recommend this change we still understand what led to these decisions in the past and will continue to work to prioritize the voices of people at highest risk for sexual violence and street harassment.
Take Back The Night is not just about survivors of sexual violence reclaiming streets, but also intended to center the people who are at risk of sexual violence and street harassment, and whose activities might be limited by these threats. We believe that it is also important to center the voices of those who face the most barriers and have the least access to relevant services. These voices include women but also trans, genderqueer, non-binary, gender-diverse, Two Spirit, and intersex people.
In the context of the anti-sexual violence movement, the historical contribution made by survivors with intersecting identities cannot always be captured within the language of women and non-binary folks. We recognize the criticism that the feminist movement has excluded trans, genderqueer, non-binary, Two Spirit, and intersex survivors, as valid. Enclosing the myriad identities of survivors within a catch all phrase does not always feel like true solidarity and can uphold the alienation of many survivors within anti-sexual violence spaces. We believe that strengthening the movement to end violence must mean that the voices of all survivors are lifted up to our table.
We know that in Hamilton community members, particularly those in the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community have faced barriers to safe attendance at TBTN. There have been instances where folks whose gender aligns with the parameters of the event have been questioned by others attending about their participation because of the (mis)gendering of their bodies and/or their gender expression. We have also been told by community member that they do not feel safe to come out at all because of the heavily gendered language that doesn’t allow for the diversity of non-binary experiences. In order to show true solidarity to Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, intersex and gender-diverse people we hope that ungendering the event will help to make spaces safer for folks who would otherwise be questioned or harassed for attending.
Additionally we recognize that folks who do not experience oppression on the basis of gender can still be at higher risk for sexual violence and street harassment when looking at other forms of oppression. This can include (cis) men and boys who are Indigenous, disabled, queer, unhoused, and more. To be able to make TBTN a space that demands safety for all people and prioritizes an intersectional understanding of sexual violence and street harassment these voices need to be included and feel safe and welcome to march and reclaim space.
In addition to understanding that even regardless of experience of oppression, all people, of all genders, can and do experience sexual violence and street harassment. No one should have to feel alone after they’ve experienced this trauma, and to be in a space where people of all genders can come together in community is a powerful thing. For many we know that having a crowd of survivors and allies of all genders willing to stand alongside you as you march can be a meaningful way to know that you are not alone. It is together as a community that we will end sexual violence and we all have a role to play to help us get there.
We are aware that these changes may come with some a lot of feelings for folks who have been attending the event for many years. We want to stress that the essence of TBTN will still be there. We are still rooted in our history and inspired by the decades of love that have gone into this event, but as we now have grown to new understandings of what TBTN can be we hope you be a part of the evolution and revolution of TBTN.