TCAF Statement about Toronto Public Library and the 2020 Festival.

In October 2019, TCAF’s presenting sponsor, Toronto Public Library (TPL), booked an event with a known transphobic speaker, in contravention of their own policies and despite significant criticism from trans and queer people, library stakeholders including TCAF, and their own staff Union. This decision by TPL leadership has significantly damaged relations with the LGBTQ2S+ community in Toronto and internationally, and have made vital library spaces, which are meant to serve the public, less accessible and more unsafe to marginalized communities.

This situation caught us by surprise, as we rely on TPL, through sponsorship, to provide us with space that supports and nurtures comics creators, publishers, academics, and our larger community, and reinforces TCAF’s goals of being an accessible and inclusive venue for the medium we love. We recognize that TPL has put up a huge block to that accessibility through their actions. Both the board and staff of TCAF are continuing to discuss the relationship we want to have with TPL going forward.

Though TPL has been an important and supportive partner to TCAF for the last 10 years, this current issue, other recent TPL policy decisions which effectively limit our ability to offer programming for kids, and the simple fact that our attendance has been nearing capacity for Toronto Reference Library for the last few years, led us to investigate potential venue changes for 2020. But moving the festival is both financially and logistically unfeasible given the tight timelines and budgets for May 2020. TCAF requires nearly 30,000 square feet of exhibition space, and in a city that is growing ever-more-unaffordable that space simply couldn’t be found for the next edition of the Festival. We are continuing to look at various possibilities for 2021 and beyond.

That said, we will continue to push TPL to recognize the damage they’ve caused, support measures that amend the rules and by-laws of TPL to protect marginalized communities, and compel TPL leadership to actually adhere to those rules. Public libraries are important, vital institutions: we want TPL to be a welcoming, inclusive, supportive space, and we will continue our work as part of the queer and trans community to help make that happen. We need TPL to be better, for all of us.

For 2020, TCAF will take place with programming at multiple venues which will include Toronto Reference Library. We, like our partners at Hand Eye Society, see TCAF’s participation at Toronto Reference Library as an opportunity to hold space for trans and queer creators, visitors, and organizers within the TPL. TCAF will undertake actions in line with its harassment policy to help create a safer space for marginalized exhibitors and attendees in 2020. We will do so both through our programming which will continue to highlight trans and queer participation in the Festival, but also through direct action within library spaces to create accessible avenues for general positive support, incident reporting, and de-escalation. Finally, TCAF 2020 will continue to exist in multiple venues other than Toronto Reference Library, and there will be space for both creators who have been accepted to exhibit, as well as the public, to participate in TCAF without engaging TPL if they choose. Creators accepted this year may also defer to 2021, when we hope the situation will be significantly different.

TCAF recognizes that these are merely steps towards the ultimate goals of trans and queer liberation, and we will continue to be open to feedback regarding this and other issues. Please feel free to reach out at contact@torontocomics.com.

For further reading on TPL’s actions and this situation, we recommend TCAF Community Partner Hand Eye Society’s statements on their events at TPL, which also includes a good round-up of resources and notes of community action.

https://www.handeyesociety.com/official-business/statement-toronto-public-library/

Thank you,

TCAF’s Board of Directors