Alberta chapters of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) are accusing feminists of “anti-trans rhetoric” over criticism of their sister organization’s decision to invite controversial trans activist Fae Johnstone to lecture women.

As previously reported by True North, the Canadian chapter of the Women’s Rights Network (WRN) called out YWCA Regina after they announced that Johnstone, a biological male who now uses “she/they” pronouns, would give a keynote speech at its Women of Distinction awards. 

“Women have had enough of these males identifying as women taking our awards, spaces and opportunities,” said the feminist group.

In a statement, YWCA Calgary said it stood firmly “in solidarity with YWCA National Board Member Fae Johnstone and our sister organization YWCA Regina,” adding that “it takes immense bravery to exist in this world as a trans person in the face of bigotry and hate.”

“We also condemn in the strongest possible terms the vicious and dehumanizing anti-trans rhetoric that has been spewed on social media by so-called ‘feminist’ groups,” added YWCA Calgary. “It is a cruel irony that those who claim to champion women’s rights are the very ones who seek to deny the humanity and dignity of trans women like Fae.”

The same statement critical of feminists was also shared by YWCA Edmonton, which describes itself as “a safe space that welcomes and supports all members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.”

YWCA Regina is also standing by its decision to platform Johnstone, with CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen telling CBC News that “given the current climate that we’re under, it was so important to have the perspective of trans women be given and be shared with our community and Regina.”

“The truth is that we won’t move forward in the feminist movement, we won’t ever reach gender equity, unless we centre and we focus on the needs of the most marginalized people within that group,” Coomber-Bendtsen added.

In response to the YWCAs defending Johnstone, WRN Canada said, “of course the YWCA stands by Fae. We see how casually (they) dismiss women who fight against males who identify as women in prisons, shelters, bathrooms, sports…(They) have been well trained by the gender activists who deny biology.”

The WRN also tweeted that the awards night Johnstone is intended to speak at is “an event to celebrate women, adult human females” and that “women have to learn to say No.”

Johnstone has become notorious, for, among other things, being a staunch opponent of feminists who are critical of transgender ideology. 

The activist has previously claimed that trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are “acting as a smokescreen for far right extremism” and has called for these feminists to be “so vilified” that “they don’t dare speak their views publicly.”

Johnstone has also shared support for biological males being allowed in women’s prisons.

In response to the backlash against the planned keynote, Johnstone accused “Twitter transphobes” of “bullying a feminist organization in Saskatchewan.” Johnstone also shared calls to boycott a Regina small business because its female owner shared opposition to the YWCA’s choice of speaker on Facebook. 

Johnstone thanked the YWCAs for their supportive statements. “The far right will zero in on us. They’ll talk about how we’re a threat to women and children. But feminist organizations all across Canada, every major feminist organization in this country, recognizes that there is no gender equity without trans women,” the trans activist told CBC News.

The YWCA is a community organization intended to provide support for women and families through programs such as childcare and housing.

True North reached out to both the YWCA Calgary and YWCA Edmonton for comment, but neither responded in time for publication.