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Women & Children First targeted by anti-trans vandals
by Matt Simonette

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The windows at Women & Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., have been vandalized on multiple occasions with stickers featuring anti-trans messaging, according to its staff. The Andersonville bookseller and others are planning an Oct. 20 neighborhood event in solidarity for the store's employees, patrons and other community members.

Store manager H. Melt said that they first saw the stickers on Sept. 23.

"I came into the store on a Monday—I work Mondays—and I saw that there were a few stickers on our front windows with trans-misogynistic messages," they recalled. "They were stickers I hadn't seen before, and I immediately took them down. They were very easily removable, and they were very large."

H. Melt notified Women and Children First's staff and owners. The store has several trans individuals on staff.

"It turned out that the same stickers had turned up a week prior," they added. "One of the owners, Sarah [Hollenbeck], had found one of the stickers between our space and Chicago Therapy Collective, which primarily serves trans folks. She had seen it, thinking it was a one-off, and taken it down."

One of the store's neighbors later said they had removed stickers as well. H. Melt noted a pattern: The stickers appeared between Sunday evening and Monday morning. With the first incident, there was one sticker; on the second occasion, there were two; the last time, four stickers appeared. They did not wish to repeat the message on the stickers, which they said seemed to be produced professionally.

"The messaging was specifically targeting trans-women and was trans-misogynistic," H. Melt said. " … What we've been doing is informing people in the community, informing our staff, and working with our fellow queer and trans activists—as well as our customers—to let everyone know what's happening."

While communicating about the incidents online, H. Melt discovered that a feminist bookseller in London had been targeted online by TERFs ( Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists ) for their support for transgender and nonbinary community members.

"They have also experienced a lot of harassment—particularly online harassment—as well," H. Melt added. "We've seen these same exact stickers, these same exact designs, have popped up in Liverpool. They've popped up in the U.K., so we know that this is a global issue."

Women & Children First is collaborating with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and Chicago Therapy Collective to host a community activation event on Sunday, Oct. 20, co-owner Hollenbeck said.

"We will be covering Andersonville with trans-affirming messaging, using sidewalk chalk, flags, stickers and whatever else we have at our disposal," Hollenbeck said. Our intention is to 'shower' the neighborhood in a joyful celebration of trans lives and voices."

Hollenbeck added that the Sunday evening timing of the event was intentional, since the stickers seemed to be getting posted under the cover of darkness on Sunday nights.

"We wanted to have this joyful celebration on a Sunday night in hopes that it would run counter to the hateful vandalism that's been happening. We obviously have no idea if it will happen again, but it has been a targeted pattern, on a specific day and on a specific store, though there are other trans-inclusive and other LGBTQ-inclusive businesses on the street. We just thought that it was necessary to meet them with a strong and joyful response."

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