Liberals on social media protested the supposed “deadnaming” of Willem Van Spronsen, the antifa activist who was shot to death this weekend after he attacked an immigration jail.
The social media users demanded that media outlets and commentators respect what they said were Van Sprosen’s preferred pronouns.
Van Spronsen, 69, threw incendiary devices at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. According to police, Van Spronsen set a car ablaze and tried to ignite a large propane tank. He was armed with a rifle.
Officers who arrived at the scene opened fire, fatally shooting the Vashon Island man.
The revelation that Van Spronsen went by the name “Emma Durutti” on social media, as well as the release of his apparent “manifesto,” in which he thanks his “trans comrades” for helping to radicalize him, prompted a discussion about his gender identity among antifascist movement sympathizers.
“This has their final statement. It’s unclear as to whether they were trans, or just used the name Emma Durutti on Facebook as a tribute to anarchist heros. I’m hearing that it was a nom de guerre, but I’m still mentioning both to be sure. I expect that question will be settled soon, but that’s why this article is using their possible deadname,” wrote one commenter in a message to an antifascist Facebook page with more than 20,000 followers.
Screenshots of messages from people claiming to be Van Spronsen’s friends were posted to an antifascist Facebook page on Sunday. They say that he was not trans.
“Gender is a fluid thing and I’m not gonna pretend to understand how he related to his gender, but he definitely preferred to be called Will and be referred to as he/him right up until the end,” one of the messages read.
Someone claiming to be a friend of Van Spronsen said Sunday on Twitter that the dead man had “used exclusively male pronouns.”
Van Spronsen also references growing up as a “boy” in his “final statement.”
Had some friends of the fallen message me about Will von Spronsen's gender and pronouns. As of now, it looks like he was…
Stop “deadnaming” Willem Van Spronsen, some supporters say
Nonetheless, several progressive commenters on social media urged against “deadnaming” Van Spronsen.
“[H]er name was Emma Durutti, she was a trans woman, rest in power,” wrote a Facebook commenter.
Prerna P. Lal, a queer immigration activist with a blue check-mark, posted a screenshot from a since-deleted Facebook account believed to have belonged to Van Spronsen.
“It seems like Emma Durutti was trans*. We shouldn’t be deadnaming her and should use the correct gender pronouns,” Lal tweeted in a caption accompanying the image.
— Prerna P. Lal, Esq. (@prernaplal) July 14, 2019
The Emerald City Antifa Twitter account tweeted of Van Spronsen that “her name was Emma.”
“Important information regarding our comrade who died at the detention center: we have received word that we’ve been unintentionally deadnaming/ misgendering our comrade: her name was Emma,” the tweet said.
In her written manifesto, she thanked trans people for showing her hope for the future
in that manifesto, she links to an album she calls her Audio Manifesto, by Emma Durutti, with a track called "I was a girl"; previous albums on the same bandcamp use the deadname
— Shel, A Dog (@DataPup_) July 14, 2019
The Occupy Ice PDX Twitter account’s statement on Van Spronsen’s gender identity reflected how difficult the issue can be to navigate, even for LGBT allies.
There’s been lots of conflicting information about this comrades gender, we just want to say no matter what pronouns you used, you’re a fucking hero and we love you. https://t.co/RH85A2XQpf
— OCCUPY ICE PDX (@OccupyICEPDX) July 14, 2019
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