At 2 W. State St. there lies a familiar Athens business that is the subject of current controversy: Artifacts Gallery. Some social media posts encourage a boycott of Artifacts Gallery and its owner, Amy Mangano, for accusations of transphobia. A protest against Mangano and the shop is scheduled for Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Rylee Lee, a junior studying music education, helped organize the protest, and said it was sparked by social media posts about new signage on the door of Artifacts Gallery. From there, Lee joined forces with Kaycie Tillis, a sophomore studying psychology, to begin organizing a protest against the shop. The new signs and banners on the front door include messages like “humans can’t change sex” and “say no to men in women’s sports.”
Lee said the protest is important to support transgender individuals in Athens and to demonstrate Mangano’s verbiage is not something Lee and other protesters agree with.
“T is for trans,” Lee said. “You can’t have LGBT without the T. It’s quite literally in there.”
Mangano disagrees, also displaying a sign on her door that reads “LGB.”
While the protest and many social media posts regarding Mangano have only recently emerged – with one Instagram account, @athensartifactsgallery, which helped popularize the protest, having posted for the first time last week – Lee said the true start of the movement against Artifacts Gallery’s owner began last May. May 8, the instagram account @flower.power.60 posted regarding customer reviews of Mangano being transphobic, and Mangano’s reply confirming her belief that trans women can pose a threat to women’s spaces.
“Convincing women to concede that men’s feelings are more important than their privacy, dignity and safety is sex-based discrimination and predatory rhetoric,” Mangano said in an email. “This isn’t saying all trans women are predators. This is saying that there are opportunistic people who will take advantage of this. Labeling concerned citizens as ‘hateful bigots’ is a hostile authoritarian tactic meant to frighten people into compliance.”
Lee said the shop is also in violation of Athens City Municipal Code section 3.07.62 (b), which states “It shall be unlawful for any proprietor or his/her employer, keeper or manager in a place of public accommodation to deny any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”
The @flower.power.60 Instagram account also reposted the code Lee referenced and sent the code to Athens City officials, posting a picture of an email appearing to be from Lacey Rogers, the DEIA/Training Coordinator for the City of Athens. The email stated city officials were aware of the situation and were currently in consultations for an appropriate course of action.
“Taking offense because someone disagrees with one’s inner feelings is not synonymous with bigotry or oppression,” Mangano wrote in an email. “I claim my First Amendment right to be wary of sexual deviants taking advantage of self (identification) to gain access to vulnerable women and children.”
Other social media posts have included a list of alternative places to shop compiled by Alyssa Dumbra, a junior studying biology, who said the list was the result of a thirty minute Etsy deep dive.
“I used to really like going to Artifacts– that used to be my favorite store before I knew what kind of messages to put out in the world,” Dumbra said. “So I decided to compile a list of kind of alternatives because I know other people like her stuff, and I know some people are sad enough where they will continue to shop there because they think there’s no other alternatives.”
Mangano is open to conversation about these beliefs.
“I’d be happy to discuss with anyone why I won’t support the current agenda of the trans community,” Mangano said in an email. “I truly believe we could find some common ground if I’m having discourse with reasonable people.”
Lee hopes the protest will help draw attention to Mangano’s opinion and to the boycott.
“To the people who still shop at Artifacts, we see that you're still giving business to this place that people have specifically expressed discomfort towards,” Lee said. “You're giving your business to a place who does not believe feminism is for all women. And to Amy I would like to say feminism is for all women. Feminism does not give you the right to pick and choose what women you support.”