Mercedes Allen

The Prerequisites to "Woman"

Filed By Mercedes Allen | July 06, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Canada, feminism, Nixon v Rape Relief, pharmacy, transgender, Vancouver

A women-only pharmacy -- according to reports, possibly the first of its kind in North America -- is opening in Vancouver on Tuesday. This pharmacy is designed to offer a comfortable, open environment, woman-specific information and non-judgmental counseling. They are also planning to add a "resource centre behind Lu's to get more health information from volunteers and peruse the library, which includes clipping files and Internet access.... a nurse practitioner .... a big couch at the back where visitors can join support groups for addictions and to stop smoking."

I'd love to applaud this, I really would. I know all too well the unpredictability of the biases of the person you seek medical information from, the inconsistent quality of that information, the questions about your body that you don't dare ask anyone, the denial of reliable information on medications, the way that the health system and society in general have medicalized women's bodies. But in the end, it doesn't matter whether I applaud or not: my business is not wanted. Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women very specifically caters only to "any woman who was born a woman."

This shouldn't be a surprise, as Vancouver was also the site of the Kimberly Nixon v. Rape Relief battle. That controversial legal case threatened to estrange the trans community from the feminist and lesbian communities, and if this is any indication, not much has changed.

Now, don't get me wrong: although I believe that Ms. Nixon was in the right, I do realize that Nixon v. RR was a bad scenario with a lot of grey area. For those who don't recall the case, it centered around a rape counseling service's refusal to accept a volunteer because she was transsexual. Ms. Nixon took Rape Relief before the B.C. Human Rights Commission and won, but then the organization appealed up through the B.C. Supreme Court to the B.C. Court of Appeal and overturned the ruling. The case was appealed again, but the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear it.

And as I said, I "get" that a woman's comfort in time of crisis such as after rape is crucial. I get it. I also get that the discomforts people get from encountering transsexuals (if they read us) largely come from their own inaccurate assumptions and stereotypes, rather than any real incompatibility or danger. I also get that crisis is not the time to address those assumptions and stereotypes. I also get that unfounded assumptions and stereotypes are not a good reason to refuse to stand behind a qualified counselor. In the larger sphere, this thing goes around in circles until nobody can be fully satisfied with any possible outcome.

But that wasn't the direction that Rape Relief came from. Chief among Rape Relief's legal arguments was that transsexuals, operative or no, are not "real women." And an additional argument that the larger class of transgender people did not have protection under the category of "sex" in human rights legislation (and that extended understandings of "sex" should not be taken into account) could in fact have resulted in a major step backward for both women with ambiguous or controversial gender presentation and extended circumstances such as pregnancy, had it been won at the Human Rights Commission level. From the summation of the Human Rights case by lawyer barbara findlay QC:

Rape Relief called as a witness a woman who had been a client of the organization in the mid-80s. She testified that she had seen Ms Nixon at the superior court proceeding, and knew by looking at her that she would have felt uncomfortable speaking with her about the issues which had taken her to Rape Relief. Asked whether she would object to speaking with anyone of the audience to the hearing, the client identified two people she would not want to speak with. One was a man, the other a woman. The woman testified in reply that she had been born a woman, considered herself unambiguously female, but had very often in her life been mistaken as a man, including by feminists at all-women's organizations and events. Dr. Pacey agreed that any 'silencing' of women would occur whether the woman was actually transsexual, or was born female but was mistaken by a client as a man. So a rule excluding transsexual women was both overinclusive - in that it caught transsexual women who would be seen as female by the clients, and underinclusive, in that it did not address the problem the rule was designed to solve since clients might still be triggered by a woman who appeared male.

Ms. Nixon won at the HRC level, but for the first time in a case involving a transsexual, it proceeded beyond, and was overturned, demonstrating how vulnerable our implicit protections are. Along the way, courts of public opinion developed several different criteria to define "woman," many conflicting, often designed to be excluding. In doing so, people looked at the physical, social, experiential and psychological, to arrive at prerequisites that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Physical milestones that women endure, such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. Of course, MTF hormone therapy induces physical puberty (though circumstances differ, see next point), and not all women can become pregnant or experience childbirth. Some women with various medical conditions never experience menstruation.
  • Having always been excluded from male privilege. Certainly, many if not most pre-transition MTF transsexuals have questioned male privilege when they've observed it, been sensitive to it, and chose not to assert or regard it in their own lives. I know that before transition, I'd never felt particularly entitled, and generally-speaking, society usually picked up on that, and treated me as lesser, accordingly. Even so, yes there were times that privilege had been granted without my assertion. I bring none of that privilege with me from my former life, save the very clear lesson from seeing the before and after of how I as a woman am now consistently denied it. To my thinking, transsexuals -- both MTF and FTM -- are able to provide the strongest testaments that male privilege exists, and just how disparate that gap really is. That said, people early in transition sometimes have to run through a few conflicts before their eyes are opened to this.
  • Chemical traits stemming from hormones. Within one to two years of hormone therapy, MTF transsexuals become hormonally equivalent, both in physical (muscle-fat distribution, endurance capabilities) and chemical regards.
  • Chromosomal DNA. Of course, we don't test everyone on this, we just assume that anyone born with male genitalia has exclusively male chromosomes. Science has been unearthing some conflicting data, but we don't have it all collected, yet. Stay tuned.
  • Socialized, life-long experiences as women. Again, many of these experiences (rape, victimization and violence, sexist treatment, discriminatory assumptions, wage disparity, the way that the commodification of the female "beauty" aesthetic affects our value as humans, medical impositions on the body) are things that MTF transsexuals can and do experience as well, but it's often asserted that said experience has not been for long enough (yet a timeline when one has "arrived" at womanhood is never specified). Other experiences (i.e. puberty during conflicted childhood, socialization as "girl") are more likely to appear exclusive, but overlooks the possibility that there may be comparative experiences in a transsexual's life. For example, the childhood-long relentless and frequent beating out of me (both physically and mentally) of the effeminate traits that were natural to me could certainly qualify as lifelong lessons in the lesser regard that women and their associated traits are held in. Social prerequisites stem from a belief that women are oppressed from birth by men, and that only women with common experiences of oppression are truly women. Anyone who had ever experienced life as a man is thus excluded, by this reasoning.

That said, social aspects are somewhat inadequate as prerequisites, because societies differ greatly, and what is defined as "woman" here will often be invalid in other societies. In some cultures, wearing pants is a violation of the natural lot of women. In some earlier cultures, matriarchal societies held women in a regard that was never undermined by male privilege. We'll never know the wearing of the burqa with hijab to conceal our faces and bodies; in parts of the Muslim world it is an integral aspect of womanhood, roles and experience. Social aspects are often social constructs. Perhaps the temptation to see social aspects as defining is why gender itself leans toward being a partial construction.

Certainly, MTF transsexuals are often not socialized the same way that women are in Western culture. But the socialization as male didn't take so well either, as we most often willingly and happily reject it throughout transition and beyond. Experience is often different, yes, but creating prerequisites that are exclusionary based on experiential differences can easily lead to narrowing definitions to exclude many other women in many other realities, with many other upbringings.

Classes of people quite often feel the need to define themselves, and it's very crucial that they be allowed to self-define. However, narrowing self-definitions to eject various subclasses risks alienating far more people that is imminently obvious, and as proven historically disastrous. Looking at this, I'm often reminded of the politically correct '80s and a movement within the lesbian community to eject "butches and femmes" for perpetuating poor stereotypes (which oftentimes alienated some of the first people to come out as lesbian and foster the fledgling community), and to eject women associated with porn and sex work for perpetuating the commodification of women (when many of them were undertaking a process of reclaiming self-determination of women's role in and right to eroticism). Division and exclusion has never accomplished much besides spreading resentment and betrayal, from the gay and lesbian ejection of transanyone in the 70's/80's to transsexual ejection of transgender. Self-definition is vital, yes, up to but not including the limit of encorporating disrespect of others. Communal self-definition that can simultaneously respect individual self-definitions and embrace the diversities of that community and learn from the many varied experiences within has always seemed to me a preferable way to go.

Up to this point, I've said little about female-to-male transsexuals. The Vancouver Women's Health Collective, which runs Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women, describes their mandate in their Political Agreements document as one focusing on "women who were born women and live their lives as women," thus also excluding FTMs. Yet here also is a class of people who in fact were mostly socialized as women, usually have female DNA, experienced hormones, and bodily/experiential milestones being excluded. I'm not saying that FTM transsexuals are women by any stretch of the imagination, they are as male as I am female -- but this demonstrates another way that the prerequisites being thrown up in front of MTF transsexuals fail, and don't really apply when the people defining them don't want them to. I've written before about how the very existence of transsexuals appears to threaten a principle of one branch of feminist thought if it isn't examined too closely: I'd suggest it is this illusion of threat instead that drives the creation of these prerequisites.

Which brings us back to Lu's, a brilliant and needed concept tarnished by a disastrously poor policy. For those who don't know Vancouver, that part of West Hastings is near the rough part of town, the skid row. There are other pharmacies present, all cold environments, heavy glass between caregiver and client, patrons subject to suspicion just for entering the doors. In this area, yes, trans sex workers and the poor of our community could probably use some respectful and reliable advice without hostility and prejudice. Unfortunately, Lu's is not there to give it -- Lu's has chosen to be selective in how it defines women.

And Nixon v. Rape Relief is now being used to enable a discriminatory restriction of products and services.

Lu's is a sign of a deeper problem, one better addressed by dialogue than by boycotting or harassing what is otherwise a potentially valuable business (if that first step is doable). It is my hope that with awareness, this dialogue between trans and feminist communities can happen. But both parties need to be willing.

A challenge is made.

(Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes)

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Thanks for this comprehensive post, Mercedes.

Like you, I'm hopeful of a continual dialogue between communities, rather than outright boycott of a much-needed business.

The post sets me thinking about related points: I wonder if the goal of increased sensitivity to the needs of specific groups (women, in this case) might be better dealt with if the health care community started thinking more expansively and systemically about what people need. And if the goal ought not to be creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, or where they fall on the gender/sexuality spectrum might feel fine about asking questions and getting the respect and care they deserve. In other words, while I see the need for women-oriented services, I wonder if such measures only compound the problem of sensitivity. What happens, for instance, to genderqueers who don't "fit" on the spectrum?

And the bit about the rape crisis centre, which I found extremely illuminating, makes me wonder what options exist for male/male-identified victims of rape. In this case, the centre wrongly excluded a transsexual volunteer, and I'm assuming it worked on the assumption that the people who checked in needed to have only women present. But this prompts me to ask: is the culture of rape counselling itself too hung up on gender? If we thought of rape as unspecified by gender, would that help us to also unthink our assumptions about who counts as male or female?

I realise those aren't the exact issues you were raising, but the post gives me pause to think about them.

You wrote:
"I wonder if the goal of increased sensitivity to the needs of specific groups (women, in this case) might be better dealt with if the health care community started thinking more expansively and systemically about what people need."

That's my first thought too, and what we're working on in Alberta re: trans Health care, though I find a lot of indifference / "too busy" responses. On VWHC's web page and history info, it looks like they've been trying for a number of years. In this respect, it appears that changing the mainstream way of doing things is slow.

Re: rape crisis centres, I don't know all of those available in Van, so am not sure if there are options. In Alberta, there is a bit of awareness of domestic violence against trans or male persons -- in the case of the latter, I think most places refer to the GLBT community centres, which is not an ideal solution. But I find there's a lot of sentiment that this is primarily something that men do to women, and little thought is given beyond that. When relief centres do take in transfolk or men, sometimes there's a backlash, i.e. (link is Toronto, so different locality, different community perspective, and the "men" mentioned in the article could be MTF women, given the Toronto Sun's history of reportage)

At the time that Kimberly Nixon sued VRR, who was arguing that trans women couldn't be allowed near cis women in rape shelters, a significant number of rape and DV shelters in Vancouver did serve trans women, although a large number of them didn't really know how to deal with us (that is, how to deal with us without saying busted things).

As a business decision for the operators of a pharmacy, exclusion of T people is pretty stupid, given that prescription medications are a necessary part of many transpeople's medical care and lives. They're quite possibly throwing significant income away with this policy. Making business decisions based on prejudice is poor business practice, and usually results in business failure - ask those who owned stock in Winn-Dixie about that.

Seeing this happening again, I'm left wondering, where are the cis feminists? I'm sure there are cis feminists here and there complaining about this, and stepping in here or there. But The vast majority of discussion I've seen has been prompted by trans people.

Why don't the major feminist organizations issue a statement? What were the hundreds of trans inclusive rape crisis clinics doing? I mean, a combinded letter signed by dozens of other rape crisis clinics would carry more weight than hundreds or thousands of upset trans people. Especially now that this seems to be spreading, I'm going to walk over to my rape crisis clinic and ask them if they're up to doing something.

I'm guessing that they're simply unaware yet. Besides the fact that the Pharmacy is just opening, the wording is plain and understated enough that one almost misses it in the article and in their Political Agreements (interesting phrase to indicate mandates / policies, BTW).

eastsidekate | July 6, 2009 11:41 PM

How long do we give them? Mercedes, I agree with you that cis feminists may not be aware of this particular pharmacy, but how are they unaware of the issue of trans women in women's spaces? Yes, yes, they may not know about our issues, but at some point it's their responsibility to educate themselves, listen to us, or otherwise take us serious.

I get tired of seeing the same dogged ignorance played out over and over again when it comes to invisibility within larger queer/feminist/progressive/LGBT communities of the struggles faced by people of color, people with disabilities, trans people, and/or LGB people. Sigh... If there aren't cis folks in Vancouver willing to stand up for us by this Fall, can we be angry then? Seriously, I absolutely agree that respectful dialogue is the key here, but dialogue requires participation from multiple parties. Also, Lu's policy isn't an error of erasure, but rather a deliberate attempt to deny service to trans women, so I don't see a lot of hope here.

not unaware. frustrated. in knots. at least me, & other trans-allied feminists like me.

suing a women's rape crisis shelter isn't cool. i don't care who does it, or why.

excluding people who want to volunteer is asshattery, prejudiced, & stupid.

but not stupid enough to justify taking finances away from a critical service for rape victims.


still: we need to integrate these (trans + feminist, transfeminist) fights, for body integrity & choice. i don't see my right to get BC as any different from a trans person's right to get what hormones you need/want/are prescribed.

not enough feminists yet know trans women well enough to understand they aren't men. they come around once they meet do. sometimes. usually. depending.

degendering victims' services may be a good place to start, but there is no way the world is ready for that. imho, again.

Degendering can be useful for a variety of reasons, however, degendering women's services in order to allow trans women to access them seems to bypass the real problem. I'm very happy with my local organization, Sexual Assualt Support Services, which has been working on a multi year project to engage underserved populations including, immigrants, non-english speakers, people of color, LGB folks, and trans people. They did significant outreach to local trans community to figure out what would make them more accessible and supportive. That's the kind of change that I was very happy to see. They've also lent the credibility of their voice on trans issues several times before, such as to point out that the idea of sexual assualts in bathrooms happening because of trans non-discrimination is a myth. The orgs we want to change we can ask to go through a similar process. They might even be able to get grant money for it like my local org did.

suing a women's rape crisis shelter isn't cool. i don't care who does it, or why.

I'm going to have to disagree with that. This particular instance could be debated, but I can definitely think about other instances in which sueing would certainly be worthwhile. What about when those finances are currently being used to hurt women? I have a friend who was raped by a rape crisis volunteer. Myself, I was abused by an intern for a domestic violence agency. I know someone else who was abused by a domestic violence agency board member. Sure we can say, bad apples, but what if the organizations had covered up these incidents or continued to put their dollars towards the salary of someone harming their clients? I'd say that's worth sueing over.

Not to mention, that sueing doesn't necessarily mean taking the money away from services for survivors. Sometimes the person sueing can specify that they don't want money, just a change in the offending policy. Or if you do take away a significant chunk of their money, you could offer it back to them in a grant to create trans inclusive services, or offer it to an organization that already has non-discriminatory services, or hire folks to create a new organization.

In the specific Vancoover case, I have no clue what she would have done with any money won in a lawsuit, but I'm more upset with the center deciding that it was a better use of their money to hire lawyers to defend a policy that hurts women needing rape crisis services (and set a precedent overturning non-discrimination law) then to put that money directly toward providing rape crisis services.

What if a shelter decides to exclude lesbians and bisexuals because the clinic feels that people of non-heterosexual orientation make their clients feel uncomfortable? (The thought of sexual attention from other women makes some heterosexual women feel squeamish, after all.) Is it OK to sue a shelter because of discrimination based upon sexual orientation?

How about race or ethnicity? What if a pattern of racial/ethnic discrimination became evident in the clinic's hiring practices?

Or religion? I could imagine a shelter provided by a Christian organization who is receiving government funds and discriminating against Jewish people, Muslims and atheists.

To be blunt, if a discrimination lawsuit—regardless of the nature of the discrimination in question—has the potential to destabilize the economic well being of an organization or business, then bravo. That is, after all, one of the purposes of a lawsuit: to impose an economic penalty against organizations or individuals who discriminate. The stronger the economic penalty, the stronger the deterrent against discrimination. If one organization is shut down because of discriminatory practices, then perhaps that will send a strong message to others who are currently engaging in similar nonsense.

Furthermore, I can easily see the same reasoning used to discourage trans women from taking action against a great many organizations that focus on providing services to women because a lot of communities don't provide an adequate amount of economic resources to organizations that help women. Ironically, organizations that provide services to women only are also organizations where trans women are likely to be excluded.

Consequently, if I were placed in this situation, I'd feel the briefest moment of guilt, ignore it, and call a lawyer. If that makes me the person wearing the black hat, in spite of the clinic being run by an assortment of prejudiced jerks, then so be it. I'm perfectly willing to create division and anger over this. From seeing variations of this discussion rehashed over and over again, I know there's no way to avoid making a great many people upset. I've reached a point where I no longer care. Trans people are faced with such a strong degree of widespread prejudice from so many people, that our rights are usually expected to take a back seat to everyone else's rights. It's time for this to stop.

Besides, the economic hardship of the organization is not trans people's responsibility. It's the responsibility of the bigots running the clinic who engaged in the discrimination in the first place. Let's place the responsibility with the responsible parties rather than implying that trans women should shoulder the blame.

Kimberley Anita Theresa Hines | July 8, 2009 5:03 PM

so, lots to say, as a woman born man, Two Spirit Metis. Lu's, a woman's place is Exclusive of MANY women identified folks!
culturally its a MESS!
Rape Relief is NOT, as far as I know, the ONLY service for women who need a shelter!
so, one can give their money to say, another service that is inclusive!
if other "INCLUSIVE for all women identified women" woman's emergency shelters exist, that is where MY MONEY and a lot of my friends money can and will go!

How dare Rape Relief train a woman, Kimberly Nixon made it through training!, to then turn around and do what they did to her, including calling her a "him"! That training is meant to be screening out power trippers, women born! She made it through!
What Rape Relief did should NEVER have HAPPENED! she did what she had to do, Rape Relief asked for it!

My safety CAN not be dependent upon capitalism, cause capitalism really would prefer I died, I am poor and on disability! Back to my point, I, nor my friends and ally's, do not have to use and support a trans phobic center for what ever reason!
We. as women, are MOST DEFINITELY allowed to stop funding to a so called Woman's group that is HOMOPHOBIC, TRANS PHOBIC, in this case Rape Relief! This organization has tried to take over the DTES Womans Center! This was stopped with the help of feminist's who have analysis, radical, that includes all women identified women!

i worked in a feminist based woman's shelter for years, as a woman born LESBIAN butch, before my time, women like me were told : you could be "less butch.", "dyke's should hide their sexuality at a woman's shelter cause some women may feel "unsafe"".

we dealt with all of those, what of this hatred!????
if Rape Relief wants to be so EXCLUSIVE of all women, they SHOULD NOT BE GETTING MOST OF THE FUNDING! They could get a portion of funding to help the portion of women who are women born and woman identified!

There are other woman's shelters that can get the money, can expand etc...
I will not hide who i am as a metis Two Spirit!

not when Men born Women are being murdered for being two spirit! Two Spirit Women have been murdered for being two spirit because they are perceived as women, someone who is not fitting the male norm in Heterosexist world!
two spirits are raped, male born women are raped! I was raped by a woman as a child and as a young adult at 17, at this point, I could not use the services of Rape Relief because they seem to not want to admit that lesbians rape women too!
Spousal assault! Date Rape! Gays and Lesbians and Trans etc.., all manage to get raped!
this is a mess!
I ask for Feminist's to STAND up in Vancouver and deal with this HORRIBLE situation!
While working at the Sandy Merriman Woman's Emergency Shelter here in Victoria, women (who were trans) were welcomed in! As were dykes/butches/stone cold butches (who looked more like a man then most men i knew at the time) and we dealt just fine!

Wake up Rape Relief, feminism is growing! since you are so exclusive, I AM ASKING THAT MONEY GO TO WOMAN'S SHELTERS THAT ARE INCLUSIVE!
HOWS THAT FOR A SOLUTION? Lets hold up those women who speak on behalf of ALL women, give them the money, hey men, work for the others fundraising!
Lets get on it sisters, a solution, you have any others?

aka kym hothead

Just to be clear on the details, Kimberly did NOT make it through volunteer training. She made it through a phone interview, and then VRR saw her in person and identified her as a trans woman. There was a large group of women there, and at the first break, Kimberly was taken aside by VRR and outed then and there and told to leave.

& i want to add: the whole thing just makes me sad. "women born women" makes me ill. excluding gender variant women in legislation meant to exclude trans women is stupid, frustrating, & prejudiced - for its intention as well as its effect.

i don't understand exclusion. why on earth the pharmacy (& the rape crisis center) serve those whose needs are "underserved because of their sex/gender/orientation" otherwise? that would include women, trans women, women of color, trans men, lesbians, etc.

like i said, sad. my fellow feminists embarrass me with these dumbass definitions of "woman."

The irony of things like this is the insistence by some feminists that trans people are forcing the binary onto gender variant people (such as butch lesbians). This sort of definition is as binary and exclusivist as you can get.

As usual a comprehensive, even exhaustive account of a matter of great concern.

I agree with almost all of the piece except the reference to the exclusion of transgender people by transsexual people--when even the word "transsexual," as in "transgender and transsexual people" is considered excluding by some transgender-identified people--but that is an issue for another post.

However, what I find absent in this otherwise comprehensive discussion is reference to the human rights law which allows non-profit organizations, such as Rape Relief, and possibly Lu's, formed to address a specific issue of discrimination may, in turn, discriminate. I've taken to calling this the "Nixon loophole."

This is the narrow grounds upon which the courts ruled, not that Nixon wasn't a woman, but that it doesn't matter. This was one of the issues at stake when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear her appeal--announced on February 1, 2007.

The other issue not decided, not even heard, by this first time a case concerning a transsexual person arrived at the Court would have been to take judicial notice of gender identity as a ground analogous to those enumerated in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms--as was done for sexual orientation in 1997.

In Toronto, where city supported services must accept transgender and transsexual people, they do. In Ottawa, the Sexual Assault Support Centre accepts self-identified transsexual and transgender men and women--but transsexual and transgender women are not permitted to serve on its governing collective. My informant tells me this controversy has gone on for a number of years. She describes it as stupid.

And human rights law in Canada allows it.

I am happy to see the episode, available in the minutes of the Human Rights Tribunal hearing, where the long time Rape Relief volunteer and governing collective member pointed out a "woman born woman" as one she would not want counselling her after an assault, because this woman would trigger her--she "looks like a man."

This after a look around the tribunal audience.

I'm uncertain what will happen when human rights law is amended--a project at both the Federal and Ontario levels (I am not aware of any other jurisdictions doing so).

Of more robust effect would be declaration by the Supreme Court that gender identity, at least, is an analogous ground.

This, however, seems not on the horizon.

Really good, useful post.

I always wondered why they could not have given Ms. Nixon charge of, or opprotunity to work on, rape relief services for other trans women, which we're sorely in need of. Instead they chose to recruit smart, respected feminists to write a lot of revulusion fueled tripe about how trannies aren't real women, and chose to bolster their case using a mix of Janice Raymond rhetoric, real and honest feminist anger, and cisgendered disgust at trans people.

I would not have chosen Ms. Nixon's path, but I strongly disagree with the commenter who says it "wasn't cool" to sue them. It may have radicalized an already ugly situation, but she was indeed fighting for the right in this.

ok ,
so MEN can't be raped? or tg women can't be raped?
if one could be the victim of that experiance, one should be able to council it.

and if she can say:
she "objects" to the councillor because of "apperance", could she not also say she "objects" to the apperance of any gay woman as "not femme enough" to council her?
or not going to "get it" because she is not
where would it end?

how can they think that the argument holds water?
is this is "male persons can't council me because they don't get it or push safety buttons argument"?
but what about male victims of rape?
are they allowed to council?
or are they some how "lesser" victims?
(are tg women "lesser" victims?)
or ftm's?

rape IS predominatly a male- to female
crime, but by no means exclusivly!
and as i pointed out, anyone who could experiance rape could "get it",as anyone could be a victim of it.this "logic" of THEIRS is pretty faulty.

ps: to those who flame "women only" spaces issues,i'm ftm, so don't start "flaming" ME re women's bodies and spaces, i AM aware of these issues, as i was BORN female, and i don't need your lecture on feminism as i am one already, thank you....
also, tg women are WOMEN in my opinion, so this argument is offensive.

i wanted to clarify that the problem with suing is that so often we can create exactly the precedents in case law that the Nixon case did create, as it seems to have provided justification for this Lu's decision.

not supporting a transphobic place is great. trying to work with whoever works there who isn't transphobic to change policy is great. etc. like i said, for me it's about the suing, & i was trying to explain why many cis feminists would take issue with this kind of strategy.

yes, women's spaces should include trans women (& any FTM spectrum people who still identify as women of one kind or another). yes, cis feminists should educate themselves. but i don't think it's a very good strategy for a trans woman to sue this kind of women's clinic. she's not wrong, she's not incorrect, & she's entirely justified. but if we want to build bridges between cis & trans feminists, it's a bad move. again, imho.

It's NOT ABOUT MEN. It's about WOMEN having the right to counsel and provide service to other WOMEN. The problem is that some cis women in positions of relative power think other women aren't "really" women, and therefore spend huge amounts of time, energy and ever-dwindling amounts of money trying to keep those women out and away from services that could be vital.

In the case of Lu's Pharmacy, it is a group of cis women who have decided that trans women aren't "really" women, and so have created a space where trans women are locked out.
When trans WOMEN have the right and ability to access this WOMEN's service, then perhaps discussion around who else can access it would be appropriate, but until then? Let's focus.

sorry, this was meant in reply to javier's last comment

Vancouver activist Jamie Lee Hamilton has spoken with the local press there about the issue:

VWHC Executive Director Caryn Duncan responds:

“We are an organization that has for almost 40 years supported women around their battle with breast cancer or unwanted pregnancy or delivering a baby with a midwife, [and] celebrating or dealing with menopause,” Duncan said. “It’s about bleeding—or wanting to bleed or not bleed. It’s about being a woman, and the physiology of being a woman.”

Except that hormone therapy for transfemales has some clear and definite parallels if not outright similarities. Where we would need a pharmacy most, Lu's would in fact be equipped to help. Breast cancer and menopausal occurrences are also things we can be susceptible to.

So is bleeding the definition of woman?

homogenius | July 9, 2009 11:18 PM

It's so Shakespearean:

"If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

I have never understood the concept of women rejecting trans people who need to be women! For me, it's the same as heteros who oppose marriage equality. It's like there's a finite number of marriage licenses or clitorises. "If we give it to you, then we'll run out."


I have never understood the concept of women rejecting trans people who need to be women!

I appreciate the sentiment, but I think it's better said:

"I have never understood the concept of cis women rejecting trans women as women!"

But I really do agree with the rest of your comment - lots of cis women act as if womanhood is a scarcity, and acknowledging trans women as women is somehow going to ruin it for everyone else.

goddamn is that offensive, the bleeding bit.

as a person with PCOS -- just, wow. as far as i know i've never ovulated. women like me are put on spiro & estradiol. sound familiar? most women like me only discover this stuff when they can't get pregnant.


this essentialist bullshit makes me crazy.

Rhiannon Smith | July 11, 2009 12:08 AM

Thank-you for this Mercedes. Very informative and eye opening. I work tomorrow in the DTES and will be taking my lunch to attend the protest.

My thoughts on the political and social abuse of transwomen by the biology-is-destiny-for-thee-but-not-for-me arm of 'feminism':

Jennifer Greene | September 14, 2009 2:11 PM

Not every counselor is suitable for every client. It would make sense to have both a male and a transgendered counselor on hand for clients who prefer them. But this particular centre defines itself as serving WOMEN. Many women's issues do revolve around menstruation, fertility, gendered social status, and pursuit or rejection by heterosexual males, so most women do prefer counselors who have had the experience of growing up female. Someone already in crisis should not be given a counselor that she is not comfortable with, for whatever reason.

Though an argument can be made that it is not the mandate of a women's centre to cater to any clientele except the born-female, who else does? Rape is not just a women's issue, and transgendered people are particularly likely to experience sexual and physical abuse. A huge gap in services has been identified here.

Thank you so very much for your discussions. I have always wrestled with how to experience my femme needs to be me. Dress, Speech, mannerisms et al have helped me since pre school years. Listening to male privledge discussions has helped me realize more about my identity which will always be going back and forth in my two worlds. I will never transition for example or desire to live as a woman constantly. I am identified as a male. My point here is that your discussions have helped me realize what I wasn't aware of as a conflict within me. I have fought male privledge all my life and realize I have been given it. Feeling andknowing what it is to be raised a girl allows a woman to see the world so differently than I could possibly do.
Your discussion has helped me get closer to my gender(s).

"Many women's issues do revolve around menstruation, fertility, gendered social status, and pursuit or rejection by heterosexual males, so most women do prefer counselors who have had the experience of growing up female."

Maybe so, but the point is they noticed she was trans by appearance alone, they didn't notice by legal background check and saw "Oh this person made a legal change of sex mention x years ago". Instead they went: "Wow you look like a guy so much, you must have had way too much testosterone to be ever considered for a position here"

For example, even with their anti-trans policy, I could work there because I look feminine enough, without any telltale sign, even without all that female experience growing up.

Their saying its all about the experience is simply a way to hide their blatant lookism where only acceptably feminine-looking people can work there.