Vancouver Pharmacy Says No to Trans People


Vancouver is now the home to North America’s first women-only pharmacy. Yesterday, the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective opened Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women, a place where women in the community can go for health education, medication, and support. According to a report from the Vancouver Courier, it sounds like a brilliant idea—on the surface.

“Starting Tuesday, any woman who was born a woman can visit the pharmacy to have prescriptions filled. Lu’s aims to serve women who live and work in the neighbourhood, students and those who choose to patronize businesses with a social mission. Clients can sit in the welcoming reception area, talk to the female pharmacist over a counter that’s narrower than at most pharmacies or consult with her at a private alcove.”

Ah, there’s always the snag. Sounds like a great resource if you’re a bio-woman, but what about the population of transgender sex workers that are in need of safer sex education and, potentially, rape counseling? (See Kimberley Nixon v. Rape Relief—a case where a battered woman was turned away because of her transitional status.)

According to the VWHC’s “Political Agreements,” the pharmacy is open to “women who were born women and live their lives as women.” They call it a women’s pharmacy, yet choose to define “woman” based on a restrictive set of terms. But this statement implies that there are women who were not born women, yet choose to live their lives as women. Why intentionally exclude them from the pharmacy? How is that progressive at all?

 

Mercedes Allen, herself a transgendered women, wrote on Monday about the pharmacy, and their choice to restrict the definition of “woman.”

“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.”

To see this new group of women as a threat and not an asset is a mistake; they live their lives as women, and who are we to say how they can identify, or that their “womaness” is somehow less legitimate than ours? I, for one, don’t want to be part of a group that excludes anyone who chooses to identify as a women—no matter which sex they were born.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • invalid-0

    I thought we left this sort of discrimination and divisive politics behind us with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival…

    Not only does this policy specifically exclude individuals who live their lives as women but were not born women, but what about all the folks who were born as women but don’t fit this collective/pharmacy’s definition of ‘living life as a woman’? And what the hell does that mean anyway? Who exactly sets the guidelines I must follow in order to be considered living correctly as a woman? SO much for liberation from gender oppression!

  • invalid-0

    As does your article. “bio woman” is not an appropriate descriptor for cissexual women.

    Also, the policy is targeted at transgender women, not transgender people.

    That said, I think this article is only slightly less offensive than the pharmacy’s open discrimination against trans women.

  • http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/MT_Germany43_en.pdf invalid-0

    >Weiterleitung/Forwarded Message
    >
    >An: vwhc@vcn.bc.ca
    >Datum: 09.07.2009 19:56:07
    >Betreff: I feel ashamed

    Hello,

    I feel ashamed that women define other women as not-women-born-women when they were born with a penis. I feel ashamed that women fulfill the patriarchal logic that the
    presence or absence of a penis tells you if you are a boy or a girl. I feel ashamed that women adore the patriarchal penis-cult insted of accepting human diversity. I feel ashamed
    that some women feel more comfortable to extend the time where biologal truth is oppressed from a male ideology of defining transsexual women as “men with psychic
    disorders” or “men that want to become women”. The truth is: you never can change the sex/gender you are born with. A transsexual woman is a girl who’s born with a penis and
    gonads. And if this isn’t awesome enough for this girls they still live in a world where they have to make experiences like suppression from other women cause of their birth-
    defect.

    What an evil world we live in. What a world where people belive still in patriarchal ideologies….

    I feel ashamed,

    Kim Schicklang
    Cairperson
    Human Rights and Transsexuality
    - Germany -

    See also:

    http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/MT_Germany43_en.pdf
    (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women)

    Transgender activist opposes Downtown Eastside pharmacy ban
    By Charlie Smith

    The Vancouver Women’s Health Collective will not serve transgender women at its new pharmacy on the Downtown Eastside. And that has a neighbourhood transgender activist alleging that the collective is discriminating against women like herself.

    “That’s not acceptable,” Jamie Lee Hamilton told the Straight in a phone interview. “No city licence should be given out to any business that operates in the city of Vancouver if it chooses to discriminate.”

    Hamilton added that she plans on filling her next hormone prescription at Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women, which opened on July 7 at 29 West Hastings Street.

    The collective’s executive director, Caryn Duncan, told the Straight in a phone interview that her organization’s steering committee discussed whether or not to extend service to all “self-identified women”. In the end, members decided to serve “women born women”.

    “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.”

    She claimed that the pharmacy doesn’t have the expertise or capacity to serve transgender women. “I think we’re being very reasonable,” Duncan said. “I believe the massive groundswell of support for our pharmacy and for our work is evidence that what we do is supported in the broader community.”

    The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld women-only organizations’ legal right to restrict membership to women and not allow transgender people. Hamilton, however, claimed that the court’s ruling dealt with organizations and not with a business that provides a health service to the public.

  • invalid-0

    DISCRIMINATION IS A TERRIBLE THING. WHEN ONE SECTOR STARTS TO PRACTICE DISCRIMINATION, OTHER SECTORS WILL JOIN THEM. THIS PHARMACY CAN DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRANSSEXUALS AND IT MAY SEEM HARMLESS. YES, THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE. HOWEVER, THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP. WHO’S TO SAY THAT THE PHARMACY WILL NOT START DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ASIANS, OR BLACKS, OR OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS. WE HAVE LAWS IN THIS COUNTRY TO STOP ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THIS FROM PRACTICING OPEN DISCRIMINATION.

    IF THE GOVERNMENT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA LETS THIS SORT OF THING GO BY, THEN WHAT IS WRONG WITH COMPANIES ONLY HIRING MALES, OR WHITE MALES, OR EVEN BLUE-EYED TALL WHITE MALES. COMPANIES CAN COME UP WITH ALL KINDS OF EXCUSES TO EXPLAIN THEIR REASONING BEHIND EXCLUDING CERTAIN GROUPS OF PEOPLE, BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT DISCRIMINATING IN ANY FORM IS WRONG.

    IF GORDON CAMPBELL ALLOWS THIS PHARMACY TO CONTINUE PRACTICING THEIR “BIO-WOMAN” SELECTION PROCESS, THEN HE IS NOT MUCH BETTER THAN THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO BROUGHT IN SEGREATION IN THE UNITED STATES.