Lu's Pharmacy rejects transgender customer

A Vancouver transgender activist says that the pharmacy owned by the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective has refused to fill her prescription. Jamie Lee Hamilton told the Georgia Straight on July 14 that Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women denied her service because she wasn’t born female.

“I’m a member of the Downtown Eastside, a long-time resident,” Hamilton said. “I should be able to access my community pharmacy.”

According to Hamilton, the collective’s executive director, Caryn Duncan, explained that the pharmacy won’t serve male-to-female transgender people. Hamilton said she told Duncan that this policy is discriminatory. “She then said, ”˜No, you have to be born female,’ ” Hamilton claimed.

In a July 15 phone interview with the Straight, Duncan said she told Hamilton that the collective is committed to its original vision for the pharmacy and its other services, which is to work with “women born women”. Duncan said that the organization has specialized in meeting the health needs of these women for more than 40 years.

“It is how we would like to continue to approach the work that we are providing women,” Duncan said.

She added that she isn’t sure that she would describe what happened as “refusing her service”, and claimed that Hamilton tried to force her way inside. Duncan also said she feels “very overwhelmed” by the pressure she’s received to provide service to transgender women.

“I have felt that people are employing intimidation tactics, and it’s hurtful to me personally,” she said. “As I said to Jamie Lee Hamilton, we want to help women here. We want to focus on the work that we do that’s very important to us and to the women who want to use our services. That’s where I want to put my energy.”

Hamilton described her efforts to obtain service at Lu’s pharmacy as a “watershed event” in the attempt to advance the rights of transgender women in Canada. At a July 11 protest outside the pharmacy, transgender activist Elizabeth Marston claimed that Lu’s policy would discriminate against some of the most vulnerable women in the neighbourhood.

Duncan characterized her actions as “generous” and “thoughtful”, emphasizing that she is willing to talk to Hamilton and her supporters about how to create a pharmacy for transgender women and their supporters.

Moreover, Duncan said she informed Hamilton of a pharmacy a couple of blocks away that would provide adequate care. “She mentioned she wanted to access the services of a community pharmacy,” Duncan said. “I shared with her that Reach [Community Health Centre] has a community pharmacy that’s trans-inclusive, and encouraged her to go to the Reach pharmacy on the Drive.”

According to Hamilton, Duncan told her that Lu’s pharmacy will serve transgender men who were born female. “It’s an ideology that’s really, really bizarre,” Hamilton said.

When asked about this, Duncan responded: “We will serve all women born women.”

Duncan and Hamilton will meet on Thursday (July 16). Hamilton said she will await the outcome of that conversation before deciding whether to file a complaint with the College of Pharmacists of B.C. The college’s code of ethics states that pharmacists must not be prejudiced by “factors such as the patient’s race, religion, ethnic origin, social or marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, or health status”.

In a previous interview with the Straight, on July 8, Duncan said the collective decided to create a female-only pharmacy after it lost provincial funding in 2004 and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority funding in 2005. The collective secured a $10,000 grant from Enterprising Non-profits to write a business plan.

“There have been hundreds of people involved in realizing this dream: organizations, corporations, individuals,” Duncan said. “The support for the project has been phenomenal both in donated labour, lots of volunteerism, and donated materials.”

Comments (68) Add New Comment
Jamie Lee
Just to clarify, the door at Lu's was open when I arrived. As I started walking in Ms Caryn Duncan came running to me in order to block me from accessing the front counter where the Pharmacist was. Ms Duncan demanded that I leave and I refused saying I wanted to have my prescription filled. She threatened to call the police if I didn't leave even though I wasn't breaking any law. I was denied service based on my gender which is discriminatory.

Hopefully at our meeting tomorrow Ms Duncan will reverse the discriminatory policy in place at Lu's.
Jamie Lee
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Just Me
Keep fighting Caryn.

Am I the only one who thinks Jamie Lynn is a blowhard? Really? There's nothing better to be fighting against. This pharmacy has already lost so much funding that it sounds like the only way for them to keep funding is to provide the service they are providing currently. Strap on those high heels and walk to the couple extra blocks and focus on something that's really worth fighting for. If you don't like the service provided, go somewhere else.
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Brooke
Duncan says that "people are employing intimidation tactics, and it’s hurtful to me personally ... we want to help women here. We want to focus on the work that we do that’s very important to us and to the women who want to use our services. That’s where I want to put my energy.”

First off, transwomen ARE women who want to use your services.

Secondly, I'm sorry that she feels hurt on a personal level. I honestly am. She has invested a great deal of time and energy into Lu's. However, regardless much time it took collectively to put Lu's Pharmacy together, transfolk have clocked more hours working on being recognized in our correct gender in the first place, including in pharmacies. It is extremely hurtful to the trans community, and to me personally, that Lu's refuses to recognize me as what I am, and to sum me up by my biology and/or my childhood experiences.

Thirdly, I would hope that Duncan, the rest of the VWHC and Lu's are open to alternate points of view and are willing to speak to the many diverse people and groups of the trans community with an open mind. It's not intimidation to state one's point of view in a peaceful way, it's just a point of view. Another example of a point of view is how she claims that her views on transwomen do not quality as transmisogyny.

I would also like to touch on the fact that Duncan says that Lu's will be providing services transmen (female-to-male transgendered persons) is inconsistent with the policy of the VWHC who run Lu's. The VWHC states that they help women who were born women and live their lives as women. Transmen do not live their lives as women. This is also disrespectful to transmen as identify and live as men, and wish to be treated as men. This underscores the essentialist attitude of the WBW Only policy at Lu's Pharmacy and its philosophy of biological determinism.

A difference of opinion on a single policy does not mean that we dislike Lu's as a whole. Many transwomen support Lu's, just not one the policy.
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brattysauce
I get so tired of everyone complaining about unfair
treatment, it is a free country go somewhere else. I have been discriminated against countless times, but I refuse to let it consume my life..... Protest this boycott that life sucks to be people who live their lives always feeling shortchanged. By the way I love all people gay straight all races mixed genders love all people....
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Aurea Flynn
I am writing in support of Women only space. By this I mean spaces reserved for women (defined as those persons who are born female and raised into their current womanhood). This experience is unique to women and shared by women, and this experience is the root of a number of oppressions put upon women within male dominated society.

I believe that woman only space is necessary for women to seek peer help and gain strength to enable them to resist sexist oppression, in an otherwise male dominated world. In a world where women only spaces are harder and harder to find, I am gladdened to hear about the new Women only Pharmacy in Vancouver, and thank the Vancouver Women’s Health collective for the good work they do.

I see woman only health care centers as one type of woman only space, one that provides women who were born female and socialized into womanhood a specialized health care service based upon the gendered health care needs, needs that differ from men and trans gendered people.

I support a woman only pharmacy, because it is a woman only space, as it is feminist resistance against the historically patriarchal models of health care, so commonly accepted and promoted in western industrialized nations.

I believe that the creation of a woman only space does not reduce the quality of care in other mixed gendered health care spaces, nor is it an impediment to men and trans-gendered people to access health services elsewhere. In fact, I believe that Lu's existence lessens the wait time in those other types of pharmacies, and could even improve quality of healthcare for all.

Women who were born female and socialized into womanhood ought to have the right to access woman only spaces for their own issues, and have the ability to access woman delivered health care, with a peer to peer approach. In no way does this infringe upon trans-gendered rights to seek medical attention, nor inhibit their right to build their own peer to peer health care elsewhere. There is nothing in what the Vancouver Women's Health collective's Women Only Pharmacy is doing that is stopping trans-gendered persons only groups to have their own specialized and improved medical services. And lastly, I believe trans-gendered peoples energy would be better spent in creating peer based services for their own unique lived experiences of oppression, rather than attacking a women only health care service provider.
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RHW
I am furious that this pharmacy (which I had initially thought of as a brilliant and beautiful idea) is daring to discriminate against any woman. I'm a "woman born woman" and I know that trans women are definitely as "woman" as I am. I would never dare to consider my trans friends and acquaintances as anything but their *legal* gender status.

I do, however, think that Jamie Lee Hamilton needs to tone it down a bit and get some more people involved. This fight runs the risk of turning people against full inclusion, as she can make it seem like a personal vendetta. Through herr recent overexposure, she comes across (to me and others that I have spoken with) as focused primarily on self-publicity with the issue coming second.

This is an important human-rights issue and it would be a shame for this discrimination to continue because of the simple pollution of the argument by Hamilton's over-courting of the media.
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Khai38
What I don't understand, and what isn't explained by Ms. Duncan, is how exactly does serving a transgender woman threaten the services provided to other women? Sure, the experiences of women-born-women is vastly different than those of transgender women. But why are those past experiences vital to getting a prescription filled? This type of pharmacy is controversial in the first place, and by denying services to women who are legally, biologically, and anatomically female, Lu's is only going to make it harder to gain the support they need politically and from the community at large. The ratio of transgenders to born-women is infintesimally small. Just fill the prescriptions of these women and stop parsing the definition of "female".
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Brent
Prejudice/discrimination cannot be dressed up. Prejudice is prejudice & discrimination is discrimination. Let's face it here: both are happening in this case.

I beg to differ how a womyn's only pharmacy is any more enlightened that say, for example, an old boys golf club - both stink!

Sincerely, Someone from the male gender who considers himself a feminist.....but a person 1st, hence, a 1st class citizen - just as trans women are 1st, not 2nd, class citizens. Same goes for alll persons...
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Amy (legally Matt)
I want to address the notion of "women only spaces". I'll play the "male" role in this conversation, since that's what seems to be my "biological" role. I wonder, do the same women who advocate "women only spaces" find objection with "men only spaces"?

I identify as an idealist and as an equalitarian. It may be more long winded than the word feminist, but I don't like to use a label that is shared by some who would advocate "women only spaces" and find objection to "men only spaces". Granted, I'm not sure of any one of yals views toward this segregation, but I'm, personally, as a woman, appalled by it. You know why? Because a few decades ago, in America (where I live), there were "white only spaces" where white people, such as myself, could hold "power" and oppress those "weaker than us". It was a direct result of fear and of an ego the size of our planet.

Since then, "white only spaces" have been called out as they are, discriminatory and used to promote segregation. Although I agree in the notion of "women only spaces", I disagree with the implementation. Segregating two groups doesn't decrease any animosity between the two groups, and usually only increases it (no one likes being told they can’t use a service that someone else can). Additionally, individuals that don’t fit into one of the nicely packaged groups, in this case transsexuals, are left in the cold, where our feelings are ignored “for the greater good”.

Treating a transwoman like a man or treating a transman like a woman, is the simplest case of transmisogyny – it’s breaking the “golden rule”. The medical community acknowledges that transsexuality isn’t a mental illness – that we are not insane. In fact, quite the opposite, the recommended course of action is for the individual to align their body with their gender identity – NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. So, by referring to me as a man just because I was born so, isn’t treating me like you would like to be treated – unless you like other people telling you who you are. Personally, I’m quite capable of telling others who I am, and when I do, I would hope that they respected "who I am", instead of "who they want me to be".
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Kim
"she wasn’t born female." Really? I think that it would be necessary to stop these lies about human sex and to accept that there a girls who are born with penis and gonads and nevertheless never had been male.
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Bad Hair Days
The problem is one of speech. Instead of saying
"Women only space", say "only some women space". Saying women with a transsexual past are not women like it is done hear by insisting that a "women only space" is simpley saying they are not women, which is a lie.
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Zoe Brain
What's next - a "women's only" pharmacy that caters to all women? Except blacks.

Because they'e not *real* human women, and besides which, they have problems with sickle-cell anemia and other congenital problems that the pharmacists aren't trained to deal with. Not that that's racist or anything. Oh, but they will serve men, as long as they're White. Because being raised white is essential to being a real woman, you see.

The logic is the same: so is the bigotry.
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Jessie_c
Poor Caryn feels pressured. Well she should. She should realise that her attitude is antiquated and discriminatory, out of touch with reality and just as repugnant as any other kind of discrimination.

Caryn has chosen to present herself as a victim of the patriarchy, and chooses to include transwomen as a subset of the patriarchy. She very clearly tells the world that transwomen are not women in her mind, and that she is never going to allow transwomen in with the "real" women.

She is trying to force all women into one mould, one set of experiences. and claim that what she experienced while growing up is the only authentic way women can grow up. She is trying to say "I know more about your reality than you do because I'm more "real" than you are. I'm entitled to define your life for you and you do not meet my criteria for what a woman is so I will guard my precious women only space from you "fake" women. Now go away and leave us "real" women alone."

She feels this so strongly that last Saturday she decided to deny service to all women rather than risk having transwomen in her precious space.

Caryn needs to join the 21st Century where the rest of us are living and realise that not all women have the same history, that there are as many paths to the reality of being a woman as there are women and that transwomen, contrary to her propaganda, are just as much women as she is.

I support the idea of Lu's Pharmacy. They are providing a much needed service and they need to keep on providing that service. They just need to make one small change to how they provide that service; they need to make their discrimination a thing of the dead, dusty past. They need to move into the bright future of inclusion, openness, compassion and caring, things that Caryn could use a lot more of in this case.
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gudbuytjane.wordpress.com
"By the way I love all people gay straight all races mixed genders love all people"

Putting that at the end of a comment where you tell a marginalized group to, essentially, shut up and move on doesn't make you any less bigoted against them.
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gudbuytjane.wordpress.com
"Duncan characterized her actions as 'generous' and 'thoughtful', emphasizing that she is willing to talk to Hamilton and her supporters about how to create a pharmacy for transgender women and their supporters"

Caryn, separate-but-equal might have been a reasonable philosophy in 1960, but it is 2009. No other women's group (except for VRR) discriminates against trans women in the DTES. When I talk to Executive Directors of other organizations they're appalled at the policies of VWHC.

“I have felt that people are employing intimidation tactics"

Demanding equal rights is not intimidating you personally. It is how every marginalized group has done it, including the cisgender (aka non-trans) women's movement. This kind of comment is meant to dodge responsibility and instead frame trans women as aggressors and hopes to play on cultural transphobia. It is an old trick, I've seen it before, and it is a distraction that does not address the issue.
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Katie
The idea of "women only" spaces that admit men - transsexual men - while prohibiting women - transsexual women - is abhorrent on its face. Yet this is the record of "women born women" organizations and spaces: The annihilation of transgendered people, by denying our identities.

Lu's, a self-styled "pharmacy for women," is LESS inclusive than Walgreen's, and that is a sad and depressing reality.
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Beth
If someone was born a woman, had the experience of being socialized a woman and presumably had periods and stuff, but then had a sex change in her twenties to become a physical man, is that person allowed into the pharmacy? They have more experience being perceived by society as a girl and a woman, therefore have more experience being treated like women are, so shouldn't they be allowed in? Personally, this thing is driving me nuts. I've been stewing a lot about it, as we all have. Can't the pharmacy just market itself as serving those people seeking a safe harbour from predators in the downtown eastside? Maybe post a female security guard or something to keep out the creeps, of all genders? Sure, the most at risk are probably women. But I'd like to think they'd also bar violent women from entering. Personally, I'd rather be surrounded by nice guys in a pharmacy than be anywhere near a violent woman with a hate on for me. They're scarier and they use their nails. Trust me. The only time I've ever been assaulted was by two woman who said they wanted to cut up my face so that no man would ever look at me again. It was an unprovoked attack and it was men-born-men who came to my aid. PS - "ladies", it didn't work and I hope you're rotting in prison.
Beth
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SteveB
Lu's is so offensive.

I'm a man, look stereotypically male, and have a beard. I walk into this women's pharmacy tell the pharmacist that really I was born female. You're trying to tell me that this kind of a policy helps protect women's spaces, because somehow YOU know best that I'm NOT REALLY A MAN?

It's not up to you to decide who is a woman, actually.

That's what it comes down to.
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T.E.
This conversation is so ridiculous I feel I should be in a Mighty Python skit. Oh, but there already is one... In the skit the man who feels he is a woman argues that even though he can not be pregnant and give birth he still wants the right to be able to. Then everyone agrees that he should have that right.

We are talking about women's health! and although gender is only partly biological, at a health center of any kind, bioligy seems faily important. In fact, it follows that trans people require specilized health care because of hormone treatments, surgery, medical diagnosis and other helath related issues of transitioning.

The Women's Health Collective has a rich and useful herstory fighting for women's equality and autonmomy. The pharmacy has not been given a chance to demonstrate how it could function to its full potential. But I have to say, I would rather go to a women only pharmacy when getting my herpes medication or when getting antibiotics for a yeast infection.

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Meghan
I think that we are failing, here, to acknowledge that there is a difference between sex and gender. The sexed body, 'woman', is not the same thing as the social construct, 'woman'. Women-only spaces exist for a very good reason. When we ignore the context of patriarchy and the truth that we live in a male-dominated society, we are not having a truthful conversation. I understand the dire need for women-only health services because, as a woman, I do not feel comfortable seeing male doctors or any male within the health care system, pharmacists included. Women-born women have been oppressed by a male-dominated western medicine tradition that made men into 'experts' on all things, including female bodies. This is not to say that this system has not as well had a negative impact on trans bodies, of course it has, but the need for women-only spaces and a women-only pharmacy comes from a need for the specific needs of the sexed female to be addressed. Protesting against this much needed, well-intentioned facility is misogynist, and is a typical representation of the male sense of entitlement fostered by systems and traditions that have given white men way too much power.
I support everything that Lu's and Ms. Duncan are doing and feel that the protests and attacks against the pharmacy are only serving to disempower and further oppress women.
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