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.”