Transgender activist opposes Downtown Eastside pharmacy ban

The Vancouver Women’s Health Collective says transgender women will not be served 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 admit transgender people. Hamilton, however, claimed that the court’s ruling dealt with organizations and not with a business that provides a health service.

Comments (26) Add New Comment
first time caller
Jamie Lee Hamilton is a media whore who lost any credibility she ever had years ago. It surprises me the Straight continues to use her as a source. Hamilton has one agenda and that's promoting herself. "Activist" my ass.
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gudbuytjane.livejournal.com
The argument that trans women have physiologies that make VWHC and Lu's unable to provide services is incorrect. This is a pharmacy, and the meds that trans women take are similar to what many post-menopausal women take. This isn't about biology, it is about transphobia, and a majority group (women who aren't transgender) asserting their biases at the expense of minority groups (trans women, women with addictions, sex-trade workers).

This links to the open letter I've written to VWHC: http://gudbuytjane.livejournal.com/11601.html

It is time Vancouver's women's groups move past their archaic and biased attitudes about trans women. This is a marginalized group of women who are routinely targeted for violence. I refuse to be part of a community of women that would discriminate against a group based solely on one's discomfort. This has been done in the past to women of colour, lesbians, and others, and it is time for it to stop being okay to do to trans women.
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disappointed
Thank you for writing this article.

It's incredibly frustrating to see something as positive as a women's only pharmacy decide to discriminate against one group of women.

I think that any organization for women should be trans inclusive, but for heaven's sake, this is a pharmacy. They are filling prescriptions. The idea that they would have to go far out of their way to serve trans women's needs is, I believe, a weak cover story for their bigotry. Trans women ARE women, and need services provided for women. I sincerely hope that Lu's will reconsider this archaic and discriminatory policy.
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D.
I'm skeptical of Caryn Duncan's statement. My understanding is that trans women have virtually the same health care issues and needs as cisgender women (e.g. both trans women and cisgender women need hormone prescriptions filled, never mind things like breast exams, etc.), with maybe certain exceptions that wouldn't be dealt with at any pharmacy anyway. I would hope that Lu's had considered this before creating their policy. And yeah, Lu's is a pharmacy - they aren't going to be delivering babies there, so it's a bit disingenuous to cite that.

And as a cisgender woman, I would hardly sum up my health concerns and "physiology of being a woman" as "it's about bleeding". Seriously? That's incredibly simplistic, and it's a pretty flimsy reason for discriminating against trans women.

Trans women = women. Women's spaces should be for all women.
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Jessie_c
Yet again the cisgender feminists slap their trans colleagues in the face. Once again we see that transwomen are not considered to be "real" women. Once again we see discrimination in action, discrimination that is completely legal and that will continue until such time as it is made illegal.

Once again we see the code words "Women born women" supporting transmisogyny. Once again we see the same old tired, worn out and utterly discredited "biological imperative" argument ironically advocated by a group created to fight arguments based on biological imperatives; at least when they're being used against them.

Vancouver Women's Health Collective just wasted a perfect opportunity to be inclusive. I have two words for them: Exclusion disempowers. By falling back on the tactics of the oppressors, they become the moral equivalent of the oppressors.

Hypocritical much?
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Kelly Smith
I hope Lu's ends their discriminatory policies against trans women, women w/addictions, sex-trade workers. They should move towards a model which includes all women.
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Jha
As a ciswoman myself, I honestly don't see how this whole "about bleeding" and "the physiology of being a woman" issue affects a pharmacy to extend services to transwomen. I also fail to understand how a pharmacist would not have the proper expertise / capacity to serve transwomen, as if transwomen were all that different from ciswomen. That's just a sneaky way of saying that transwomen aren't "real women", so don't deserve the same care as, what, regular women?

And as a ciswomen, I'm appalled at such treatment of marginalized women. I've yet to see any good reason to deny them the same level of safety, care and comfort.
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Lisa Harney
Just where does this notion that trans women's bodies are too alien and incomprehensible for people to treat without special capacities and training? Trans women are prescribed the same medications that cis women are, from hormones to antibiotics to blood pressure medicine to anxiety medicine to antidepressants. There really isn't any spectacularly outre health care requirement for trans women that any clinic is unable to provide.

This is one of many excuses used to exclude trans women from consideration - and one of the specific excuses used to exclude trans women from medical care.

The kind of expertise or capacity that any institution or business or clinic or pharmacy needs to serve trans women is the ability to acknowledge us as women and treat us as human beings, instead of othering us and our bodies and using that to exclude trans women from access to medical care.

Whatever Caryn Duncan may believe about what she said, she's reinforcing the cissexist norms that marginalize and exclude trans women from services so basic as health care.

* http://lmgtfy.com/?q=cissexual
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Sam
If Lu's pharmacy and the Vancouver Women's Health Collective want to help women, they would help all women-- including trans women.

Let’s pull back to look at the bigger picture: trans people aren’t protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why would a women’s organization deliberately decide to discriminate against some of the most vulnerable people in our society? An example of this vulnerability: trans women are over-represented in sex work and in the DTES: if the pharmacy opened its doors to all women, it would be well positioned to do some good work.

A shame that the Vancouver Women's Health Collective is in the dinosaur age about this one.
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romham
Wow. i've been doing this a while now, since oh 1972, and didnt realize that bleeding/not wanting to bleed = woman.

And i didn't know that i was required to disclose my relationship with either of those things when simply having a prescription filled. i'd better tell the good folks over at my local pharmacy and see what they have to say about it. i'm sure they're super interested in what is/n't in my pants and what does and doesn't come out of my genitals (which im sure they're also real interested in hearing more about!).

One woman has already been denied access to this WOMEN's pharmacy because of what Lu's perceived/assumed to be emanating from her genitals. How many more before the "groundswell of support" starts to understand why this is so problematic, outrageous and ridiculous?
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Kat, of Reality
Masters of Transphobia: http://bit.ly/S2Ki7
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HK
Dear Lu's and The Vancouver Women's Health Collective,
Please stop hijacking the word "feminist" to describe your oppressive actions.
Here's a better word for you: "bigotry."

You make a laughing stock of your own pledge to promote "Health for all women in an equitable society."
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J7sue
"all “self-identified women”. In the end, members decided to serve “women born women”.“It’s about bleeding—or wanting to bleed or not bleed. It’s about being a woman, and the physiology of being a woman.”

I expect just about all women self identify as women. Presumably the scare quotes are meant to imply self identified = transsexual women are not women?
doesn't the same thing apply to WOC/white? abled/disabled?
post menopausal women don't have periods - will they be excluded because they aren't bleeding? or are they included because they might want to bleed?

It's just vile bigotry.
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Shirley Anne (UK)
This is blatent discrimination. There is simply no excuse for it. I am glad I live in a more civilised country which shows none of the discrimination I am reading about here. The worse part is that legistlation is still in the Dark Ages and needs to come into the 21st Century. You can be sure that at some point this will be rectified, there is no way that Canada, the USA and other countries will continue in their mistreatment of minority groups. They have a lot of catching up to do in comparison to countries in Europe.
Shirley Anne in the UK
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Dani
When will the ignorance end? Trans women on the DTES are just as in need of safe places as cisgendered women. A bit of understanding/respect for what we trans women go through to get where we need to be might be nice. But so many still see trans folk as just playing a game, rather than struggling to live our lives.
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RoxanneChristiana
I wonder if WWHC is aware that transwomen have certain structures in their brains that are distinguishable from the same structures in the brains of both heterosexual and homosexual males but are virtually indistinguishable from those structures in the brains of cisgender women? In addition to that, standards of clinical care require that transwomen who have been taking estrogen or estradiol have regular breast examinations and mammograms because of the risk of breast cancer? (If you need medical articles that confirm this please e-mail me.)

So the discrimination isn't "about bleeding" at all. I might remind my cisgender sisters that in the early days of the feminist movement (back in the 1970s) the point was often emphasized that one of the reasons that women have been oppressed by patriarchal society is because women were equated with their reproductive biology, and that women are indeed much more than merely their ovaries, uteri and vaginas.

So this position is a crock, sisters.
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Angela (EU, NL/UK)
First of all I agree with Shirley Anne.

Then about the stance of the Pharmacy; this is pure and blatant discrimination based on prejudice and as such simply bigotry!
ANY pharmacy where they know how to do their job, can give full service to ALL women, either cis or trans!
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Murdoch
A word to those who bank with VanCity: VanCity funded this bigoted bunch. Please let them know how you feel. Bring your money to a *real* queer-friendly institution.
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gudbuytjane.livejournal.com
You know, Georgia Strait, I do have to say I feel very uncomfortable that the very first comment on a story about trans women being marginalized is a pretty vicious personal attack on a trans woman.

As well, using "whore" as a derogatory term is not terribly respectful of sex trade workers.

I don't know Jamie Lee, but I am glad she stood up and made her voice heard. Whatever personal issues one might have, this really doesn't seem like the time, unless the goal is to derail from the point at hand - the marginalization of trans women.
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Gabrielle
I am a trans woman and such a position from a woman's organization is very disturbing. You, as a group, are so frustrated about the "bleeding" part of your self that it has to be the center of your decision making? What is the difference between that discrimination and the one you are fighting; namely having your genitals inside instead of outside?
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