“Women’s only,” round 1000

Did you know there’s a women-only pharmacist in Vancouver?  It opened yesterday. Only, “women’s only,” doesn’t mean all women.  A number of bloggers have been posting about how this new pharmacy has from its birth held onto some old prejudices – excluding trans women from access to its services.

What the pharamacy is supposed to do is this:

Caryn Duncan, executive director of Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, said a lot of women told her they do not go to pharmacies in the troubled neighbourhood [Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside] because many of them focus on dispensing methadone to heroin addicts.

“Women felt, ‘I want a woman pharmacist. I want to know that when I walk in the door, I’m going to be getting sound women-centred care from a pharmacist. I can talk to her about emergency contraception or a vaginal infection, something that is very personal and intimate,'” said Duncan

Ok, that sounds alright to me.  So why exclude trans women?  We don’t have personal and intimate needs?  WE don’t need protection?

My post last week suggests why it is important that trans women be able to access safe health care services.  And yes, it has already been noted that Vancouver does have one trans health centre (that’s enough, right?  Boo sucks to you if you don’t have time, money or energy to travel across town). 

The political position paper of the health collective states the apparent reasoning thus:

Therefore, we feel that it is essential that a woman be born a woman and have the physiology of a woman and the psychological experiences of living as a girl and a woman in order to embrace the work of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective. For us, membership and services are open to women who were born women.

Right, cos a pharmacy isn’t catering to a wide range of physiologies?  Cos when you head in to get some medicine for a cold, your girlhood experiences are extremely relevant.  The pills I take, by the way, are commonly prescribed to cis women but not cis men.  So they’d be in stock.  There doesn’t appear to be any good medical reasoning behind this, and frankly the “psychological experiences of girlhood” argument is kinda a red herring.  What does that necessarily have to do with the current health care needs of women?

So I think this health collective’s intentions are good, but they took a wrong turn and decided to exclude trans women for spurious reasons, as if trans women are not marginalized like cis women in seeking health care, and as if being trans means we’ve had too much access to male privilege to need better access to health.

Because I am not in Vancouver, it is not my place to come up with a strategy, because I’m sure there is already one in place, and I don’t want to step on any toes or create a firestorm that’s going to make it harder for those on the ground to get change happening.  That conversation needs to happen between trans women and the cis women running the pharmacy.  Several weeks ago, I inadvertently stirred up a world of trouble in New Orleans on this same issue that would have been better served by me giving the people running the clinic time to clarify, and time to work with me.  Whilst the Vancouver position seems much more clear, and drawing on historically transphobic positions, perhaps the internet tendency towards flaming also needs to be moderated by the question of whether that will impede the people working in Vancouver in formulating alternatives to a trans-misogynistic policy excluding trans women. 

So what I want to do, as this story is already kicking around, is to widen question out for those of us following along from elsewhere.  Because trans women,  like my post title suggests, have done this fight about a thousand times with cis feminists, it is precisely for that reason I want to put aside the usual arguments about girlhood and male privilege and instead question the material effects of discrimination:

To cis feminists, when you are building new resources, what do you gain by excluding trans women?  Is that gain worth the harm you cause trans women?  Is that not status quo with the rest of the patriarchal world – to see trans women as disposable, valueless and not worthy of protecting – and shouldn’t feminism be doing better

If you do consider yourself trans positive, ask yourself and those women’s facilities you can access unequivocally – can your trans sisters access this?  If so, do even they know about it?  Because we’ve been down this road so many times, many of us just assume cis women resources will discriminate against us and don’t even bother.

And if we cannot access this, how can you, a cis ally, help make that a possibility?  Tell those organizations whose polices promote this that it is not acceptable.

Because the problem is not that there is one women-only pharmacist who will not serve trans women.  It is that the vast majority of the world is transphobic, and that even the resources that cis women have built for themselves have a history of excluding trans women, such that the last 40 years of feminism have actually in many cases supported and increased the institutionalised governmental transphobia that trans women face.

If there is limited resources (and isn’t this always the case), then let that be decided by need, and not by boundary policing the category of “woman,” implicitly rejecting some women’s histories as just not good enough. 

Because women-only means all women.

ETA: Holly makes an important point in the comments that the very project of the pharmacy, as shown in the comment above by the director, is flawed.  The idea explicitly used is to keep “women” away from sex workers and drug users (and trans people).  The ways that this intersect with race, class, poverty etc etc should have been obvious to me, though I’m going to keep my own “that sounds alright” up – even though it is clear that it is not alright.  Further, given the amount of sex workers in our community, campaigning for trans women’s inclusion doesn’t mean much more than white, middle-class inclusion, missing out those parts of our community that need care the most

*comments note  I know this is an emotional subject, but if I see ungendering comments of trans women, in honour of today’s medical theme I’m going to edit your post to say “quack.”

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86 comments for ““Women’s only,” round 1000

  1. Just Some Trans Guy
    July 8, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Aww. I really, really liked “I am a panda.” :(

    You know, over on the feministing thread, there seemed to be a LOT of concern over the “biological needs” of trans women. And such incredible resistance when actual trans women said, “Um, our needs aren’t so different than cis women’s. Really.”

    I found it intriguing (and depressing as all get out, of course). Do cis women, event those who claim to be totally down with the trans women, secretly tell them themselves that they’re really “real” women because of vague and hypothetical biological reasons? Like, “I don’t hate you, dear, but YOU ARE NOTHING LIKE ME. You are a completely foreign creature.”

    ‘Cause … yeah. They’re just pills, you know? And it’s not like trans women only take hormones (and, of course, some DON’T take hormones, adds the no-ho trans guy). I’ve heard tell that, on occasion, they might get strep throat or migraines or the flu or lower back pain. JUST LIKE REAL PEOPLE.

  2. Just Some Trans Guy
    July 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    [QE edit: double post, except for the last paragraph. So for one time only..] I am not a panda!

    [Just Some Trans Guy]: Oh! And while this is my first time commenting on your posts, Queen Emily, I greatly enjoy your work both here and over at Questioning Transphobia. Thanks for doing what you do.

  3. July 8, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Most of the world sees us trans folks, all politeness aside, as monster. We’re like vampires or werewolves, crossing all sorts of lines that most folks would rather remain uncrossed.

    People want to see us suffer as punishment for crossing those lines. All this Nessicary Girlhood business is just a way of somebody rationalizing their desire to punish trans folk by refusing them medical care.

  4. July 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    To cis feminists, when you are building new resources, what do you gain by excluding trans women? Is that gain worth the harm you cause trans women? Is that not status quo with the rest of the patriarchal world – to see trans women as disposable, valueless and not worthy of protecting – and shouldn’t feminism be doing better?

    Just once I would like to see a cis feminist who supports these kinds of policies answer that question. I’m cis, but I cannot for the life of me understand how excluding trans women is helpful to anyone. Also? The assumption that trans women all had childhoods wherein they benefitted from patriarchal social structures (at least that’s what I take from the line about the psychology of girl/womanhood) is… questionable, to be generous.

  5. July 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Every time I see ‘women born women only’ I can’t help but think “Wouldn’t that require an awfully long gestation? And be rather hard on the mother? Ow.” How unoriginal of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective.

  6. July 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    @Kaninchenzero- haha. Excellent.

  7. July 8, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Ha! That was full of awesome, kaninchenzero.

  8. Tster
    July 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I think an all women’s pharmacy is a step in the right direction, even if it does exclude certain women. Long-term, it would be great to see these institutions more inclusive. But I think it’s fair for them to decide how to delineate who they want to serve, just like any other business.

    I don’t think, CombatQueer, that it’s an issue of punishment as much as an issue of reflexive discomfort with the unfamiliar. It’s quite likely that folks at this pharmacy thought, “there are about a billion other places that trans-women can go to get prescriptions filled,” so they don’t feel like they are actually withholding needed medicine, per se. (although if cis-women feel marginalized at reg pharmacies, that’s likely true as well for trans-women). Personally, though, I don’t feel like it’s my right to get to speak with a woman pharmacist about my nuva ring or my ladybits meds…even though it certainly is more comfortable. Ultimately it’s just a perk, and as such, I feel like I shouldn’t expect it just because I’m a woman. Same should be true for trans-women.

  9. July 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Emily, thanks for writing about this.

    I am on the ground in Vancouver, and I’ve been in conversation with people who work at other orgs in the downtown eastside (the economically-disadvantaged neighbourhood in which the pharmacy exists). Among these orgs there appears to be a great deal of support for the inclusion of trans women at the pharmacy, and I hope some orgs will make public statements. Knowing how NOWHC escalated, and realizing that members of the VWHC are part of communities I am part of too, I am approaching this with the tone I had in my open letter to the VWHC.

    What I am suggesting to friends right now is to write the collective (vwhc@vcn.bc.ca) expressing support for fully inclusive women’s spaces, and to join the Facebook group if they’re on FB. Mostly, though, I am asking people in Vancouver to talk about it and to educate people on the reasons why this is not about the specific pharmaceutical needs of cis women vs. trans women, but about keeping trans women out of women’s spaces because of old, biased attitudes.

    Important to note, as well, is that I am just one trans woman in Vancouver. I’m writing some emails to engage with various trans* organizations in Vancouver so we can have a community-based response. I have ideas of how the response should be framed, but ultimately it is about the community of trans women here to decide.

    Thanks again for boosting the signal on this issue.

  10. July 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    ohh, vancouver.
    it’s time to turn around yr history, not continue it.
    i get so upset about these arguments. excluding some women hurts all women.* it draws lines in the sand and the more of them you draw the less safe anyone is.

    *though i understand and acknowledge that it hurts trans women more immediately and deeply and dangerously. i am not trying to minimize or deny that at all.

  11. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I’m pretty this sort of thing comes along with a gender (dangly bits) essentialist variety of feminism, as a kind of women advocady, which can be wierdly nationalist. Just think of it as some women viewing trans people like spanish catholics viewed recent converts once upon a time.

    Thing is, I think that’s how the majority of (I’m tempted to say white, but I’m not really sure how black and other women who identify as feminist would view it) women feels about feminism. Thus I think that this problem will be slow in going away.

    The best cure is probably to push across to a wider audience the idea that feminism is about a tad more than making life better for women. That making life better for women forces a wider perspective onto other issues.

  12. Tster
    July 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I’m cis, but I cannot for the life of me understand how excluding trans women is helpful to anyone

    Jill, pharmacists might need additional training in awareness of issues specific to trans-women. Perhaps they thought that was too much to bite off at once? Still, it is kind of a weak excuse–pharmacists should theoretically be trained to deal with any health and med issues, and I doubt trans-medical issues are all that different.

    As a wholesale policy of exclusion, no it doesn’t make a ton of sense… But on certain issues, splitting groups up into finer delineations can be useful for keeping focused. (for instance, the reproductive rights issues that are important to cis-women, lesbian women, and trans-women may all rest on issues of respect and bodily autonomy, but the particulars that they care about and feel vested in may be very different.)

  13. Butch Fatale
    July 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    shah8, allowing all women access to a women-only pharmacy is about making life better for women. I doubt Queen Emily is unfamiliar with the way that certain feminists view trans women.

    Also, on a similar note, I’m squicked out with the “dangly bits” explanation of what gender essentialism means. Many people’s parts do not dangle.

  14. Julian Morrison
    July 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Here’s a thought. Send a bunch of people with vaginas round to visit – the biggest, hairiest trans-men you can find.

  15. The Opoponax
    July 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I have to say that there’s a shade of Curves to this whole thing, to my ears (caveat: haven’t read everything about it 100% super-closely).

    It just seems to be much more about Teh Laydeeez and their Delicate Feminine Sensibilities than about providing a service that is inflexibly sex/gender-specific for real life pragmatic reasons.

  16. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    [QE comment: Appallingly trans-misogynist first sentence removed.] Quack!

    Anyways, with regard to your first sentence, I do believe that the point is that cis women often don’t believe trans women are women, and many think that transexualism is subversive to the idea of women. Feminism has to travel a bit afield to make the strong case that trans women are women and are deserving of the same care.

  17. July 8, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I think an all women’s pharmacy is a step in the right direction, even if it does exclude certain women.

    Well, then it’s not really an all-women’s pharmacy, is it? The point is that women shouldn’t have to wait for the opportunity to have candid discussions about their bodies with health professionals simply because they weren’t born with vaginas. Maybe they have vaginas now, maybe they don’t. The point is that they’re still women.

  18. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    >>> But on certain issues, splitting groups up into finer delineations can be useful for keeping focused.

    @Tster I don’t think that argument really holds. “Women” is so broad a group, 51% of the population. That’s not *focused* precisely, is it?

    And I mean, pharmacy. Do they not stock all kinds of things? Is there not a wide range of health-care needs for cis women already? Are they not going to be ordering things in to help serve cis women?

    Similarly, the argument about training pharmacists, it really doesn’t require anything. We’re not aliens, and drugs don’t typically affect us differently. Prescribing estrogen to a trans woman, for instance, has the same risks as for a cis woman.

    Like I said, medical reasons aren’t exactly leaping out at me. And the ‘wait your turn” argument, it’s like well we’re *always* bloody waiting, whether it’s an old place that can’t “extend” their resources or a new one that’s “just not ready.” It all starts being meaningless after awhile when all you hear is no.

  19. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    @Julian Morrison As far as I know, they don’t include trans men either. So it’s “biology and girlhood” that stops trans women from being included, and gender presentation that stops trans men. Different rules apply, being selectively employed depending on need.

  20. Butch Fatale
    July 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Feminism has to travel a bit afield to make the strong case that trans women are women and are deserving of the same care.

    This is confusing. What do you mean? Do you mean that feminism is inherently opposed to the FACT that trans women are women just as much as cis women are? What are you looking to in support of that statement? Does the fact that many many self-described feminists recognize this fact pale in the face of some real argument you have?

  21. Alexandra
    July 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    You know, it strikes me that the general population, medical staff included, probably engage in an inert sort of trans-esclusive behavior — trans rights and concerns weigh so little on their (should I say our? I try to be an ally, but, well, I’m cis and pretty ignorant all things considered) minds that when confronted with the need to work with or aid trans people, refusal comes mostly from ignorance and an unwillingness to make the minimal effort necessary to learn — hence, “I can’t treat you because you’re trans and trans bodies/minds are too different from those of ‘normal’ people.”

    But this from Vancouver is different — the language throughout is specifically designed to be trans-exclusive, as trans-exclusive as possible. The constant stress on physiology, and that one line in the position paper – “urging women to accept their bodies as they are” – strike me as pretty reactionary radical feminism.

    For a while when I first started out as a baby feminist, I identified with the radical 70s writers — I knew so little about trans issues at the time that I had no idea that radical feminists were so often and so frequently transphobic and trans-hating. I guess the appeal makes sense when you consider that I (like so many feminist bloggers) am white, cis, and middle-class. There is a clarity to radical feminist rhetoric that is appealing, but that clarity comes about simply by ignoring the complexity of many, many lives that are not white, middle-class, and cisgendered.

    What’s weird to me about Vancouver (and Mich Womyn’s Music Fest, and the rest) is that we (white, cis, middle-class radical types) have had thirty years or so to understand that beautiful rhetoric isn’t worth more that real lives. Is it so hard to accept that gender may not simply be culturally constructed, that it cannot simply be abolished? Must people whose lived experiences contradict theory really be ostracized – punished – for having the temerity to be what and who they are, not what and who feminists think they’re supposed to be?

  22. Scarlet1815
    July 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    As a cis-woman, I find it ridiculous to claim that a woman has to be born with a vagina to count as a woman. What do they do, give everyone a gyno exam before ringing them up? Or would they serve transwomen who “pass” enough for them not to notice? Because then it’s not about physiology, but about successfully achieving a normative gender presentation. The whole thing is all kinds of fucked up.

    Would they serve FTM transmen who haven’t had (or choose not to have) bottom surgery? Because even though they wouldn’t self-identify as women, they would fit the definition of “women” proposed by the VWHC. Somehow I doubt the VWHC would serve such a transman just because he still has the sexual organs he was born with. And what of a person who is intersexed?

    I think the policy reeks of transphobia and lacks justification. I sincerely hope they rethink their stance.

  23. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I think I also want to question this – how is it that *some* women’s needs can be categorized as extra, too much etc – and other’s will be accomodated? Even if they’re not anticipated initially?

    Isn’t growing and adapting what good businesses do, or is there a just a big exemption around trans women?

  24. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Butch Fatale Yes, exactly. Isn’t the fact that I’m posting here, one of three trans women who will be guest blogging (as well as one regular in Holly), a sign that many feminists have accepted trans women as women? Yes, there’s exclusion in some places, and tokenism and all the rest, but that trans women are women isn’t a radical proposition in feminism as a whole anymore.

  25. Julian Morrison
    July 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Do they include butch lesbians? How butch? Can they tell the difference between extremely butch vs. trans man? How about intersexed people? Get enough interestingly-gendered people together and you could really confuse the heck out of them. Where do they draw the arbitrary line?

  26. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    @ Alexandra Yes. 30 years of this type of thing is more than enough.

  27. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Butch Fatale, I am not saying that anyone here doesn’t realise this.

    I’m saying that out there, among the masses as the commies might say, people have a pretty crude idea of pro-women. More than that, you can’t actually argue with them that trans women are women. They’d just deny it and we’d go though cycles of Is Too! Is Not! You have to flank this idea in order to reach them.

  28. July 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    It’s quite likely that folks at this pharmacy thought, “there are about a billion other places that trans-women can go to get prescriptions filled,” so they don’t feel like they are actually withholding needed medicine, per se.

    They would have been quite massively wrong about that, and a needs assessment of the local community, of all women in the local community, is part of responsibly planning a program like this. This pharmacy DOES refer people to Vancouver’s ONLY (to my knowledge) health clinic. But how overloaded do you think that health clinic is? The answer, as far as this pharmacy seems to be concerned, is “that’s not our problem and we don’t have to worry about it.” This is because of the foundational fact that they don’t consider the health needs of trans women to be part of “the health needs of women” that is their mission. And this kind of exclusion is precisely why so many trans women can’t get health care.

    All of the hair-splitting arguments about… “Well, isn’t it ok to have a narrow focus” would be fine if trans women had not been specifically marginalized and excluded in these exact same ways, in Vancouver particularly and all over the world as well, to the great detriment of trans women’s health, for many many years now. On top of which, trans women are a large chunk of women in need of health care services in this particular locality of Vancouver.

    ALL women’s health care has been neglected by male-dominated medical institutions for decades and centuries, but trans women particularly have had an incredibly narrow field of places to get any kind of health care. And that’s because of transphobia ON TOP of misogyny. So as far as I’m concerned, this is about using a bunch of gender-essentialist, biological scapegoating concerns to cut out some of the most desperately-in-need-of-care women out of the entire population of women.

    A couple of the linked blogs also pointed out something that bears repeating: this pharmacy has also established itself as wanting to help “women” without “women” having to encounter drug addicts or sex workers. In other words, women with chemical dependencies and women who do sex work are not “women” of the kind that the pharmacy wants to serve either — despite the obvious and pressing needs of those women, in this area of Vancouver. They want to be a pharmacy for “nice women” — no druggies, no trannies, no hookers. That’s a great mission statement right there — provide for “women” with one hand, and hold a big fat “NOT YOU, YOU’RE NOT THE RIGHT KIND OF WOMEN” sign in the other. There are all sorts of reasons that we “wrong women” ought to be banding together to oppose this kind of patronizing, essentialist, racist, classist, sex-worker-bashing, transphobic bullshit.

  29. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    @Shah8 I’m not approving that last comment on moderation. It’s not productive, move on.

  30. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    That’s a very good point Holly. I’ll make an addition to the post..

  31. July 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    @Tster. My pharmacists needed no extra technical training to be able to work with me. I suppose some pharmacists might need to be told “don’t gawk, ask inapropriate questions, be judgmental, or deny service,” but I wouldn’t really call that training as much as common curtosy.

    They certainly could benefit from cultural competency (common curtosy) training. As far as that training is needed, though, they also might need to train their staff not to gawk, ask inapropriate questions, or be judgmental towards working class women, women of color, women with disabilities, etc. But would anyone consider “Our staff doesn’t have training to interact respectfully with women who have disabilities” an adaquate justification for refusing to serve those populations?

  32. maria
    July 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    To answer the question at hand: I think the underlining, fundamental reason is that there has to be a distinction between women and transwomen. If the lines were to be blurred so much that they are virtually nonexistent, then transwomen would equal women in every way which does not sit well with many feminists because of the implications.

    Implications being varied, but somewhat along the lines of “wolf in sheeps clothing”. I think these feminists are very willing to accept transwomen, but need something of a safety to determine what makes these women, women. Often it is just stated that ‘transwomen ARE women’ and that really is not a logical argument.

    *I understand that I did not use cis/trans as a distinctive for ‘women’, but in context of what I was trying to explain, I don’t think it would have made sense to do so.

  33. anon
    July 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I’m just not getting the “women’s pharmacy” thing. To me that sounds like a pharmacy devoted to dispensing…birth control pills, yeast infection medication, estrogen pills and whatever else might be associated with “girly bits”. Which…well…why? And if it’s a regular pharmacy in terms of what it stocks, then…well…why? Sure, there may be some instances where I’d like to talk to someone who’s also a woman (and I’d think there’s some instances where a guy would also like to talk to another guy or whatever). But there are simpler solutions to that besides the rather sledgehammered set up that this is…

  34. July 8, 2009 at 3:23 pm


    On the whole “but there’s a trans women’s clinic” point. This ‘clinic’ is one coordinator, and run out of another community health centre. There also is no pharmacy there. To suggest there is a clinic ‘for trans women’ is very duplicitous of the VHWC.

    The truth is, too, that Vancouver has a long history of essentialist, anti-trans woman attitudes dominating the discourse of feminism and women’s movements. VWHC’s politics paper clearly puts them on the side of old, biased attitudes. Here’s hoping they can look to the future and not the past, and restate their policy as inclusive of all women.

  35. July 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    To answer the question at hand: I think the underlining, fundamental reason is that there has to be a distinction between women and transwomen. If the lines were to be blurred so much that they are virtually nonexistent, then transwomen would equal women in every way which does not sit well with many feminists because of the implications.

    Why is this true in particular of trans women as opposed to any other group of women — Latina women, able-bodied women, women with disabilities, women with children, elderly women, infertile women, women who work in construction jobs, women who wait tables, queer women, Pakistani women? It’s only a few groups of women that are labeled “problematic” by this pharmacy and refused service, or explicitly mentioned as groups of women that they’re trying to help OTHER WOMEN avoid. Those groups include trans women, women with substance abuse issues, and women who do sex work. Undesirables.

    There does not have to be a distinction between “women” and “trans women” any more than there has to be a distinction between “women” and “lesbians” or “women” and “women who don’t have children.” The only reason to draw those distinctions is because your idea of womanhood relies on stereotypes and essentialist ideas. And those are implications that feminism really needs to abandon.

    What makes it an illogical argument, anyway? “Trans women are women” is simply another way of saying “your gender is a matter of personal identity and self-expression, not the shape of your body.” That doesn’t make it entirely arbitrary, either. Feminisms which can’t handle cannot hope to speak for me or for many other women who actually accept trans people’s gender as genuine — which hopefully, is becoming a larger and larger chunk of feminists every day.

  36. July 8, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    In my own experience (which may be peculiar) I’ve had very little interaction with pharmacists or pharmacy technicians. Almost all of my medical questions are answered by my (very, very trans friendly doctor), while the people behind the counter are only there to literally just dispense the medication and ring me up. Once they had a concern about whether or not my estradiol could be taken sublingually, but since I had indeed been doing that for over a year, it seemed to be a moot point.

    I’m not even remotely trying to justify their transphobia, classism, etc. I’ve always just viewed pharmacies as rather utilitarian places, is all.

  37. Butch Fatale
    July 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Is it so hard to accept that gender may not simply be culturally constructed, that it cannot simply be abolished?

    See, and this is what I don’t get. If radical feminists of the sort you describe really believed this, wouldn’t the best approach to realizing that utopia be to take all comers who call themselves women, rather than pushing an ideology that reifies relatively arbitrary definitions of man and woman while advocating a shift in accepted behavior?

    Shah8 – So your point is that trans women have been doing it wrong by arguing for their place in feminism and pushing for a change in public attitudes because they have done so by arguing that they are not different than women? In order to argue that trans women should be treated as well as and the same as women, they must concede the point that they are different?

  38. Butch Fatale
    July 8, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    ARGH that should read:

    Shah8 – So your point is that trans women have been doing it wrong by arguing for their place in feminism and pushing for a change in public attitudes because they have done so by arguing that they are not different than CIS women? In order to argue that trans women should be treated as well as and the same as CIS women, they must concede the point that they are different?

    I’m very sorry. I was talking and posting at the same time.

  39. July 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    They want to be a pharmacy for “nice women” — no druggies, no trannies, no hookers. That’s a great mission statement right there — provide for “women” with one hand, and hold a big fat “NOT YOU, YOU’RE NOT THE RIGHT KIND OF WOMEN” sign in the other.

    THIS is the major difference i see between NOWHC, for example, and this pharmacy. the former is trying to provide care to as many marginalized women as possible under pretty crushing odds, to the point that they could not find any doctors who would be willing to treat all of the marginalized women who came to their clinic. yes, the wording on their website was unfortunate and unaccepting, but NOWHC was/is struggling just to survive.

    VWHC appears to be excluding as many marginalized women as possible, to make their pharmacy (at least) more comfortable for white cis (and perhaps middle-class, idk) women who are “proper” feminists.

  40. Kristen J.
    July 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the post Q.E. I’m relative certain the orgs I work with are trans-inclusive, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked. I’ll do that. I’ll also ask about whether they explicitly state in their public information that trans women are welcome, so that the information will be out there.

  41. eastsidekate
    July 8, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Round 1000 indeed. God this pisses me off. However, maybe constructive dialogue will work (I’m not holding my breath, given that VWHC went out of it’s way to exclude trans women). Anyhow, here’s a letter than I sent to my former LGBT health clinic and former pharmacy coop:

    I’m a former client. I’m writing to ask your leadership to contact the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective (VWHC) about its recently announced plans for a women’s-only pharmacy. (see: http://www.womenshealthcollective.ca/). While I applaud the creation of such a desperately needed service (indeed, now that I find myself without access to any progressive medical and pharmacy providers, let alone those targeted to LGBT people or women, I congratulate VWHC on taking this step). However, VWHC has adopted a policy that specifically excludes transsexual women, a group of women who experience exceptional difficulties in accessing competent, sensitive medical services, from those eligible to use the new pharmacy’s services (see: http://www2.canada.com/vancouvercourier/news/story.html?id=9d08a8e2-6b84-485b-ba46-c261e7fcc089 and http://www.bilerico.com/2009/07/the_prerequisites_to_woman.php). In the event that you agree with my perspective, I would appreciate you engaging VWHC in constructive dialogue that would lead to both a more just and more economically sustainable pharmacy operation. Many thanks for your time.
    Wish you we here,
    Kate Syracuse, NY

  42. Tster
    July 8, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Am I confused about what a pharmacy is in Canada or something? Everyone is talking about how there’s only one health clinic in Van that addresses trans-needs, but to me I don’t see how a woman-centric pharmacy would even be serving the same needs. A pharmacy is just a drug store where you pick up your drugs (and also, you know, things like school supplies, random gift cards, etc. etc.), and there are like five in my neighborhood alone. They occasionally tell you stuff like “don’t take this drug with this drug” or “you may feel X or Y”, but there’s very little counseling that they offer that I couldn’t get from my health practitioner. So am I missing something?

  43. Butch Fatale
    July 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    That’s a US thing, in my understanding. Pharmacists used to prescribe medication, but now that all goes through a doctor here. Not so in Europe, and apparently also Canada. Thus the issue, mentioned in the article QE linked to, of discussing one’s vaginal infection with a pharmacist.

  44. Queen Emily
    July 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    @Tster As with anything trans related, going to the pharmacist can be extremely unpleasant, especially if you’re getting your hormones there regularly and they *know for a fact* you’re trans.. I haven’t been refused meds myself, though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear other trans women say they had. Even so if there was an openly affirming trans friendly pharmacy, I’d personally go quite a bit out of my way to go there.

  45. Michael White
    July 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Chain pharmacies sell drugs for 90% of the population. For the other 10% of people, they require either hospital, mail-order or specialty pharmacies. Millions of people do not live within an area that have specialty pharmacies. And these pharmacies may be expensive, run out of product, and only be open special hours. That is why any pharmacy that advocates a progressive view should be able to provide services to all women.

  46. July 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Pharmacies can be completely meaningless when you’re treated well. Everything goes smoothly and you go back to forgetting about them.

    When you’re treated with suspicion or hostility, suddenly the pharmacy is a much, much bigger deal. Especially if you’re on meds continually (not for a short time) — you have to go there and deal with the pressure and the disquieting environment often.

    Pharmacies are a big deal when your medical needs *are* in question. They’re only not-a-big-deal when you don’t have any medical needs and/or nobody behind the counter is made uncomfortable with you for whatever reason. When those things change…

  47. Milla
    July 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Agreed that the apparent motive behind this whole thing is to make white cis women feel comfortable– and I’m not sure when that has ever done anyone good. The politics of exclusion here are disgusting, and the girlhood line is so glib and ridiculous. I don’t understand what’s at stake for organizations like this pharmacy, but it reveals what they’re really about and what they truly value, which is not the lives and health of women.

  48. July 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Honestly, for the cis women who support it, I think their POV relies directly on viewing trans women as “actually men” and trans men as “actually women.” They either haven’t had this view challenged — or they reacted defensively when it was and went back to define “really woman” in such a way as to make sure it doesn’t include those icky trans women.

    Or, to put it shortly, trans people make them uncomfortable (II).

  49. July 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Before leaving on my current deployment, I did all my HRT through an LGTB clinic that existed specifically to treat that community. Several time I had to refill my perscriptions while traveling and it was always a nerve-racking experience. I have had unfriendly pharmacy workers actually ask me why I was estridiol in front of the other people in the store. Not a good situation when you are in a trans-negative area and presenting as male.

  50. July 8, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Yes, that is the rub, isn’t it? To be able to safely be able to refill your scrip, without having to be called out uncomfortably-one would think that a pharmacy for women would be better for that than the alternative. I remember when I was in the Army, transitioning, I drove 40 miles to another city (liberal hippie college town) in order to avoid being seen at a pharmacy in town buying mones.

    Amandaw-you’re right-I don’t think for a moment that my “get in, get out quickly” approach is possible for everyone. There are many situations where trans women may be called out in public, (like having to show an ID when buying alcohol, or having to show ID when using a credit card) that may be quite dangerous in addition to being embarrassing. Especially in a pharmacy, where it may be necessary to explain the actual nuts and bolts of transitioning.

  51. July 8, 2009 at 6:19 pm


    To answer the question at hand: I think the underlining, fundamental reason is that there has to be a distinction between women and transwomen. If the lines were to be blurred so much that they are virtually nonexistent, then transwomen would equal women in every way which does not sit well with many feminists because of the implications.

    Implications being varied, but somewhat along the lines of “wolf in sheeps clothing”. I think these feminists are very willing to accept transwomen, but need something of a safety to determine what makes these women, women. Often it is just stated that ‘transwomen ARE women’ and that really is not a logical argument.

    That’s because trans women* are women. What do you suggest as a logical argument to settle cis women’s fears and insecurities about us wolfs in sheep’s clothing?

    Which, by the way, is a pretty loaded phrase. It may be how they think, but trans women do not have a history, as a group of violent crime against women.

    Speaking of, I can’t tell if you agree with the fearful implications you propose would result from blurring the lines between cis and trans women (and, btw, the lines are frequently blurred – not every trans woman walks around with “TRANS” stamped on her forehead, and many are frequently passed as cis women by other cis people – and some cis women are occasionally mistaken for trans women, or even mistaken for cis men).

    I’m also bothered by the way you say that these cis feminists need a safety to allow them to determine that trans women are women. Isn’t this the basic problem already? Allowing cis people to define trans lives in cis terms?

    * see the space between “trans” and “women?” It turns trans into an adjective, which modifies “woman”, rather than using the compound word “transwoman” which simply creates a new gender

  52. July 8, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Well dear god. Maria did indeed do an excellent job of explaining what cis feminists who support exclusionary policies get out of it, now didn’t she? Superiority, and status as “real” women by positioning other women as “not real women” or “fake women” or “pretend women” or whatever other ridiculously offensive things “wolf in sheeps clothing” is supposed to imply.

    I’ve long held that there are groups of people in this world for whom it is just plain not good enough to have something — it’s only good enough to have something if there’s someone else in the world that they can keep from also having it. That group is, I’m quite certain, made up entirely of bigots of one form or another.

  53. Jadey
    July 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Basic background info: Whether a pharmacist in Canada has limited prescribing powers (e.g., renewing prescriptions, adjusting dosages, etc.) differs by province. I believe that pharmacists in BC do currently have limited precribing powers. Also, it should be noted that pharmacists are clinicians who can do consulting with patients about drug information. In fact, whereas with a doctor one generally has to make an appointment for a consultation, community pharmacists (as opposed to hospital pharmacists — these are the folks staffing the pharmacies in your neightbourhoods) are usually just approached in the pharmacy and asked, no extra charge. Community pharmacists are basically the most accessible health professionals for this reason.

    Getting onto the meat of the post (Thank you, Queen Emily, for covering this!), I don’t think there’s any reason other than bigoted and wrong-headed ideology behind this. The language is so damned deliberate and thorough, as was pointed out upthread, that it hardly seems to be an accident or cluelessness.

    I brought this to my mum, a long-term-care pharmacist in Ontario fwiw, to see if she could offer any solid arguments, and we came up with just nothing. She did explain that the pharmacy software available suffers from the same M/F ticky box problems discussed in Queen Em’s previous thread, but that’s not an acceptable barrier, and of course the onus would be on VWHC to provide competent, senstive, and respectful care, and I feel like sensitivity and general courtesy training would be important, but when we got down to it, there should be nothing logistical preventing a pharmacy from serving all women, unless they are too strapped to be serving any women at all, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Certainly no logistical reason to exclude trans women (and intersex people, it seems) specifically.

    I think the reasoning is the same exemplified by Maria @ 32 — the *wrong* belief that trans women are not women and the policing of the “woman” identity to exclude some women and privilege others. (I’m genuinely unsure if you are endorsing this belief personally or describing what other people might believe, Maria. I really hope it’s the latter.)

    I think the gains that are made by exlcuding trans women are the gains of maintaining one’s cis privilege, and it’s unjustified. I am a cis woman but I am also white and middle-class and I have never once struggled for access to respectful and competent healthcare. How is my life experience as a woman and a girl, which has included far less misogyny than many trans women’s because of my white and class and cis privilege, more relevant to this pharmacy’s goals? How does that make any sense? “Live as a woman” is a total fallacy.

  54. Jadey
    July 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Ah, and I do see now that Maria has been responded to by others! I wasn’t sure if I was the only person reading her comment as, well, duck-like.

  55. Alison
    July 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    thanks for writing about this

  56. July 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Ironic that their policy, ostensibly to make *some* women feel safe and/or like their privacy is being respected, is unconcerned with pharmacy-based safety and privacy respect for trans women. Ugh.

  57. July 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Based on what Holly said, they’re excluding multiple classes of women – trans women, sex workers, and anyone addicted to drugs. It sounds like a privileged form of feminism, really. More about protecting middle-class white sensibilities.

  58. July 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Yeah, this is a part of the issue. I am looking for an exact quote, but the ED definitely said something about other pharmacies in the DTES being essentially methadone clinics, which was loaded with bias against drug users.

    I have been focused on the wbw/trans women stuff and not said nearly enough about this, because this fear of addicts and sex workers is extremely troubling, and I hope that VWHC will address these comments. Let’s not forgot the intersectionalities of these, or how they also intersect with race.

    This is a tough, hard neighbourhood on all of these categories of targeted women, and it seems really problematic if the pharmacy sticks by such a marginalizing stance which opening up in their very neighbourhood.

    There are many incredible cis* women I know in the DTES who, according to this standard, aren’t able to access the pharmacy either.

  59. Kristen J.
    July 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    I think article helps to explain part of what is going on here. Its class warfare of the ugliest and hateful-est kind. Gentrification driven by the 2010 Olympics. Good times, good times.


  60. stlthy
    July 8, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    This is horribly problematic on so many levels. I think what Holly said is correct – it sounds like they’re trying to protect the delicate sensibilities of privileged, white cis women by excluding trans women, drug users and so on. It’s just straight up transphobia and classism, and their justification of it screams bullshit.

    I certainly think/hope feminism is mature enough to be inclusive of all women, by this point. Excluding some women hurts those who are excluded, which is of course the worst aspect of it, but it doesn’t benefit any other women or feminism itself. All it really does is allow some women to maintain their privilege and feel superior, and that’s just unacceptable.

  61. gina
    July 9, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Nothing in this story is overly surprising. VWHC is connected to the Rape Crisis clinic which booted out Kimberly Nixon (a transwoman who had experienced rape) as a counselor and publicly humiliated her while she was in training. Remember that sad episode? And they fought Ms. Nixon’s discrimination case in court and, yup, they won. And now they’re back to do it again and if their history with the rape crisis center is any indication, they have zero intention of ever expanding their pharmacy to include transwomen or any other women with whom they feel discomfort.

  62. Borea
    July 9, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Lisa Harney has it right: this is about making “normal” feminists feel safe and comfy while they get health care and prescriptions. This is pretty much the same argument used for “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and related policies: “but the queers make us uncomfortable and nervous!”

    I have to second an idea posted several times already: send some big, burly trans-men in there and see if they will be “allowed” in. They probably won’t set of the magical penis detector sitting next to the door…

  63. July 9, 2009 at 10:10 am

    It’s never surprising, really.

    There are women in Vancouver who are working on this, btw. I’ve exchanged messages with one on Facebook, and they have an approach to this that, I hope, works. There are cis women involved as well as trans women.

    There’s also legislation in BC to make gender identity a protected class. Hopefully it’ll pass.

  64. Persia
    July 9, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Lisa– is there anything women outside Vancouver can/should do to support their effort?

  65. July 9, 2009 at 11:58 am


    Hi, I’m in Vancouver, and have been writing about this at my journal, and I just put up a post on how people can help.

    As well, there is a Facebook group.


    If you are talking with other activists in Vancouver, please send them to my journal or give them my email (gudbuytjane, hotmail, etc.). I’ve been reaching out to other activists here, and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity for a community-driven response. Thanks!

  66. July 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I just found out about this article in Vancouver’s Georgia Strait:

    Transgender activist opposes Downtown Eastside pharmacy ban. From the article:

    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.

    Please comment on the article at the Georgia Strait to correct the assumptions director Caryn Duncan is making about trans women and our bodies. This is a pharmacy, her reasoning does not make sense for the services a pharmacy provides. This is about transphobia.

  67. July 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    It’s times like these I feel lucky to have a woman as my Pharmacist. At Costco.

    Still, for many years (while I still needed more help) I sought out specific professionals who did compounding and prescribing locally. I’ve always done this on my own, which has lead me to actually teaching professionals how to treat other patients… Which seems downright bizarre to me, but I guess someone has to be the first, right?

    It’s very disappointing to find a pharmacy who would totally understand the daily medication I use to be so totally ignorant and bigoted.

  68. July 9, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    PS, I dunno if anyone is paying attention, but http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/07/08/womens-only-round-1000/comment-page-2/#comment-249921 doesn’t sound like the commenter it is attributed to, or the edit made it incomprehensible.

  69. July 10, 2009 at 12:53 am

    For people in Vancouver, there will be a protest on Saturday at 10 AM. Please pass this information on: http://gudbuytjane.livejournal.com/12799.html

  70. Butch Fatale
    July 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Crissa, that comment sounds a lot like what shah8 generally has to say on this topic. Check out QE’s intro post if you missed it.

  71. shah8
    July 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Sock has been shoved in my mouth as far as this topic is concerned.

    Another time, perhaps.

  72. sharkchop
    July 10, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Trans women do not have a million other pharmacies to go to, unless they’re willing to be ignored and/or treated like crap.

    I sometimes help out a family friend, who is disabled and trans*, with errands, cooking, etc. He has to deal with yeast infections a lot and always–even when he is feeling well enough to go to other stores–has me go to the pharmacy.


    Because every time he goes to pick up his Diflucan the pharmacist insists on addressing him as Ms. Despite the fact that he is bearded, balding and has told them over and over he is male, the pharmacy techs at the Walgreens refuse to stop misgendering him.

  73. minerva
    July 10, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    See this for the background on the Kim Nixon story re denying transwomen access to “women’s only” activities plus broader discussion of denying transwomen inclusion
    – written by activist and lawyer barbara findlay (findlay was Nixon’s lawyer)

  74. July 10, 2009 at 8:13 pm


    Because every time he goes to pick up his Diflucan the pharmacist insists on addressing him as Ms. Despite the fact that he is bearded, balding and has told them over and over he is male, the pharmacy techs at the Walgreens refuse to stop misgendering him.

    For a while I had problems with my government Pharmacare account, and my gender had never been updated in the system for years after everything else was changed. I was in a large pharmacy picking up my script once, and as she was processing me in the system, the pharmacist looked up, and said loudly enough for everyone in the pharmacy area to hear “Wow, this can’t be right, it says you’re male.”

    She hadn’t meant to misgender me, as she was reading me as cis female and rolling her eyes at what she saw as a database error, but I stopped going to big pharmacies after that. While lucky enough to not take shit to my face for being trans, I am by no means ‘stealth’ (not since my late 20’s, when I went all gender radical heh, and nor do I want to be), so had the wrong person looked at me the wrong way, well…

    Lu’s is the sort of environment that should be welcoming trans women for safety in situations like I described there. And that’s me as a relatively safe, white, middle-class (I come from the working class, but I think we have to own the economic privileges we may have gained) trans woman. In the DTES trans women are victimized so often, and it breaks my heart that Lu’s would be willing to turn away from a group of women so very in need of both services and allies.

  75. July 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm


    Thank you for the links about Kimberly Nixon, and barbara findlay (who, btw, is an awesome ally, and has been so for years). I guess folks outside of Vancouver might not have as much context for why the VWHC wbw policy stings especially badly. Vancouver Rape Relief took a case to the provincial supreme court to deny her the opportunity to be a volunteer, because they were afraid their clients would be afraid of a trans woman. They won, setting up a precedent for private orgs being able to discriminate (thanks VRR for being so willing to sell out trans women you’ll give tools to the folks who’d like to discriminate for things like sex, orientation, etc.).

    I have been in contact with a number of women’s organizations in the DTES (downtown eastside), and the support for inclusion is incredibly strong. VWHC’s “groundswell of support” is a fiction. The issue with the pharmacy seems to resonate deeply with everyone far beyond VWHC or Lu’s, it stirs up memories of a women’s community divided by the Kim Nixon case.

    If VWHC stood up in front of the community and said “You know, we made a mistake,” it would go a long way to begin healing some very old wounds in both trans and cis women.

  76. Alison
    July 10, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I’m sorry if this has already been posted

    This policy may be contrary to the College of Pharmacists’ Code of Ethics

    I hope the college of pharmacists steps in…

  77. July 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Concerning legal complaints (e.g. what is suggested by College of Pharmacists’ Code of Ethics), I am a bit worried that the law wouldn’t make much of a difference between a “women-born-women-only” policy that excludes trans women and a “women-only” policy that excludes men.

    I mean, politically I know it is different, because there is oppression and all that, but in practice I have also seen reactionnary people attack a lesbian-only festival, accusing it of being discriminatory, so, uh. Besides, in the case of trans people, legally it can be argued that some trans women are *legally* women, but that still makes discrimination between those who can change the ID and those who can’t.

    In this case, maybe what could be (legally) attacked is that the pharmacy claims to be for all women and excludes some of them, but if it only says e.g. “faab women”, I am sceptical that anything can be done which wouldn’t also harm the legality of having, e.g., trans women-only spaces :/

  78. July 11, 2009 at 10:48 am

    @Elly d’Yckgirl

    I am sceptical that anything can be done which wouldn’t also harm the legality of having, e.g., trans women-only spaces

    Not sure I understand this point. First off, trans-women only spaces? That has never been an issue. It’s been cis women keeping trans women out of women’s space.

    The side in the wrong here is VWHC. Framing the pharmacy as being possibly under threat because of the actions of trans activists is the wrong way to be looking at this, and is a common tactic that is used to further transphobic agendas. If the law prevents Lu’s from being an women-only space that is a fault of the law, not of trans women and their allies bringing focus to the pharmacy and their policies.

  79. July 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm


    What I mean is that I don’t think the law makes a difference between a cis-only space (as it is here) and a trans-only space; just as it doesn’t between a men-only or women-only (both are “discriminating” according to gender), or betweem a white-only or a people of color-only space (“discrimination” based on race).

    The difference is that in one case it’s a dominant-only group and not in the second, but since I don’t think it’s taken into account by law, I am worried that banning e.g. a cis-only space could lead to problems for trans-only spaces.

    Now I may be wrong and I’m certainly not supporting this pharmacy – while there are a few cases where I might acknowledge that cis women-only space are not completely illegitimate, this is definitely not the case here.

    (Which doesn’t mean that I think the two are equivalent; but even if I think it’s important to protest against that, I’m not sure law can be our ally)

  80. July 11, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Yes, basically the argument is that trans women shouldn’t be served because trans women aren’t women, trans women are men.

    If you want that argument in its most hateful, undiluted form, much as I hate to give them any attention, but since some well meaning people seem not to know what’s going around out there in the name of feminism, sometimes: (it was hyperlinked to this post already):

    http://aroomofourown SPACE wordpress.com/2009/07/10/another-round-of-what-about-the-menzzzzzzzzzzz-20-000000000000/

    Perhaps the question should be when men are building new resources what do they gain by excluding men who want their delusions indulged? Of course men are not going to give a fuck about women, evident by how the very men who are now parading around as women don’t care one bit that their indulged delusions are draining resources from female at birth women. That is what is status quo, men expecting women to serve them before they serve other women.

    It is a patriarchy. Men are in power. Men control most of the resources in North America. Men murder for resources. Men murder when resources are denied them. Men start wars to dominate resources.

    What feminist worth her salt would elect to take the already minuscule crumbs wrestled from the arms of men and spend it on other men?

    It seems that MTF-Fs have not learned yet, that women were not born to service them. Instead of demanding that the thousands and thousands of pharmacies across North America accommodate them (which they all do serve men already), the MTF-Fs focus their hostile attacks on the first women’s only pharmacy. Entitlement and privilege know no bounds.


  81. July 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I wrote a lengthy comment at Questioning Transphobia about the protests, and some things I think might be valuable to keep in mind when doing activism about/in Vancouver’s downtown east side (DTES):


  82. Sarah
    July 12, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    The following response is one that made to the article on aroomofourown on wordpress (from belladame’s almost-link at post 81-ish.) I have done my best with language and the ideas. I hope that everyone understands the spirit in which it was written and it will be followed up by my expression of the following sentiment that while movements by their very nature require similarity of goals and ideals this does not and should not be taken to mean that any two people have the same experiences no matter what genitalia they are born with….

    “It amazes me that feminists who sympathize with this line of thought still don’t get it. MTF – F are not ‘men’ and this is the issue. You don’t want to place value on someone’s phenomenal experiences. This is a dangerous line of thought particularly for a feminist. I’m quite certain that by the time you’ve read this post you will have dismissed me as a “tool” or a poor, deluded woman who has embraced her own oppression but all I see when I read a post like this is someone who can’t understand a simple state of reality such as being born phenomenolgically female in a world where a great deal of our phenomenology is socialization plus our own internal emotional states. Maybe someday we will live in a world where we don’t socialize our children with regard to gendering or anything else but until that day comes we should embrace the reality of trans-identified people and be welcoming of those who might get behind the cause of eliminating oppression of females. Oppression itself has to do with socialization. We wouldn’t BE feminists of any ilk if it weren’t for socialization. It is the social fabric of society that puts women in positions of disadvantage that we are in. Our biology is important only in the way it is socially construed.

    This is equally true for men, trans-persons, homosexuals, etc. Biology and socialization are endlessly influential factors that shape who we are and it is only by opening up new avenues of socialization that we can hope to reach a place where we can do away with oppression of all kinds. This does not get accomplished by denying the very real phenomology of others. That turns us into hypocrites of the worst kind. When a trans person says to me “I am female” or “I am male”, I don’t question their reports. I believe that what they have to say is a result of certain facts about biology and their experiences. Continuing to refer to them with the wrong pronouns and/or calling them the wrong gender in the hopes of forcing someone into the mold of oppressor that is comfortable for us is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

    I’m very certain that either this post will be moderated out of existence or that I will be accused of being misguided, deluded, etc. OR that I’m a trans-person trying to promote my cause. The truth is that I was born with ‘female’ genitalia and received a full complement of ‘female’ socialization. Hopefully this is enough to satisfy those here who might question my credentials and that in itself is terribly sad. I consider myself to be an extremely radical feminist and I’ve earned my scars, however, I recognize that the oppression suffered by trans-people, particularly MTF-F trans-persons, is equal to or worse than any I’ve ever been subjected to. I’ve witnessed it first-hand. They cannot receive proper medical care, civil rights, or any of the other things that we think we are entitled to.

    Apparently many radical feminists now believe it is their job to oppress MTF-F trans-persons out of existence. This makes them no better than those who throw rocks at women in Saudi Arabia or those who murder homosexuals because of blind, irrational hatred. We wanted equality with men? Well, we have it on at least these axes: Equal hatred, equal bigotry, and equal attempts to oppress someone else in an attempt to further our own ends. I always felt that feminism had lost its edge, had become to willing to accept the crumbs handed to them by the male establishment and now I see that in addition to this we’ve acquired all the worst characteristics of our oppressors. Where will this get us? If history contributes anything to predicting the future, it will help us climb one more rung up the ladder. Congratulations to us. We will have achieved more of our goals in the same way that men have been doing to us for millenia; on the backs of the oppressed.

    Those of you who have such vitrolic hatred for MTF-F trans-persons, have you ever considered why you have such hatred? Is it because we recognize our own oppression at a much earlier stage and we are unwilling to take up for those who are clearly accepted by none and who would affect our own social currency, whatever that might be? Or is it truly because you believe that someone who claims to be ‘female’ who was born with a set of genitalia that we normally associate with one gender doesn’t match your ideas of what gender they should be is somehow detrimental to the feminist cause? This sounds like a failing on our part. A failure to recognize that our world is becoming a place where characteristics traditionally used to pigeonhole people is quickly becoming obsolete. A failure to realize that we now live in a world where genitalia cannot be used to ‘understand’ people as one thing or another. A failure to do what feminism has traditionally done, which is reinterpret identity and fight for those who don’t fit the mold of what we believe they should be. A failure to see that trans-people including the gender-queer people, are those who will upset the binary definitions that have always been in place. If we embrace such people we will be one step close to realizing a genderless world or at least a world where sex is meaningless as a measure of potential. The radical feminists are holding up the progress on this regard because of claims about gender essentialism. Trans-people are just like everyone else, when gender walls begin to come down, manners of dress, speech, etc. will change. It is our job as feminists to help bring this about. To teach our kids that outside appearance means nothing; that genitalia, haircut, or dress are not measures of potential. It is up to us to offer avenues to this. I’m quite certain that the further success we have in deteriorating the power gender has over all of us, the more the world of all females will change, including trans-persons. To those rad-feminists who think they decide what it means to be ‘female’ or a ‘feminist’, you have become bitter and deluded by your bitterness: you don’t own feminism or the word ‘female’. There was a time when ownership of ‘female’ would have been repugnant to you, but you’ve become greedy and just like those who oppress us. Until the day comes when you give up your need for control over other people’s lived experience, for power, I’m afraid I don’t understand or trust your ‘feminism’. It seems a lot like oppression to me.”

  83. romham
    July 18, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Queen Emily said at 18:”@Julian Morrison As far as I know, they don’t include trans men either. So it’s “biology and girlhood” that stops trans women from being included, and gender presentation that stops trans men. Different rules apply, being selectively employed depending on need.”

    i know im late to this thread, but thought i’d clarify one thing b/c it’s come up a few times. i’ve posted this elsewhere, sorry for the repeat.

    i spoke directly with Caryn Duncan (Executive Director at Lu’s) on Friday July 17th. She was very clear with me on the phone that Lu’s would serve both transsexual & transgendered men who “pass” as men in the world. MEN. To be specific, i asked her clearly if Lu’s serves & would serve Female to Male transsexual & transgendered men, and whether it was dependent on whether or not someone “passes” as male, using myself as an example. She said “yes [they] would serve FTMs. That is included in the body of work”. She went on to say “it could be awkward, it causes complications” [the passing & potentially different body of said FTM], “but we would want to have a conversation about about how we could help that person or where we could direct them if there were things we weren’t sure about. But if an FTM came in to deal with god forbid cervical cancer for example, we would want to help them figure out what can be done.”

  84. romham
    July 18, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Tster says @ #8 “…I don’t think, CombatQueer, that it’s an issue of punishment as much as an issue of reflexive discomfort with the unfamiliar.”

    id see my post above. VWHC doesnt actually seem all that squicked about simply “difference” in this case. Someone like me: big, fat, hairy, balding, non woman-identified, someone every person pretty much without fail takes to be a man, can walk into Lu’s and get service. Now, to be honest, im quite sure, as Caryn told me, there would be “complications” with dealing with someone who looks like me and has the kind of body i have. The point is they are willing to bridge those particular differences because i can prove i started out with a vagina. Thats just a racket, pure and simple.

    And i by no means advocate, or even remotely support, the idea i’ve heard offered up several times of trans men accessing this space, as some kind of test of Lu’s “inclusion”. Ew. Just ew.

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