"Solidarity" as a Weapon of Discrimination

by Shaker C.L. Minou

I'll never worry about getting a period.

I'm not alone, of course: there are millions of women who are either done having them, never had them, or won't have them this month. However, most of these women can still do something I can't: Get a prescription filled at Lu's pharmacy in Vancouver.

That's because I'm a trans woman, and Lu's will only serve "women-born-women."

And it seems that the great dividing line really is periods, at least according to Caryn Duncan, executive director of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective:
"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."
Of course, trans women can get breast cancer, and even serve as midwives, but somehow that's not enough to let us get our allergy prescriptions filled at Lu's. Nor is it clear what you're supposed to do if you're intersex—do you need to bring your karotype? For that matter, how are they detecting trans women? Can it be that they will reject all masculine-looking women (of any history) just to make sure that no trans woman ever darkens their drop-off counter?

Maybe not, as Jamie Lee Hamilton, a trans woman who attempted to drop off a prescription at Lu's (and was barred from entering) found out:
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."
Of course: Biology=Destiny is a very important feature of feminist thinking. That and judging people based on their appearances. Ahem.

Lest you think that this is only about another trans vs cis fight over woman-only spaces, consider the following quotes from the April 8 issue of The Province:
Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women will serve female clients uncomfortable at the existing 19 licensed pharmacies in the Downtown Eastside. Those small pharmacies provide daily methadone to 1,400 heroin addicts, of whom about 500 are female...

Duncan supports diversity of services in the Downtown Eastside because of the nature of the community. She said some marginalized women who are not sex workers will not use services that may imply they are in the sex industry.
In other words, Lu's is a pharmacy for women, provided they aren't trans, aren't plagued by drug addiction, and aren't sex workers. But they do love the "nature of the community."

That community, the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, is (according to The Dominion) the "poorest postal code in Canada," "maintains the highest HIV infection rate in North America, affecting 30 per cent of the local population, mainly women," and "30 per cent of the residents are indigenous, a rate 10 times higher than the national average. Indigenous women experience horrific violence in the district; according to CBC Vancouver more than 60 women have disappeared from the neighborhood in the past decade."

So what is the nature of the community Lu seeks to serve?
Driven by Olympic development, the forces of gentrification have gathered a full head of steam. Recently, many low-income hotels in the area, which effectively serve as low-income housing units, have been demolished for the development of high-scale development projects. The historic Woodwards building, located in the heart of the district, was recently demolished for condominium development.
The last thing I want to see is a place that provides valuable services to women close. But at the same time, I can't see how it is very "feminist" to specifically cater to the women least in need, how it is "feminist" to assert that biology is the ultimate determinant of identity, how it is "feminist" to be in favor of exclusion, othering, and silencing.

But that's Lu's prescription.

(Thanks to Questioning Transphobia's ongoing coverage; there is a Facebook Group for the protestors, and you can read their Open Letter to VWHC.)

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