The Vancouver Women's Health Collective is a non-profit organization that was created in 1971, in order to provide health care to meet the specific needs of women-- needs which are often not addressed in the traditionally male-dominated health care system. As a feminist (and a woman!) I am grateful and appreciative of the work that the Vancouver Women's Health Collective has done over the years. Creating accessible health care for women is certainly an admirable goal, and a necessary one.
Recently, however, the Collective's core mandates have been called into question. Lu's, “a pharmacy for women,” was recently opened in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In the interest of creating a “safe space,” the pharmacy's policies state that they will only serve “women-born women,” thus preventing transgendered women from accessing necessary services (but allowing transgendered men). Unlike other community organizations working within the Downtown Eastside, Lu's will not accept a potential customer's self-definition of whether they identify as female, male, or other. Instead, they have chosen to only admit individuals who have female genitals, regardless of whether that particular individual moves through the world as a female, a male, or another gender entirely.
The Vancouver Women's Health Collective's controversial and questionable decision (which, I have to state, I am firmly against) has angered many of the Vancouver community's trans activists and allies.
So, what do you think?
How would the inclusion of trans women inhibit Lu's attempted “safe space”?
What is the role of cisgendered (non-trans) feminists in regards to this issue?
Is the policy discriminatory? Does it remind you of any other discriminatory policies from the past?
What does it mean to be a woman?
Who, if anyone, has the right to define what being a woman means?
Check out this open letter to the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, written by Romi Chandra.