A trans-exclusionary shelter has faced repeated vandalism in recent weeks, with the latest incident escalating to explicit threats.
The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, which was founded in 1973, offers counseling and shelter for battered women, and has a policy of refusing service to trans women. Two weeks ago, the shelter says someone nailed a dead rat to their door. This week, graffiti scrawled on the windows read “TERFS Go Home You Are Not Welcome” and "Trans Women Are Women," while others allegedly threatened violence.
“TERF” stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” and refers to people who don’t accept the fact that trans women are women.
In recent years, major medical organizations have expressed support for transgender people, pushing for greater acceptance. For example, in a recent statement, the American Medical Association (AMA) wrote that the organization supports "the equal rights, privileges and freedom of all individuals and opposes discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin or age."
"Individuals’ gender and sexual identities do not always fit neatly into binary paradigms," says another statement from the AMA that opposes "any efforts that would prevent a transgender person from “accessing basic human services and public facilities in line with one’s gender identity."
Police recommended that the center install cameras to deter further incidents.
The center, which has a budget of about $827,000 in U.S. dollars, made headlines earlier this year when the city decided to withhold funding over its exclusionary policies. That decision stemmed from a complaint filed by a resident named Kimberly Nixon, who was not allowed to work as a volunteer because she was not assigned female at birth.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal fined the shelter $5,600 in U.S. dollars, but the province’s Supreme Court overturned that ruling and eventually the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed her request for appeal.
As of next year, the City of Vancouver will no longer provide the center with a $26,000. For now, about $450,000 in funding from British Columbia will remain in place. Acknowledging that the center’s services “have been and are very important,” the city wrote in a statement, “staff identified concerns about the organization’s position on trans women in relation to the full intent of grant criteria.”
Vancouver Rape Relief responded by calling the decision to withhold funding "coercion."
Hilla Kerner, spokesperson for the center, said that the center sometimes connects trans women to services offered by other organizations. In justifying the policy, she said that some clients might not be comfortable around women who do not present as sufficiently feminine.
The center does allow trans men to use their services, but acknowledged that few do. “Our services are open to all people who were born female even if they don’t identify as women,” Kerner told local news site The Post Millennial.
But Morgane Oger, chair of the Trans Alliance Society, countered that “Vancouver Rape Relief and other organizations that are publicly funded are responsible for keeping up the highest standard of inclusion.”
Local human rights lawyer Adrienne Smith told the Canadian Press that they've had clients turned away from Rape Relief after a sexual assault.
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