Vancouver Pharmacy Says No to Trans People

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

An all-women pharmacy in Vancouver sounds like a great resource if you’re a bio-woman, but what about the population of transgender sex workers that are in need of safer sex education and, potentially, rape counseling?

Vancouver is now the home to North America’s first women-only pharmacy. Yesterday, the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective opened Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women, a place where women in the community can go for health education, medication, and support. According to a report from the Vancouver Courier, it sounds like a brilliant idea—on the surface.

“Starting Tuesday, any woman who was born a woman can visit the pharmacy to have prescriptions filled. Lu’s aims to serve women who live and work in the neighbourhood, students and those who choose to patronize businesses with a social mission. Clients can sit in the welcoming reception area, talk to the female pharmacist over a counter that’s narrower than at most pharmacies or consult with her at a private alcove.”

Ah, there’s always the snag. Sounds like a great resource if you’re a bio-woman, but what about the population of transgender sex workers that are in need of safer sex education and, potentially, rape counseling? (See Kimberley Nixon v. Rape Relief—a case where a battered woman was turned away because of her transitional status.)

According to the VWHC’s “Political Agreements,” the pharmacy is open to “women who were born women and live their lives as women.” They call it a women’s pharmacy, yet choose to define “woman” based on a restrictive set of terms. But this statement implies that there are women who were not born women, yet choose to live their lives as women. Why intentionally exclude them from the pharmacy? How is that progressive at all?

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Mercedes Allen, herself a transgendered women, wrote on Monday about the pharmacy, and their choice to restrict the definition of “woman.”

“The very existence of transsexuals appears to threaten a principle of one branch of feminist thought if it isn’t examined too closely: I’d suggest it is this illusion of threat instead that drives the creation of these prerequisites.”

To see this new group of women as a threat and not an asset is a mistake; they live their lives as women, and who are we to say how they can identify, or that their “womaness” is somehow less legitimate than ours? I, for one, don’t want to be part of a group that excludes anyone who chooses to identify as a women—no matter which sex they were born.

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