Vancouver Denies Women’s Rape Crisis Center Funding for Discrimination of Trans Women

The city of Vancouver recently decided to cut funding to one of the country’s oldest rape crisis centers due to discrimination against transgendered women. As of March 14, the city approved a final or “termination grant” of more than $34,000 to the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, until the organization starts to treat transgendered rape victims.

In an open letter, Vancouver Rape Relief responded to the grant’s cut by admitting that transgendered women are excluded from its core services pointing out that trans women’s bodies aren’t that of women who were born female. But the organization accuses the city’s decision as being a form of “coercion” to make them change their position “undermining our autonomy as a women’s group to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with.” According to Vancouver’s policies, the shelter failed to demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness, and openness to all people.”

Council member Christine Boyle expressed her thoughts on the matter during the city’s recent meeting and said she felt it was unnecessary to exclude trans women from vital rape relief and anti-violence services. “Trans women are women and are incredibly vulnerable to violence and deserving of equal protection.” Boyle followed up her comments with a tweet about the decision to end the organization's grant and said, “Trans women are women and sex work is work. Trans women and sex workers deserve care and protection.” She added that she can’t support organizations who exclude both trans women and sex workers and that she’d rather support an inclusive provider. Fellow Council member Adrienne Carr echoed Boyle’s frustrations with Vancouver Rape Relief asking, “Why do we have policies if we don’t ask those we are supporting to align with those policies?”

The Realist Woman’s take:

Bravo to the city of Vancouver. These representatives have their priorities straight. I’m glad they are holding this organization accountable. Vancouver Rape and Relief Women’s Shelter is bold as hell for their response to their grant’s cut. Trans women are women and are at greater risk in terms of violence. They need care!

The Trans Pulse Project released a survey in 2015 of more than 400 transgendered Ontarians and found that more than 20 percent had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans. About 60 percent of respondents worried they’d die young. And according to a Canadians Trans Youth Survey, 70 percent of participants said they had been sexually harassed.

Here in the U.S., our numbers aren’t any better. And worldwide, the violence against trans women isn't even recorded due to the fact that many are afraid to report the violence. What I was most impressed with in this story were the two female council members who not only voted to end funding for a women’s shelter’s lack of caring for all women, but they spoke out and let it be known that it be known they will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. And while some critics may say that denying this organization's future funding will hurt women who need their services, I would argue that it’s the Vancouver Rape Relief itself that is putting women’s care and health at risk for not being inclusive. If this center doesn’t want to help trans women, then so be it. But they shouldn’t expect financial support from an entity that is mandating equality.