Discourse

Vancouver opens facility for transgender persons only after pulling funds from women's crisis center for 'transphobia'

In Vancouver, women are second-class citizens. The city that rescinded grant for woman-only rape shelter intends to spend $3.8 million to create a facility that is only for transgender people.
Amy Eileen Hamm
Amy Eileen Hamm Montreal, QC

In Vancouver, women are second-class citizens. The city that rescinded grant for woman-only rape shelter intends to spend $3.8 million to create a facility that is only for transgender people.

Vancouver city council, the same council that garnered international outrage after it stripped funding from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter (VRR) for being female-only, has now invested CAD $3.8 million into housing for transgender-identified people.

The first single-resident-occupancy (SRO) that is specifically and only for those persons who identify as transgender, gender diverse, or two-spirited. The Ross-Aoki House will be in Downtown Eastside, and will have room for 24 residents.

The city used funds from its Empty Home Tax to buy the 24-bed Ross-Aoki House, which will be staffed by the non-profit organization Atira. In its 2021 budget, council identified their intention to focus on "equity and critical social issues."

Councilwoman Lisa Dominato said that  Ross-Aoki House "is really about an equity and ensuring that the transgender diverse and two-spirit community has access to safe affordable housing."

"There's a real win in this," Dominato said, "in that we know that the transgender diverse, two-spirit community faces higher rates of homelessness, [and] is also at higher risk for violence. So, we're able to meet the needs of this underserved community in terms of housing."

"Because coming out within their families wasn't accepted so ended up being forced out of their homes and onto the street," Dominato said.

Vulnerable populations—of which both transgendered persons and women are—certainly deserve to have their own services and spaces. So why does the city of Vancouver recognize the importance of such spaces for transgendered persons, but not for women?

Hilla Kerner, a member of the VRR collective, spoke on behalf of the organization. "We are not critical of the city [for] providing housing for trans people. The city's refusal to support us financially was not because of a lack of funding but because of their lack of caring for women. The city can and should support women-only spaces, and trans-people serving spaces," said Kerner.

In a written statement, Sally Green, City of Vancouver's communication specialist, said that the city "recognize[s] the Trans, Gender Diverse, and Two Spirit (TGD2S) community has been marginalized and underserved due to systemic barriers for far too long, and there is significant need for equitable housing and service options that are safe, culturally, appropriate, and inclusive, and that address the unique needs and co-occurring issues experienced by Two Spirit and gender diverse adults facing homelessness."

Never mind that dozens of women—many from VRR—have repeatedly and explicitly expressed to Vancouver city council that women, as a sex class, also have "unique needs" and deserve their own spaces free of biological males. Such pleas and explanations have been dismissed or misconstrued—including by Vancouver city council—for years.

"We are thrilled to be working with members of this new community at Ross-Aoki House to develop safer, culturally informed and gender-affirming housing and supports," said Aaron Munro, the director of Atira which will be running the site. "And we are excited to share learnings from this project across our agency and with our partners and colleagues who we know share our goal of increasing safety for 2SLGBTQ+ and/or gender diverse people within the supportive housing sector."

Women are smeared as bigots for suggesting that females who have been raped and abused by males may find it distressing to be sheltered alongside biological males, regardless of how they identify. Proponents of smearing these women ultimately believe it is more important to validate the false notion that males can become literal females than it is to provide a sense of physical and psychological safety for female rape victims. Men's feelings have become more important than women's safety.

The idea of "third spaces" for transgender-identified persons—including a space such as the Ross-Aoki House—is a solution that numerous groups have offered when defending women's right to sex-segregated spaces. But when the idea is presented as a means to save existing female-only spaces, it is (predictably) deemed transphobic. Again, this boils down to the goal of trans activism, which is to validate the identity and feelings of (usually) males, at the expense of females.

Vancouver's 2021 budget report laments the systemic social issues affecting underprivileged residents, concluding that "the City has limited influence on the underlying systems that create and could alleviate many of these situations". I disagree. The city's message to women—that they are not deserving of their own spaces—has an enormous impact on half of the population. We have been told that we don't matter. I worry for the women and girls who will believe this.

No city councillors responded to requests for comments at the time of publication.

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