Lu’s: a pharmacy for cis women?

July 8, 2009

VWHC logoVancouver Women’s Health Collective has just opened a new pharmacy called Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women which claims to offer a “full-service pharmacy” as well as “advice on your medication and your healthcare”. (Via VWHC website – Lu’s Services)

The website continues:

By opening a women’s pharmacy, the VWHC is once again providing health care services to women along with health information and our continued advocacy work, from a model that is informed by a feminist perspective. We know that women are still underserved by the current health care model, and we know that certain women face considerable barriers to accessing quality health care, which include poverty, addiction, racism, and sexism, among others. We see Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women as a unique opportunity to organize in a new way, by bringing together health care professionals both traditional and holistic (in the form of pharmacists, doctors, and holistic practitioners), volunteers, community activists, and community members in one space.

(Via VWHC website – A Brief History of Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women)

Which all sounds great. A much-needed resource offering access to “quality health care, which include poverty, addiction, racism, and sexism, among others”. A laudable aim, unquestionably.

However, according to The Vancouver Courier (link here):

Starting Tuesday, any woman who was born a woman can visit the pharmacy to have prescriptions filled.

It’s unclear where the phrase “any woman who was born a woman” has come from – The Vancouver Courier is the only source I have seen which uses the term explicitly; note that the VWHC website (link here) refers simply to “women”. Not “womyn born womyn”, and not “self identified women”; just “women”. The contact page of the VWHC website (link here) states that “our Centre is a space for women only”.

However, history has shown us many times that the default meaning of “women” is, in reality, “cis women”, so the use of “women” is a cause for concern if trans women are likely to be excluded.

And the fact that this pharmacy has opened in Vancouver is further cause for concern. The appalling treatment of Kimberly Nixon by Vancouver Rape Relief in 1995 resulted in a huge and destructive legal battle which still has implications today.

Ms Nixon had previously worked as a rape counsellor elsewhere, and the main reason she applied to VRR was because the shelter that she visited didn’t allow survivors they’d served to volunteer until 12 months had passed. She was initially accepted, but when it became known that she was a transsexual woman, she was forced to leave.

Ms Nixon took her grievance to a Human Rights tribunal – and won – but the decision was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2003. And in 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal from the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

Effectively, the decision legitimised VRR’s “women only space” policy, which translates to meaning that only those who were born and raised female are allowed access. In my view, this is tantamount to holding trans women’s history against us – that something we have no control over is an ineradicable original sin which stains our lives forever.

It is this terrible history of cis women’s mistreatment of trans women in Vancouver that makes me wish that the VWHC would issue a formal clarification of their position on access by trans women to the resources offered by Lu’s Pharmacy.

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ETA: Thanks to Carto in comments (link here) for pointing out the paragraph in VWHC’s Our Political Agreements statement (direct link to PDF) which says:

Therefore, we feel that it is essential that a woman be born a woman and have the physiology of a woman and the psychological experiences of living as a girl and a woman in order to embrace the work of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective. For us, membership and services are open to women who were born women.

So there y’go, that’s as clear as crystal.

And presumably, then, by that same essentialist definition, trans men will be welcomed with open arms…

3 Responses to “Lu’s: a pharmacy for cis women?”

  1. Carto Says:

    VWHC’s statement about their political agreements says the women born women thingy somewhat clearly: it seems it’s just another “no-icky-poo-trans-women” -outfit: http://www.womenshealthcollective.ca/PDF/Our%20Political%20Agreements.pdf , right at the end of the page 1, continuing to page 2:

    “Therefore, we feel that it is essential that a woman be born a woman and have the physiology of a woman and the psychological experiences of living as a girl and a woman in order to embrace the work of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective. For us, membership and services are open to women who were born women.”

    Righty-o – it’s not a women only outfit, it’s cis women only.


  2. […] G posted more at Bird of Paradox: Vancouver Women’s Health Collective has just opened a new pharmacy called Lu’s: A Pharmacy for […]


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