Vancouver Rape Relief loses city funding over trans-exclusionary policies
Megan Orr, Opinions Editor
Vancouver Rape Relief recently lost its funding from the city in what they are calling, “discrimination against women in the name of inclusion.” The organization is Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre, though it has long been known to discriminate against transgender women by insisting on “only serving female born women” and turning trans women in need of the centre’s services away. Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung said about the decision, “They have done fantastic work and are a valuable service, but we wanted to make sure they extend it for everyone. If we are giving public funds, we need to give it to organizations that are inclusive.”
This is a complicated issue. On the surface, the defunding would be a loss as the services that Vancouver Rape Relief provides are vital to many women in crisis. However, the centre’s exclusionary practices should not continue to be funded by our government. The reality though, according to the National Post, is “The City of Vancouver money represents only $33,972 of Vancouver Rape Relief’s more than $1 million per year budget (most of which is provided by the Province of BC).” Currently, it is unclear whether or not the city’s portion of the funding will be going to other similar organizations, that are not trans-exclusionary, such as Peggy’s Place or Battered Women’s Support Services, or if that money will just be going elsewhere. What this issue brings to mind is a bigger problem facing modern feminists that pits women against each other.
There is still very much an “us versus them” mentality held by a small minority of people, known as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), that is extremely harmful to any forward progress. These individuals are at odds about what it means to be a woman, and believe, ultimately, that trans women are not really women at all. They argue that the experience of a cis woman (whose sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity) is inherently different than that of a trans woman and therefore women’s services and spaces should not be open to trans women. However, inclusion is vital, especially for vulnerable communities and people in crisis. The city is certainly playing the role of the martyr, making a tough decision that’s for the greater good, without really commenting on the consequences of defunding the organization or what the alternatives are.
While it is a shame to see a women’s organization lose funding, it isn’t a shame to see a transphobic organization lose its funding. Those two things cannot co-exist because it really shouldn’t be one or the other – an organization that is meant for women needs to be for all women. That’s what inclusion is all about. Vancouver Rape Relief could have remedied this a long time ago by including trans women in their services, so the defunding really is on them. Again, the only real winner here is the City of Vancouver for making themselves seem just while also potentially eliminating an expense.