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All Survivors Deserve Support: Activists Intervene at Rape Relief Walkathon

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All Survivors Deserve Support: Activists Intervene at Rape Relief Walkathon
Handing out pamphlets
Handing out pamphlets
Handing out pamphlets
Handing out pamphlets
Rape Relief organizers demand pamphlets, threaten to call police
Rape Relief organizers demand pamphlets, threaten to call police
Park Ranger gives 'warning' warning
Park Ranger gives 'warning' warning
All Survivors Deserve Support: Activists Intervene at Rape Relief Walkathon
All Survivors Deserve Support: Activists Intervene at Rape Relief Walkathon
All Survivors Deserve Support: Activists Intervene at Rape Relief Walkathon
Rape Relief organizers remove chalk slogans from Seawall
Rape Relief organizers remove chalk slogans from Seawall

This blog post was written by The Homomilitia.

VANCOUVER - A small group of activists gathered at Second Beach in Stanley park Sunday to provide participants in Rape Relief's Annual Walkathon with some alternative information highlighting the organization's ongoing and outspoken exclusionary stance on trans women, sex workers, and substance use.

We had decided on maintaining a relatively low key presence at the event, recognizing that the space created there may be important to some survivors of sexualized violence and that having a more aggressive demonstration would be inappropriate as it could be triggering or potentially invalidate their experiences.

We distributed pamphlets (click here to download our pamphlet) to walkathon participants and decorated the pavement with positive messages in support of trans women's rights, sex workers' rights, harm reduction, and access to support for all survivors of sexualized violence.  Shortly into our intervention, we were approached by three disgruntled representatives from Rape Relief, who proceeded to use scare tactics in an attempt to intimidate and silence us.  They told us that we had to leave, asked for our names, photographed us, said they were going to turn the photographs in to park security, and demanded we hand over our pamphlets.  When we calmly refused, they said they were going to call the park rangers and the police. 

When they returned after having allegedly called the police, they asked us to “put politics aside” and use the time before the police arrived as an “opportunity” to either dialogue or leave.  When we again refused, they demanded to know if we were affiliated with a group and why we were “interfering” with their event.  They also claimed that they “already provide this information to women accessing [their] services” and that they don't “disrupt” “our events”. 

Although the police didn't show up, two park rangers approached us along with the Rape Relief representatives and told us that it is against a bylaw to distribute pamphlets in the park without a permit, that we couldn't “advertise” in the park, and that we couldn’t have signs (which we didn't).  They said that we could stay in the park and talk to people if we stopped handing out pamphlets. 

Although the park rangers asked for a copy of our pamphlet and wanted to know if we were “with a group”, they insisted that they were not targeting the content of the pamphlet or our presence there.  After the park rangers and Rape Relief representatives left us alone, we regrouped and moved on to the area of the sea wall that participants would reach at the end of the walk.  We covered about 50 feet worth of pavement with positive messages (including “end transphobia,” “end violence against all women”, “transphobia is violence against women”, “<3 harm reduction”, and “<3 sex workers' rights”), receiving positive feedback from a few passersby.

Our chalk-work was interrupted when two Rape Relief representatives aggressively confronted us, telling us again that we had to leave.  This time, one representative actually grabbed all of our remaining pamphlets and refused to return them.  We took hold of half the stack she had in her hands, at which point she reluctantly let go.  She insisted that we “obviously don't understand her organization” because she is a volunteer who has worked with both sex workers and trans women – as if claiming to work with a community automatically makes Rape Relief an ally that provides support that is appropriate and non-judgemental.

Moments later, we noticed Rape Relief representatives carrying buckets of water, which they were using to wash away our messages, including messages which simply read, “end violence against all women” and “support services for all women.”  We noticed that they seemed to take extra care to erase all remaining traces of messages that read, “ask Rape Relief about their trans policy,” “transmisogyny is violence” and “end transphobia.”

At this point, the park rangers returned to inform us that they “obviously weren't clear enough” regarding their bylaws.  They handed us a copy of these bylaws, with the section stating that we couldn't affix, paint, advertise, or distribute information highlighted.   They informed us that our messages were “defacing park property” and were in breach of the “no advertising” bylaw. 

When we challenged them on this, stating that children often draw on sidewalks and that the rain will eventually wash the chalk away, the park rangers argued that “children's messages aren't political,” thereby contradicting their earlier insistence that we weren't being targeted for the content of our messages.  They told us that we could either leave the park, or provide identification and be issued a warning ticket.

We were fairly shaken by Rape Relief's aggressive, and intimidating response and particularly upset over their choice to efface our messages in such a hostile  manner.  Although we weren't necessarily shocked, we were disappointed that the organization chose to remove messages of ending violence against all women – messages that we would hope, and perhaps even assume, that any rape crisis centre would support. 

Unfortunately, we recognize that we aren't alone in our experience attempting to confront Rape Relief's violent policies.  Their actions conform to their now predictable pattern of dismissing and silencing criticism of their organizational policies and culture.  We are committed to challenging how Rape Relief contributes to rape culture through their practices and will continue to support the growth of community responses to violence that support all survivors.

Having attended this event for the first time, we can already think of many ways to improve next year's strategy.  For anyone interested in sharing this information and strategizing, please contact

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Love it. Thanks for showing

Love it. Thanks for showing up and getting the word out, despite attempts to shut you down.

thank you

so much love for being so brave and so rad!

This is Inaccurate to the Point of Deceit

Oh this is awful. You really should read something and do some research before passing judgement on VRRWS. They do nothing that threatens support for trans women, women in prostitution or substance (ab)users. There is a different normative analysis held by many radical feminists, of which I am one, with respect to some of these issues. VRRWS works very hard with and for prostituted women, both those who are still working and exited prostitutes, to achieve safety and full human rights whilst working toward the abolition of prostitution. In terms of trans people, the only thing VRRWS has ever done that could possibly be termed "exclusionary" is to refuse to allow a male-female trans person to volunteer as a counsellor to sexually victimized women. That decision was upheld by a human rights commission on the grounds of feminist legal argument with respect to the right of a rights seeking group to spaces where only members of that group, women born women, are allowed to participate. Not every space - very few spaces in fact - but some spaces - like counselling women born women who have been sexually assaulted - because only a woman who has experienced a life as a woman can understand that experience. This is a very limited exclusion and it is sanctioned by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a VERY limited exclusion but don't people just like to portray it as something quite different. VRRWS offers ways for male-female trans people to be involved their work and to receive support services themselves when that is what's needed. Aboriginal people must be able to work in groups of Aboriginal people only in order to strategize and organize; so must all minority groups; and so must the oppressed group known as social woman - this has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with the exploitation and oppression that females experience since well before they are born. That analysis is absolutely necessary to women's liberation. Disagree with that argument if you will but to actually misrepresent the argument and disrespect the work of the women involved as is done here is simply reprehensible in my opinion.

speaking of inaccuracies...

One observation - the BC Human Rights Commission actually did find that VRR had discriminated against Kimberly Nixon and awarded damages against the organization. There were appeals, and what (unfortuantely) determined the outcome was NOT a finding that there had been no discrimination - quite the contrary, Justice Saunders, writing for the court of appeal held that VRR's conduct was discriminatory under the Act, but that s. 41 allowed you to get away with it.

Section 41 is not an exception under the Charter - it is an exemption under the BC Human Rights Code. It reflects a decision of the provincial government to allow nonprofit organizations to get away with acts of discrimination, which are by definition acts that persecute/exclude a marginalized group.

There is an 'exemption' to the equality provisions under the Charter, but this is quite a different thing. Under the Charter the equality provision (s. 15(1) and (2)) is written so that actions of the government that are intended to ameliorate disadvantage do not qualify as discrimination.

The actions of VRR were found discriminatory (ie oppressive) but you got away with it because the BC government has decided to permit some groups to act in discriminatory ways.

I look forward to the day when s. 41 in BC human rights code is challenged under the Charter - because I think that the decision of the BC government to allow, via s. 41, behaviour that otherwise qualifies as discrimination to go on is itself a violation of the Charter (much like the failure to include sexual orientation as a protected class in the Alberta human rights legislation was found to violate s.15) - and not one that would meet the 'exemption' of s. 15(2). The Human Rights Code could still protect the right of groups to organize 'women only space' or 'Indigenous only space' - as it absolutely should - but it would NOT protect the right of cisgendered women to discriminate against trans women, anymore than it would allow able-bodied women to exclude women with disabilities, or. allow white women to exclude women of Colour, or.. well, you get the point.


Exactly. Thanks for the

Exactly. Thanks for the clarifications.


The first judgement found not that there was discrimation but that feelings were hurt because policy was not clear. The direction was to pay damages ( which was done immediately) and to make policy clear. This was also done. At no time was there any legal finding of discrimination. Read the judgements, you'll see that. 

As a feminist who has organized in Vancouver for many, many years now, it appalls me that the short hand converstaion replaces legal facts. K. Nixon chose to use the law to conduct the struggle. Quite a few of the posters here also appeal to the law for rights. So does Rape Relief, so does every other equality seeking group. When we appeal to the law we are appealing to patriarchy and the agents of the patriarchy as represented by the state. Rape Relief acknowledges this in their work to change laws around rape, battering etc... I can see from posts here that most of the posters understand this and do the same. It seems we can all agree that looking for remedy through the law is not going to get any woman any sort of freedom, no matter which lens we choose to view obtaining potential freedom through.

I have referred many women who were hurt by pimps or johns (and even once a strip club patron) to Rape Relief for emergency care and support and they received nothing but the best of care.Which means they were supported to receive health care, access legal information and advocacy and personal care and attention as well as sometimes support to secure housing or other resources such as accessing DAMS or WISH or PEERS or newStart or RavenSong or Aboriginal Mother's Centre or VSW or Sheway or BWSS or HeyWayNoque  or ISS or any other number of organizations. I know former Rape Relief members who provided support for women who were eventually victims of Picton and I know members who continue to support family members of those women. I have heard that Rape Relief women have attended the inquiries. I was at a rally years ago where it was the Rape Relief speaker who called for interjuridictional police communications about violence against women, particularly around harms done to sex workers. 

Are you upset because Rape Relief is abolitionist in politics? Ok, lots of discussion and clear lines of disagerement across movement(s) and around the world about what to do. Rape Relief is not the only abolitionist organization in Vancouver; sex work organizations are not without voice, far from it!

I have to say that denying that Rape Relief sees to women requiring aid is to outright lie and mislead, which is a shame because it undermines your purpose. I believe you had good intentions but I do find it hard to believe that you didn't know you were conflating two very different things, (an organizations stated political position and the day to day work they do) which is a dangerous thing to do when women's lives are at stake.

If the organizers of this "intervention" were so interested, as you claim in this blog. to provide space to survivors, then perhaps you could have made more of a distinction in your objections. Object to their abolitionist position all you want; but until you have done the work of answering that rape crisis line for a few months, I suggest that you may want to be a bit more circumspect or at least respectful of the work and care that is done. None of the women I have ever referred there complained of being condesended to or patronised.

I'm all for rabble rousing, it is good for the soul. I love it myself and look for many opportunties. I just have to say that pamphleting a fundraiser for a small women's group which you all seem to think is the scum of the earth anyway seems a bit pathetic. They are not the raping rapist pimps and violent johns and they are not the dealers of the drugs and they are not standing in the way of anyone organizing to provide care to anyone. If you want to start a centre that does all the things you want Rape Relief to do, I'd support it and I am pretty sure thatsome  individual members, past and present, and even that organization would. There is a tonne of work to do, start a group, start doing the work, I'll write a cheque to support you.

I also just want to comment that painting Rape Relief and their supporters as a monolithic block of evil, sorta like the Borg, just because they disagree with you and choose a different position in the movement they relate to is just laughable. "Rape Relief and their supporters" are not transphobic, are not anti sex worker and do not discriminate against women who are living in the hell of addiction. Perhaps individual members past or present have said or done something which could be analysed in this light, on or off the job; but having politics which are critical of harm reduction or which demand more of the law than pandering to the pimps does not make one hateful.


There is nothing radical or brave

There is nothing radical or brave with interfering a women’s group event. Take on the state for not funding Rape Crisis Centres, take on Coastal Health for not having detox beds for women and recovery programs, Take on the ministry of housing and social “undevelopment” for what they give to women and dare to call it “welfare”. you are playing straight into the hands of the Neo liberal state by fighting Rape Relief.

Dear Elizabeth and Hilla

Are trans women allowed to access your shelter? No. And this is discrimination. This is transphobia. This is oppression. It is not oppressive for a trans woman to want to access your services. It is oppressive to deny them these services.

After winning the right to determine your membership, your spokesperson stated: "We believe it is important for raped and battered women to have the choice of a women-only peer group for support. Now their right is strengthened as is our right to provide that support."

Trans women are women too. When your organization states that it is supporting "all women", it is a lie. Your organization is transphobic.

Also, in a country where trans rights are non-existant, the court decision is irrelevant. As a feminist organization, you should be fighting for the rights of all women like you state, instead of privileging your needs on the backs of others.

Trans women ARE women. Many

Trans women ARE women. Many trans people and others have been saying as much for decades. You want to talk about misinformation? Then start with your own. If you dont want to support trans women, fine, go for it, you've got the law (barely, no need to behave as though it was some kind of easy "win" for your discrimination-- a point you all surely loved to bring up when you were losing the case and looking for sympathy against those evil trans people who deigned to imagine ALL women need support) on your side to do that. But at least be honest about it, it's the very bottom of the barrel least you can do when you turn trans WOMEN away from your services and when you treat sex woprkers as though they have zero agency in their lives and aren't actually the most accurate source of undersdtanding about their lives. Be honest about it in all your work, in your funding requests, in whatever you do: YOU DO NOT SERVE ALL WOMEN, you serve cherry-picked cis women who meet your exceedingly narrow and outdated understanding of "woman".

  'Cherry picked cis women'??


'Cherry picked cis women'?? Let's not pretend that this is a small and exclusive population. Arguing your points by downplaying the existance of a huge population of (cis) women who are raped and killed by men is exactly what patriarchal history has done. I would ask you to reconsider how you talk about cis women as a group because as it stands you're playing into rape culture myths yourself and i'm sure that is not your intention.

I support VRR policies, I don't view them as transphobic. I also don't think their definition of 'woman' is narrow and outdated. We're talking about a rape relief shelter here, which is required BECAUSE of male violence against women, in my opinion they don't have a choice BUT to make these requirements for the safety of women in their shelter. 

You can say that a transwoman is a woman but you are ignoring the fact that this woman has most likely had access to male privilege and has learnt to operate as a male (just like any other male), which changes their experiences and sense of privilege. I think we can't ignore these differences when we talk about creating safe spaces for women who have experienced male violence. We can't just swipe these differences aside in a bid to stop discrimination it's much more complicated than that.

I understand and agree that transfolks are also oppressed by a patriarchal society and experience a lot of violence because of that, I agree that spaces need to be made a available where they can get away from this violence and be supported. I don't agree that VRR is the space for this, but I do think that they would welcome and support the creation of another space that could be of service to the trans community and beyond.

I truly think that exerting energy to attack a small volunteer run women's group is an awful mistake (if not more), Of course you can disagree with their policies and critique them, but right now it sounds like you're suggesting that if they don't accept ALL women, (or it seems if they don't support your political view on prostitution) then they are irrelevant and/or 'contributing to rape culture', and THAT is a pretty shitty claim and makes me question the sincerity of your activism.

You just don't get it. This

You just don't get it. This dialogue isn't worth the bandwidth it's taking up.

I don't care that you don't

I don't care that you don't want to respond to me, but you're going to have to come up with something better than 'you just don't get it' when others question your position, that really isn't an appropriate response when you're making these types of claims.

There's really nothing more

There's really nothing more to talk about though. We're still talking about the same shit as ever. You and other VRR(c)WS supporters continue to talk about these things as "claims" and "misrepresentations", when they are simply the facts at hand: VRR(c)WS is transphobic. There's no mystery to this, no grand scheme to ultimately fuck over a (cis) women's support service. No one is saying the work isn't necessary or should be "attacked", or that you are bad people, and that is not what happened with this action; and to continue to play it that way is just an attempt to play this as though VRR(c)WS has zero agency or responsibility in any of this, and that is simply a lie.

You may not get this, but it is trans people who get to decide what is and isn't transphobic, much the same way it is disabled people who decide what is ableist, and so on. Trans fear, trans hate, whatever it is that's going on, trans people are the ones who bear the brunt of it. And you may not agree with this, but that includes dealing with the bullshit faced when women try to access women's services and are told they are not women. Trans people aren't making this shit up or just looking around for something to get pissed about. Trans people have been trying to talk about these things, have been trying to dialogue, and have been shut down every time. VRR(c)WS itself have literally asked and answered the question "can feminists and trans people/community work together?" (as though the two are mutually exclusive, problem number one) with a resounding "NO!". It is not trans people who have driven this wedge between us, but VRR(c)WS and those who support its transphoic policies.

The fundamental, bottom floor, spelling it out reality that I wish more of you would be honest enough to state clearly, is that VRR(c)WS does not believe that trans women are women. End of story. Once you folks can openly, honestly deal with that reality and how trans women say it affects their lives, then we'll have something to talk about.


  I have seen little effort


I have seen little effort at real, honest dialogue here. Instead just attacks, name-calling, and slander. You say " VRR(c)WS itself have literally asked and answered the question "can feminists and trans people/community work together?" (as though the two are mutually exclusive, problem number one) with a resounding "NO!" -- please provide evidence for this claim.

Throwing around the word "transphobic" when people don't agree with you is a way to shut down dialogue. No one here, nor anyone at VRR is afraid of or hates trans people. Therefore the term is being used in a way that is meaningless and inaccurate. So no, you don't get to decide who is and who is not "transphobic", arbitrarily, based on no facts or evidence.

At a West Coast LEAF

At a West Coast LEAF conference many years ago, VRR(c)WS was part of a "workshop" whose title was the question I quoted. The first thing they did was demand any and all press leave the room. Then they proceded to answer the question with a resounding "no", utterly refused to hear alternative positions, and basically made a complete mockery of what could have been the start of a dialogue. I was there, I saw it with my own eyes. Believe that or not if you want.

But ultimately "evidence" is meaningless if at every turn you refuse to accept, or even to suspend your disbelief for a brief moment, that trans women are telling you the truth and are the ones who know their realities. But you can't and won't do that, because you believe trans women have no place at the discussion table when it comes to women's services, because you don't believe trans women are women. And so we are back where we started.

Until something radically shifts on that, I'm moving on, because this, as ever, is useless.

Of course it was only a

Of course it was only a matter of time before the rad fems chimmed in.

Anyone who wants to understand why folks were out on Sunday pamphleting and sharing alternative info, just read ElizabethP's comments above.  There's no way around it: Rape Reliefs' (and their supporters') attitudes, actions, and policies around trans women, sex work, and substance use are founded in hate.  Period.  Trans women, sex workers, and survivors who use substances have worked and continue to work at the heart of the anti-violence movement - it's because of the work of these survivors and of course many others that we have things like rape crisis centres in the first place.  Despite receiving critical feedback for years and through a variety of channels, Rape Relief and their supporters continue to demonstrate that they are not commited to community accountability or solidarity - to the point that they will try to confiscate alternative information, call the cops on folks who challenge them with critical feedback, and wash out messages in support of *ending violence against women* (and that's just in one day!).  Rape Relief must be held accountable for their policies and the hateful culture they perpetuate. 

- EE

Your actions are appalling

Your actions are appalling and cowardly. Rape relief is a small, volunteer-lead organization that provides a 24 hour rape crisis line and a transition house for battered women and their children. These women have been providing these services since 1973 (crisis line) and 1981 (transition house). They have to decide how to be most effective with the resources they have; and they decided they would work to end male violence against women by providing these services to women escaping male violence. As well, they provide organizing opportunities to women who want to join their work.

it's ridiculous to expect any service organization to be all things to all people. Every anti-violence organization, women's organization, transition house and advocacy group is working to the limit of their capacity to make up for the punitive and constraining actions of the state. All of them have to decide to whom they will be most useful, and all of them do the bet they can for everyone who calls --and sometimes that means referring to another organization. if you want to make real change, act to get a guaranteed livable income, a variety of treatment and detox services, safe decent housing for all, opportunities for everyone to have access to influence--

or get the hell out of the way.


Oh Hi Erin Graham, AKA Easily

Oh Hi Erin Graham, AKA Easily Riled. If you and VRR are so concerned with women's lives, they would stop actively working against the rights of some of those women. VRR and its members and supporters do not simply do the "good work", many of them --including you-- also actively participate in fucking over trans WOMEN and sex working WOMEN. People are asking them to be honest about that, and to imagine that some people might like to learn more about what that means. That they so freely tried to sick the cops on people simply trying to increase the information, increase the support for all WOMEN, and erased such basic messages as "end violence against all women" is utterly despicable & predictable.

Your actions are appalling


Mon, 05/28/2012 - 20:14 — Erin_G New

Your actions are appalling and cowardly. Rape relief is a small, volunteer-lead organization that provides a 24 hour rape crisis line and a transition house for battered women and their children. These women have been providing these services since 1973 (crisis line) and 1981 (transition house). They have to decide how to be most effective with the resources they have; and they decided they would work to end male violence against women by providing these services to women escaping male violence. As well, they provide organizing opportunities to women who want to join their work. Everyone who calls the organization gets a respectful compassionate response, even if the women handling the call determine that the services Rape Relief offers are not appropriate for the caller. in those cases they will make referrals and try to find something that would work for the caller.

it's ridiculous to expect any service organization to be all things to all people. Every anti-violence organization, women's organization, transition house and advocacy group is working to the limit of their capacity to make up for the punitive and constraining actions of the state. All of them have to decide to whom they will be most useful, and all of them do the best they can for everyone who calls --and sometimes that means referring to another organization. if you want to make real change, then act to get a guaranteed livable income, a variety of treatment and detox services, safe decent housing for all, opportunities for everyone to have access to influence--

or get the hell out of the way.



Rape Relief arguments for the abolition of prostitution


Since you are clearly misinformed about the nature of our arguments for the abolition of prostitution, I advise you to read the factum of our coalition – The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution. Beyond Rape Relief, the coalition includes the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Canadian Association of Sexual Centers and other equality seeking women’s groups.
Rape relief's call for the abolition of prostitution (along with our demand for GLI and other reforms that will advance women’s safety and liberty) is driven by what we learn from women who call our rape crisis centre, women who stay in our transition house, and current and past members of our collective – women in prostitution and women who exited prostitution want more and deserve more, and we are obligated to fight for that.





I find it insulting how you portrayed the walk and stating that VRRWS used "scare tactics" and were "aggressive". This isn't true, you were disrupting an event (which has happened for 34 years), so why wouldn't they want to stop those being disrespectful and disruptive of a peaceful and important event crucial to fundraising for an organization fighting male violence against women?

This is a joke, right?

Really? This is where you've decided to focus your "activist" efforts? On "intervening" with a peaceful march in support of an under funded organization that has worked for decades to support women who have experienced abuse and assault? Appalling is right. Not only have you misrepresented members of Vancouver Rape Relief (seriously? You are saying that taking photos is a "scare tactic"??) but you are essentially doing the work of the patriarchy - working against feminist organizations and perpetuating misogynist stereotypes about those evil, scary feminists. You can't think of anywhere better to put your efforts than to attack feminist organizations like Rape Relief? Are they truly the oppressor? This action and this blog post is disgusting and seriously misguided.


Oh I thought we were actually going to deal with the arguments here, maybe, rather than having the usual unsubstantiated epithets and labels flung at us. I should have known better. There is nothing to be gained by fighting women and fighting feminists in the streets with demonstrations. And there is nothing to be learned by calling me transphobic and not even attempting to deal with what I said. I can fight that way too but there is nothing to be learned and nowhere to go on that street. I'm so glad there are women to resist. The issue I raised in my first comment is this: you misrepresented what happened and still happens at VRRWS badly. Are you not going to deal with that rather serious issue? Because not dealing with it makes it look like you can't.

It's not "misinformation" or

It's not "misinformation" or "misrepresentation", it is accurate, up to date, necessary information which will effect any number of women trying to access the services at VRR(c)WS.

Some of you VRR(c)WS supporters seem to be under the misaprehension that this action is ALL the people involved are doing, and you are simply wrong about that. It is but one tactic. No one was "attacking" you, no one was "fighting women in the streets", and there was no "disruption", simply handing out pamphlets about the reality and alternative resources, as well as dangerous anti-feminist messages like "End violence against all women". Supporting the patriarchy indeed.


But anonymass, the analyisis and information in the pamphlet and this blog is misinformation and misrepresentation. I hear that this is all an analysis of the people doing the action, to be sure, but that analysis is based on wrong information. See my post above.

After so many years of listening to people come up with reasons to be pissed with Rape Relief, this is all old news. Men still keep on raping and beating women and the women at Rape Relief keep on responding heading on to 40 years now. So hand out your pamphlets. You're not going to stop the movement. Thousands of women have volunteered and worked there. You are not speaking about 5 of the same women here. Your are talking thousands. And you are talking about your friends and neighbours and classmates and your nurse and your waitress and your employment counsellor and your lawyer and your local citizen journalist and your roller derby girl and your food blogger and your local punk musician and women who have worked hard to sustain women's movement and create art and engage in community. I say if you want dialogue and change, get some respect.

As I said before, Rape Relief is not a monolith, is not Borg; it is an ever changing collective and women stay for 4 months or many years. To say for an example that "Rape Relief is transphobic" without an actual example besides the legal case is to be so silly as to be dismissable. It is more than 15 years later. Where is the much needed transition house organized by trans people and their so called supporters to provide safe space for healing and recovery? I know for a fact that a transition house with this mandate would get funded: Speak to Janice Abbot or Angela McDougall, they'll make it happen if you need support. Trans people have faught hard for their legal rights and if a project such as this was proposed at any time in the last 10 years or more ago the funding would have come. To say that Rape Relief does not support sex workers because they disagree with you about what the state is responsible for in relation to women is also to pretend that you don't know that thousands of women by now have been supported through violence. Why the heck do you think they take the position they do? To be amused and self congratulatory? No, it is because the women who called Rape Relief informed that opinion and resulting action. I don't even get why the point about women who are dealing with addiction, that point isn't explained very well. Is it because of the critical analysis of the harm reduction model ? It certainly can't be because Rape Relief regularly provides support to through crisis calls, transition housing, referrals, bus tickets to AA and NA meetings or the Avalon Women's Centre or a drive out to the women's treatment centres in the Valley or help to get a bus ticket back to family or anything like that?

The women in this city deserve better. 3 women 'letting people know" how awful Rape Relief is in a park while hundreds of thousands protest actual government repression on the other side of the country kind of puts this in perspective.

The anti choicers are gearing up to re-write herstory and trample on "cis-gendered" women's hard won legal right to abortion in thus country - are you going to show up at the SFU Students for Choice meeting Tuesday night in order to strategize to keep abortion legal? I do mean abortion, not body sovereignty here. People who can get pregnant are under attack by the state in this country so I do mean abortion and reproduction. I bloody well hope you all show up. Do you know the number of the anti-choice bill which is set to go before Parlaiment in Ottawa? Have you called on your MP to stop it? Are you prepared to get arrested for the women who will die again if these assholes manage to pass this ferkin' law?

Are you fighting the racist immgration laws that are getting passed, have you called the Prisoner's Rights groups to find out what to do to about the prisons that are going to be built and what to do about supporting people inside right now? Have you showed up at the anti- Enbridge rallies or at the Musque'um rallies in South Van or written letters to Vancity if you are members to tell them you expect them to divest of Oil Sands stocks? I hope so. I really do.

You know, I've not said this out loud, ever in a public forum, but I am going to say it now. The people that continue to attack Rape Relief members or women who are thought to agree with them on one topic or another are bullies. Out and out bullies. I know former members who have been shunned publicly in the manner of high school bullies in public places and no one stopped it from happening. I have had conversations with women who are veteran organizers who say that they agree with Rape Relief positions but are afraid to say so because of how they will be treated in public, in their activist circles. They see the shaming tactics and they will not subject themselves to it. Do you know how hard it is to be a lesbian in this atmosphere? There is no space for lesbians to speak of our experience as lesbians any more; when we approach organizations they insist we cannot have a lesbian only space that does not include trans people for fear of reprisal and this is the only reason given. Why do trans rights trump lesbian rights? Where is the solidarity with dykes who cannot be in the same space as men, because of issues of safety and aftermath of years incest? Why do butch dykes have to weather attacks calling them transphobic because they choose not to transition? I have seen this happen to a butch dyke as she tried to hold her ground in what should have been safe space for her to do so. I have supported friends who stopped transitioning through the shunning and attacks when they stopped taking T. This happens ALL THE TIME. But if lesbians say one word about it, they are immediately labelled transphobic and basically told to shut the f-up. I am not even going to touch on what happens to lesbians struggling with addictions or lesbians who are sex workers/prostituted in this equation. Suffice to say this: the queer community doesn't need cops to police us, there are self appointented queer coppers a-plenty to keep the cis gendered females, straight and dyke alike, in the kitchen, wearing high heels, making sammiches. Ya, I said that.

Sticks and stones women. It is time to stop it. Let's get organizing. There is a thing, called heteropatriarchy, or "THE MAN" and it needs a good smashing right about now. 

if you can't abide by anything else, please ignore the typos.

If anything I hope people can

If anything I hope people can learn a thing or two from your facts because they are air-tight.

But you are transphobic though...

You imply cisgender women are the only people who can get pregnant, that they are the only ones with that hard won legal right. That's wrong and transphobic. (Also, why did you add that dash and that -ed suffix and all that to cisgender, that's something that anti-trans people do that is really confusing to me...)

You explicitly state that "lesbian" and "transgender" are mutually exclusive. Obviously wrong, obviously transphobic. Gee, why would a trans lesbian want to go to a lesbian women's group, I wonder, maybe to meet other lesbians. And why is it wrong to exclude her? Because cisgender people have privilege over transgender people and it is discrimination to exclude someone based on their trans status. (Also, this "no trans women" rule would most likely be policed based on the percieved attractiveness of said trans woman, or how much she passes for cis. Are you making it a rule that people need to state they are cis or are you just going be able to tell based on how OBVIOUSLY MANNISH someone is??)

Listen, I'll be the first to admit that there are douchebag trans people, and those douchebags that tried to force your friends to transition are hella bad people. But are you really defending a transphobic action by saying "Well some people in your marginalized group are mean too!"? Really? Also the "there are bigger things to worry about"? That's such a classic derail though. Obviously people can care about more than one cause at the same time, I'm sure you've had to make this argument yourself before, surely?

Why are you arguing so much that trans people should have their own organizations when they can be easily fit into this one? It's confusing. Oh, or is it because you're a bigot?

I'm going to give you a direct quote from VRR's website, from their page titled "Who gets to be a Woman?": 

"Some people are convinced they can only be fulfilled if they have a leg amputated. But most of us believe that amputating their legs is unethical. Maybe some day we'll think the same way about the people who encouraged Ms. Nixon to amputate her penis. We can castrate her and shave her Adam's apple. We can give her electrolysis and hormone injections and breast implants. But one thing we cannot do is change her Y chromosome into an X -- no matter what the Human Rights Commission says."

Oh yeah, I totally see your point now about this organization being supportive of trans people, yeah.

Slow down and read what is written.

I said "People who can get pregnant" and called on the activists here to respond to the evil fuckers trying to make abortion illegal. That is not transphobic. That is a call to action, which is fairly urgent and necessary. Have you bothered to investigate?

Separatist spaces are useful for oppressed groups in their organizing, getting clear, staying focused. Not everywhere or all the time. This is true for race class and gender. So yes, I would say that if there is an identified need for space and time to work together, provide solace, organize, people should do that. And people do not easily fit into any organization, particularly political and/or helping organizations. That is naiive to in the extreme. There are groups that I respect but would never work with, because of ideological differences or because of political practise. People make choices and align themselves to other people, groups, causes for many different reasons. For instance, many people have to attend several different AA meetings before they find a group culture that suits them and supports them in their sobriety and recovery goals. Same thing with transition houses and rape crisis centres. Someone might want to go to a transition house run by Christians, such as one run by the Salvation Army, in order to have their faith acknowledged and supported as part of their escape strategy. This would not be my preference as I don't believe in God, and as a lesbian, and knowing national Salvation Army policy is pretty blantanly homophobic, it would not be a safe space for me, but I'll support the existance of that shelter. Do I think that faith has much to do with ending violence against women? No. As a feminist do I need to consider  multiple strategies about how to convince men to stop? Yes. Do I need to interfere with the power of the Churches? Yes. Are lots of Christian men violent? Yes. So I need to be complicated in my strategies and look for new and interesting ways to both respond and provide safe space and also work to end the violence. I am arguing tactics for social change.

I do believe that lesbians have been oppressed and silenced in the last ten years. I have watched countless dykes stand beside their trans friends and have those same friends turn around and insist that trans trumps lesbian. I am not making this shit up. It is not just a few badly behaved people. It is ingrained into queer culture, period. Lesbians who love trans people must give up their lesbian identity and if they cannot or will not then we are called transphobic, that we are shallow and disprespectful, that we could not really have loved our partner. That is an oversimplification, I know, I know. It is not true of every relationship. But it is what is culturally expected. And here's something: I bled, huge, angry, nonstop uterine lining clots for a year. A year. I had to listen to a gyno tell me to take birth control for the first time in my life as my only option. My lesbianism was dismissed in this process. My straight friends were all, whatev, but my dyke friends GOT THAT. I was planning HRT free menopause, now I am screwed. This is a uniquely lesbian expeience and there is no safe lesbian space for me to talk about it. Many, many lesbians reject hormone replacement therapy and this would of course be a hot trigger button in a group where people are taking hormones in order to be who they are. I disagree with the medical model about a whole load of things and I am not transphobic because I held those positions before trans people embraced them as part of their journey and struggle. I know that all people with uteruses must deal with the stupid medical system, but I wanted and needed lesbian space to mourn the lossed for my body. That is legit and should be honoured. I don't get to have it because orgnaizations are so afraid of hurting trans people's feelings that they are willing to neglect the needs of lesbians, and it is often other lesbians making that decision! TRUE FACT that. So yes, I am making a distinction for lesbian and trans spaces. Dyke March, other events, I am all about everyone all together.

A lesbian group where we get to meet each other for socical purposes whould of course be trans inclusive. I was talking politics not lesbian vegan/pork fest pot luck. Geesh. And please, I know that even the best of us can be shallow, but I am  not going to be a jerk to someone based on attractiveness. That would be called being a bully. As most dykes I know have been bullied in their lives, a group of dykes getting together to socialize are the least likely to do that to someone. I didn't say that 'hawtness' was a criteria.  And calling dykes on rejecting someone for thier "mannishness" is kind of funny. I'm a femme, honey. Bring it on.

If I am making a mistake in how I spell cis-gendered, dont assume I am being a jerk. Adding a (c) in VRRWS is pretty jerky but I didn't call anyone on that, Consider that there are always opportunities for discussion and teaching. How am I supposed to spell it? Why the distinction anyway? Let me know so I can figure out how to get beside you and conduct the alliance. I can't do that if all I get is assumptions of guilt and bigotry.

Here is some learnin' for you: "Douchebags" is an inherently sexist term, much like mother fucker. I wish everyone would stop using it. The leavings of vaginas are not comparable to filthy horrible dastardly people who do and say bad things. Please pass along to your friends, internet flaming wars, youtube and facebook commentaries, activist meetings and general hipster gatherings that the prevelance of the use of the term is offensive should be interfered with at all times.  

You specify "The anti

You specify "The anti choicers are gearing up to re-write herstory and trample on "cis-gendered" women's hard won legal right to abortion in thus country".  Later on you say "people who can get pregnant", after you have already clarified that you are talking about cisgender women. If this was a mistake I am willing to accept an apology, as someone who is not cisgender nor a woman and has had major difficult accessing pregnancy related services.

If you are willing to listen, I'd like to address your need to put the word cisgender in scare quotes anyway.  You realize this implies you think that it is not a valid word/concept.  It imples that you see the two options as "transgender" and "regular". This may not be what you meant, but it is the message you got accross to everyone by saying "cisgender" woman. (There is no -ed at the end of this word because it is not a verb [ex: "gayed man", "lesbianed woman", "Asianed person"] and a dash is not necessary because it is one word[ex: trans-form, dis-cover, hetero-sexual])

I notice you saying that you don't oppose The Salvation Army even though they are homophobic.  But you don't deny they are homophobic.  Your argument doesn't work in this situation because you are trying to argue the VRR is NOT transphobic.  Whereas this argument you are making would say: "Yes, VRR is transphobic, but you shouldn't care".

This situation is not comparable to an Original People's space denying access to non-indigenous people, this would be comparable to an Original People's resource saying "No gays, indigenous or not".  Denying men's access and denying trans women's access are not equivilent.

What I was trying to portray with arguing about percieved attractiveness of trans women is that in cis lesbian spaces passing as cis often is often is a requirement of attractiveness.  And if someone passes as cis to the group they would not be cast out because ~no one would know~.

And in re: "douchebag", I have actually embraced this term as one of the few (EDIT: NON-)opressive insults. (EDIT: Gee, I hope everyone wasn't thinking I was being a jerk on purpose there. Embracing an oppressive insult! What a slip!) I suppose that "douchebag" and "douche" are probably not eqivilent, I will use the latter. Pick your definition: 1) A douche is something that is bad for people with vaginas, unhealthy. Douches should stay away from vaginas at all times. 2) Whenever I have used a douche in real life there has been poop invovled. And stuff that touches poop is generally good for insults. This isn't a very clearly written definition but, you know.

"They do nothing that threatens support for trans women" ..

Really ? Well I guess then it is just a misunderstanding that on the VRR website there is an excerpt from a book by Sheila Jeffreys (found here) where she states, among other things, that "classifying transsexualism as a human rights violation would be a step towards making surgery illegal".  Sheila Jeffreys is notorious for her hateful attacks on the right of trans people to even exist.  Having her on the website while claiming no animosity towards the trans community is like someone linking to the writings of a white supremacist and then trying to deny they are racist.  

Grasping at straws?

Comparing Sheila Jeffreys to a white supremacist is completely insane. She is a renowned academic and respected feminist activist who has contributed an incredible amount of valuable work to feminist theory and to the movement. Simply including her name or a link to her work on a site is not equate to a display of animosity towards the trans community. 

While there are numerous and constant "hateful" attacks on Sheila Jeffreys (including death threats) - her critiques of transgenderism do not equate to the same. 

The reason why people decided to start accusing VRR of transphobia in the first place is because of the Nixon case - which is misunderstood and misrepresented over and over again as an example of "transphobia". Now this is being used as an excuse for silly "interventions" on their fundraising efforts. It's all based on exaggerations - people inventing reasons to attack and slander. Don't you have anything better to do with your time than to try to take down a rape crisis centre? Why not try to, as others have mentioned, work to create a support centre for trans people who are victims of assault and abuse? Wouldn't that be useful? 

If the only way to get your points across is through gross exaggeration and pointing to links *gasp*, it's a sign there are a few holes in your argument. 

VRR spends zero time harrassing and attacking the trans community, and yet there are many who put an unreasonable amount of time into attacking them. Shall we accuse you of having some kind of feminist-phobia, perhaps a woman-phobia? Of course not.  VRR has better things to do than bother with this kind of silliness. Put your efforts somewhere else. Those with real power, with dangerous power, those who gain from oppressive systems and work to uphold them are laughing right now. 

Again - seriously, seriously misguided.

Actually, a person can be a

Actually, a person can be a renowned academic and respected feminist activist and still be transphobic.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Sheila Jeffreys would happily deny trans people control over their own bodies.  If that isn't transphobic, I don't know what is. If VRR truly wishes dialogue with the trans community,  then a good place to start is by removing hate speech from their website, instead of trying to defend it.


You never say how - in what specific ways - and why - something is transphobic and hateful. You just fling the accusation as here, at Sheila Jeffreys who is making an argument in the direction of protecting trans people, not hating them. We all agree that trans people have rights and entitlements. Just exactly what those are and in what circumstances they are to be defined is a matter of negotiation with other communities with possibly conflicting rights. This is nothing different than what happens in women's and feminist communities when the varied characteristics of the community with respect to race, class, ability, sexual orientation and etc must be considered. We do that well and less well but we do the work. You refuse to do the work at any level. But then I'm a transphobe so what do I know. What I would say is that those in the trans community whom you represent, if indeed you do represent them, would benefit from making alliances rather than making them impossible.

  "Some people are convinced


"Some people are convinced they can only be fulfilled if they have a leg amputated. But most of us believe that amputating their legs is unethical. Maybe some day we'll think the same way about the people who encouraged Ms. Nixon to amputate her penis.

We can castrate her and shave her Adam's apple. We can give her electrolysis and hormone injections and breast implants. But one thing we cannot do is change her Y chromosome into an X -- no matter what the Human Rights Commission says." - Who Gets to be a Woman?

"Transgendered women were once men; if not psychologically, then socially and biologically. That is the reason they are not simply called "women"." - Speak out: A necessary Exclusion

"The BC Human Rights Code does not include discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and so we think that the complaint should not have been referred to a hearing... We support the inclusion of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, but that can be achieved without requiring women-only organizations to pay the cost of being legally obliged to accept men or any individual who claims to be a woman. Thus, we don't agree that the prohibition of sex discrimination in the Code requires that people who identify as women must be treated as women for all purposes." - Feminists Protect the Idea of a Woman-only Space

How do we form an alliance with a group like this?????

RapeRelief participates in cycles of violence against trans ppl


Protecting some women from sexual violence should not be at the expense of other women's vulnerabilities to violence.

I have a million better things to do than pay a second of attention to RapeRelief’s nonsense. The only reason RapeRelief gets away with what it does is because it provides emergency services to extremely vulnerable people. In that way, RapeRelief uses the services it provides as a shield against criticism from the wider community and as a justification for it’s backwards and archaic ideas of feminism. But RapeRelief consistently pulls this kind of sh*t on people, their transphobia is not a thing of the past, it is re-affirmed at almost every event where transpeople and allies attend.  

In addition to going to great lengths to prevent trans people from working within RapeRelief, and excluding trans people from accessing their services, RapeRelief’s anti-trans policies perpetuate violence against trans people. Their argument goes, "born women are not necessarily going to feel safe with a born man/trans woman supporting them after having been raped or battered by a man. It’s a matter of allowing women to feel to safe."

Thus the extension of that argument can go many ways, one of them is that transphobic people should not be forced to face their ignorance and prejudice about transgendered people in a state of trauma and vulnerability.

RapeReleif's arguemnts go: "Vulnerable women either will be afraid of transwomen, becasue they are really men." or, "Vulnerable women who are prejudiced against trans people won't want service from a transwoman, because they are repulsed by trans people and they shouldn't have to be forced to confront their transphobia when they themselves are in a traumatic situation."

Thus transgendered people do not deserve the same level of safety as ‘born women.’ Because transphobic ‘born women’ are allowed by RapeRelief to walk back into the world with all their hatred and ignorance of transgendered people intact. Thus continuing the vulnerabilities to violence transgendered people face.

RapeRelief prioritizes the safety of 'born women' to the detriment of transwomen, that's pretty blatently transphobic to me.

So, when faced with that kind of severity, I feel like I can take a moment away from my morning TED lecture and speak out against RapeRelief, despite that they may provide necessary services. But just because they provide necessary services doesn’t mean they are immune to criticism, for example, the government provides sewers and roads and garbage collection, so should we not be allowed to criticize them for imprisoning poor people, making war on innocent people, and destroying the environment?

[*just a note, i am using RapeRelief's style of language around transgender, not my own words]

Many, Many, Many People are critical of RapeRelief


...and support the intervention at RapeRelief's walk, have had their own nasty interactions with RapeReleif over the years, and have intelligent thoughtful critiques of RapeRelief ... including this one about their position on sexwork and RapeRelief's participation in the INTERVENTION against the Ontario Supreme court case challenging the laws around prostitution in effort to completely decriminalize sex workers.

There is an article on RapeRelief’s website about how sex workers’ clients and pimps should be criminalized, not the ‘prostituted women’ [sic]. This is their overall stand on the laws around sexwork, problematic from almost every angle, including infantalizing women, defining sexwork and sexual exploitation as a women’s issue to the exclusion of men and trans people, and equating clients with pimps. A quote from Rape Relief’s at beginning of this article about their ‘criminalize the men’ stance: 

"Prostitution is a form of violence against women. Let's not forget that it is usually the poorest, most racialized women who are prostituted. Moreover, most women are introduced to the trade as girls. Consequently, we see no possibility for prostitution to be consensual or safe, so long as men are entitled to women's bodies on demand."

--this is outlandish, it's factually wrong and morally ridiculous, misleading and manipulative. this is basically what RapeRelief is about. Sensationalized screaming in your face no matter how much research and community input processes you put in front of them, all they have to say is prostitution is paid rape... no matter what. The suggestion that criminalizing sex worker's clients is not going to increase harms and vulnerabilities against sexworkers is just stupid. 

RapeRelief does not believe that choice is subjective for sex workers, or that sex workers have any self determination at all. They believe that prostitution is innately a form of violence against women, so no matter what level of agency any woman exercises, she will always be the subject of male exploitation. There's no room for the complexities of choice in that argument.

Further, the abolitionist argument homgenizes the entire vast and diverse field of sexwork by insisting that prostitution only exists in a hetero normative world. For example, what about gay men sexorkers and their gay male clients, is that inherently violence against women? What about dominitrixes? Are men committing violence against women by paying them to kick them the balls?

Abolitionists' refusal to frame sexwork as a diverse field filled with multiplicities of experience, by default, makes them inherently unqualified to offer well grounded and holistic solutions to problems and challenges sexworkers face. They may be qualified to represent the sexworkers and sexually exploited women and girls who share the same view and fit into their experiential framework, but the field of sexwork exists in a much broader scope. And abolitionists in no way represent all sexually exploited women and girls. And that's where RapeReleif fails to support sexworkers and serves to undermine the movement for sexworkers rights as a whole. When abolitionists define sexwork as inherently violence against women, they are usurping and undermining the voice of women who don't share this view and further this assertion excludes queer voices, by framing sexwork as a straight heterosexual problem.

A couple brief quotes from the  The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution court submissions: the first demonstrates the pervasive abolitionist view of sexwork in a hetero-normative framework, leaving no room in their argument for gay male and transgendered sexworkers, thus their conceptualization of the nature of prostitution, and the culture and laws around it will always be short sighted and poorly informed.

"…prostitution is a deeply gendered practice. Most of the people being prostituted in canada are women and girls. Most pimps and almost all buyers are men." 

Secondly, there are a number of quotes that clearly demonstrate that abolitionists do not believe that choice is subjective, but that all women who engage in any kind of exchange of sexual activity for money or other items/services are inherently exploited and subjects to violence. 

“…the buying and selling of women's bodies in prostitution is a global practice of sexual exploitation and male violence against women that normalizes the subordination of women in a sexualized form."

"...prostitution itself is harmful to women...”

And thirdly, that the state –as a colonialist patriarchal institution-- has a right, and further an obligation, to determine and regulate the nature of relationships that women choose to enter into with our own bodies –for our own good!!

“…the women’s Coalition further submits that were there to be an absence of laws constraining these behaviours, this would itself constitute a breach of women’s s.7 rights because it would represent an abdication by the state of its obligations to suppress the exploitation of women through prostitution, and a failure to ensure that the criminal law creates equal conditions of security for women and men.”

Who do you think you are talking to?

Who do you think you're talking to, bineshil? We are all abolitionists... We understand the reasons for and complexities of the feminist position and critique of prostitution. Prostitution IS a deeply gendered practice and we are all in full support of The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution and their intervention in the attempt to leagalize brothels and further marginalize abused, poor, and vulnerable women who are working the streets. VRR and all abolitionists advocate for the decriminalization of prostituted women. The "hetero-normative framework" you criticize was not invented by VRR, but rather by patriarchy - the very same system of power which created and perpetuates an unequal system under which women are made exploitable and are made to believe they exist as sex objects - as bodies which exist to provide pleasure for men. VRR CRITICIZES this system. The sex industry does not. Please don't try to explain our own ideology back to us - particularly in the warped way that you have framed it. 

well, since you asked...

...who do i think i'm talking to?

I write for people who enjoy reading well formed and researched analysis about important issues that effect myself and people I care about. I specialize in critiquing bogus theories and flawed practices of activist and community organizers. Mostly, though I find my astute assessments are lost on the subjects of my critique, but I do find it valuable to bolster and support the people who are out there developing and implementing innovative and effective ideas and strategies to improving people's lives --people who often get dumped on by the ones who are attached to outdated and outmoded methods and ideologies.

It seemed as though you were

It seemed as though you were responding to commenters. If only your analysis was "well formed and researched" and didn't assume that no one had ever heard of the feminist critique of the sex industry and abolition so that you could quickly misinform them before they had a chance to figure it out for themselves. 


I really have no idea what you are trying to say here.


The warpology is phenomenal and frustrating. I was just talking to a friend from Vancouver who is visiting me here in Toronto. I mentioned that there was this issue happening over VRR. She knows little about all of it but she said "oh and VRR is the place that excludes trans people from support services, right?" So yes, this kind of deliberate misrepresentation does enormous damage to the feminist community and to women who might need VRR's services but who do want to support trans people. We can't have the discussions and debates we really do need to have under these circumstances and that is simply a disaster for everyone.

a little quiz...


just to clear the air on all this misguided, ignorant critique of RapeRelief

so transgendered people are --without question or hesitation- completely welcome to access RapeReleif's crisis line, support workers and shelter?

so transgendered people are --without question or hesitation- completely welcome to work or volunteer in all aspects of RapeReleif's organization?

so transgendered people are --without question or hesitation- offered support for overcoming challenges and barriers in both working/volunteering for or accessing RapeRelief's services?

and Raperelief participates in transpositive public education and support for ending transphobia and violence against transpeople?

and RapeRelief provides a welcoming and supportive -safe- environment for transpeople at their public events?


...i'm willing to stand corrected if the answers to these questions are true.

You can't be serious. So it's

You can't be serious. So it's not the fact that VRR(c)WS refuses to provide services to trans women (that is a FACT, I'm entirely unsure how it could possibly be conceived of as a "misrepresentation"), but that there is discussion about that fact which is somehow doing damage to the feminist community. Warpology indeed.

And no one here or elsewhere is saying VRR(c)WS shouldn't be doing the work they are doing, that it isn't necessary, or that the cis women who seek and are able to access those resources are somehow at fault. How entirely sick of you to put that on those women. It's not the cis women seeking services who are to blame, but VRR(c)WS for continuaing to refuse to acknowledge that there is a serious problem with refusing to allow other perspectives, other information, to circulate, yes, even at one of their walks, among other things.

No, we can't have discussions which need to happen in an environment where certain women are told they're not women, not worthy of support, not worthy of alliance, that their experiences are somehow invalid, less than. That VRR(c)WS then turns around and calls their exclusion of certain women somehow "liberatory", "radical", and somehow in the best interests of women is a joke. At least be honest about it: when you say "women" you mean "cis women to the specific exclusion of trans women". After 30 years, a little honesty on your part could go a long way to creating dialogue or just leaving each other the fuck alone (something which VRR(c)WS and its supporters refuse to do, contrary to the "we're not interfering in your rights" line.


So tired of this conversation, because it's never going anywhere so long as you believe and behave as though trans women aren't women.

Interview with Lee Lakeman on the Nixon Case

In this interview at The F-Word Media collective with Lee Lakeman, she clarified some of these points:


Rape Relief v. Nixon, transphobia, and the value of women-only space: An interview with Lee Lakeman

Although the Nixon v. Rape Relief case was settled back in 2007, with a dismissal of Kimberly Nixon’s request to appeal the B.C. Court of Appeals decision (that decision being that “Vancouver Rape Relief has the right to prefer to train women who have never been treated as anything but female”), the case continues to be a source of controversy. In an effort to address misinformation, accusations of “transphobia”, and to give Lee Lakeman the opportunity to respond to some points that came up in an interview The F Word’s Nicole Deagan did with Susan Stryker, I spoke with her over the phone last week. Here is the transcript of that interview.


Meghan Murphy: Can you give me some background on this case?

Lee Lakeman: It must be 15 years ago now…What happened is that a male-to-female transsexual, although we didn’t know whether Nixon was a transsexual right away, arrived at a training group — that’s a pretty easy thing to do because Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter has a pretty open policy about who can train; we have three screening questions that are kind of the bottom line – if you get past the first three screening questions which essentially show that you’re willing to learn, then you’re welcome into the training group. But at that point, and this is many years ago, it was fairly obvious to everybody that it was women-only.

So when this person appeared in training group (I wasn’t there) – the three women who were on duty identified this person as either not living as a woman or not always having lived as a woman. One of them took Nixon aside and asked politely “How long have you been living as a woman?” and then explained to Nixon that we had a commonly held belief that women are born into oppressive circumstances and shaped every day of their lives from the day that they are born by being labeled girls and women and therefore treated as girls and women and that that’s the experience we use all the time to talk to rape victims and assaulted women when they come forward. That’s the common ground that we use to establish a peer relationship with them.

So what the women explained to Nixon was that Nixon didn’t have those experiences and therefore would not be invited into the training group. The next day, Nixon went to B.C. Human Rights and complained of being mistreated.

MM: As you know, some people, as a result of this specific case have accused Vancouver Rape Relief of being what they call “transphobic”. Can you respond to that?

LL: I’d say it’s an easy and a silly accusation really. Rape Relief has been part of calls for human rights legislation that would protect transsexual and transgender people and would have been happy to make common cause with Nixon about other things that had happened. For instance Nixon says there was once a job as a pilot that Nixon lost — I can’t remember exactly why it was dropped but it certainly had to do with transsexual rights and you know, we would have been willing to support that fight and there were other fights about housing, jobs — basic things that we would be willing to fight for. What we weren’t willing to do was to say that our group has to change it’s membership criteria.

MM: And I know that a lot of people seem to have confused the Nixon case with the idea that women’s shelters would refuse to help trans women who had been raped – what are your thoughts on that? Are those issues related?

LL: No they aren’t related. It was clearly argued in court that we did take calls, we had taken calls, and that we referred whenever we could to appropriate services and we sometimes had directly helped and so that was not an issue in the case. One of the elements that people don’t know is that Rape Relief operates as a collective, so women who come forward to help are intending to join the collective and to be a clear part of the decision-making once they’re in the collective and that’s what was at stake in this situation.

MM: Along those lines, Susan Stryker, in her interview with my co-host, Nicole Deagan, said in reference to the Nixon case that she is “not a fan of separatist spaces” so I’m wondering if you can comment on that and comment on the value of women-only spaces? Is women-only space important, particularly within the context of Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter?

LL: Yes, it’s critically important. I mean, not everyone needs to be a fan of separatist spaces and you don’t need separatist spaces to do everything or every kind of revolting but you do need to do separatist organizing if you want to fight back as a group of Aboriginal people, for example, which this law has affected; f you want to fight back as a group of women, you need, at some point, to say “men can’t join the group” and you need to, at some point, say – “even though sex and gender may be on a continuum, where are you marking the line on the continuum for who’s in your group?” You still, at some point, have to decide where is the boundary around your group and the group that you’re trying to work for or work with.

MM: My understanding is that what this case was about was about Rape Relief being able to define their own membership. So when you say this law affects Aboriginal people, is that what you mean?

LL: Since our case, there have been other cases in which Aboriginal people used the arguments that we built in court to defend their right to be only Aboriginals in their group. It’s very important. If you believe that class and race and gender are key categories of struggle in our society then you have to, at some point ask yourself – are working class people allowed to exclude the rich from their group when they want to talk to each other about what the strategies should be and how they should move forward? Are racialized people allowed to have a group of their own? In Canadian law there is permission for such things and the law says, yes, it is discriminatory in the sense of the total, literal use of the word; yes, you are deciding who is going to be in your group and you are allowed to say – my group is not for all Aboriginal people – it’s only for the people in this band or it’s only for the people involved in this issue…You’re allowed to do that and you’re certainly allowed to say: “we don’t want white people in our group, we don’t want men in our group or we’re not fighting primarily for people in any other place on this continuum – we’re fighting for this group and because we’re fighting for this disadvantaged, already named disadvantaged group, we’re allowed to make those decisions.”

MM: My understanding is that there are other places where men and in this case, transgender people could volunteer at Rape Relief, just not in this specific capacity that Kimberly Nixon wanted to? Is that right?

LL: We have had, for a long time, a mixed group that operates technically outside of Rape Relief but it’s still a committee of ours that raises money and works as a mixed group in support of Rape Relief. But within the shelter, within the rape crisis line, within our building, it’s women-only and it’s women-only for a reason. We did not want battered women who come to the front door to have to confront this issue and decide – because they would have to decide –“Is this person a danger to me?” “Is this person in drag?” “Is this person real?” – and that’s exactly what they would have been facing.

MM: And finally, another comment made by Susan Stryker that I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to — she questioned why Vancouver Rape Relief wouldn’t just let someone volunteer who wanted to volunteer and asked why Rape Relief “cared more about expressing their transgender politics than they did about the potential affect that it could have on the reduction of services to other people.” So I think that’s implying that Rape Relief chose to go to court and fight this and that could potentially take away from services?

LL: Well there’s two key points. We didn’t choose to go to court, we were taken to court by the human rights complaint. We, in fact, tried to settle out of court, tried to offer alternatives to Nixon, including regrets for Nixon’s hurt feelings, we tried fairly hard to stay out of a legal battle because it didn’t seem to us that either transsexual rights or women’s rights were going advanced by asking the court, “the man”, to decide it. So that’s the first thing – it was not our call…It was definitely not our call. But having been dragged into it, we had no alternative but to defend ourselves because it does matter to us that we had built a service and a self-organized collective in which we’re entitled to make those decisions and we did not have to fold up because somebody had a different idea.

MM: Thank you so much for talking with me about this. I’m wondering if there’s anything else that you’d like to add.

LL: I guess I want to say that all this material is written down. If you go to the Rape Relief website, you can see the things that were argued in court, the newspaper clippings, the press releases that we did — it’s hard for me to remember the point-by-points, it’s so long ago now but there are also many things written intelligently and comprehensively in the Feminist Law Journal and in the Canadian Women’s Studies journal." 

And so it goes, on and on,

And so it goes, on and on, the same arguments over and over. This interview clears nothing up, articulates nothing new.

A link to the pamphlet has

A link to the pamphlet has been added to the third paragraph of the article, for those interested in what was distributed at the march.


I'm admittedly pretty clueless towards all this but a glaring part of the problem seems to be the authoritarian stance taken by some of the VRR defenders.

They're way too comfortable trying to banish any critcism from their presence.


... that's a red-flag in my books.


Criticism is fine. But

Criticism is fine. But portraying the walkers as using "scare tactics" and trying to "intervene" in a fundraising walk is stupid. This post frames the whole thing in a "VRR is our enemy" kind of way. THAT is the problem. VRR takes no such position with the trans community. 

You must not have access to

You must not have access to the same information I have access to then, because VRR(c)WS has been exceedingly clear on their disdain of trans people. It's amazing what people refuse to see because it has no meaning in their own lives.

No, no. I have all the

No, no. I have all the information. All the information is on Rape Relief's website for all to see. 

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