A rape crisis center that supports “transsexual rights” finds itself in a dilemma after suffering a record fine for rejecting a male-to-female transsexual who wanted to volunteer with the women’s group.
Vancouver Rape Relief of British Columbia, Canada, insists it has the right to choose its own members, but also maintains it is not pitting itself against transsexuals, the Canadian Press reported.
Lawyer Barbara Findlay, left, with client Kimberly Nixon (Photo: Vancouver Sun)
Spokeswoman Suzanne Jay explained the group advocates for the rights of transsexuals but not at the expense of women’s rights, which it doesn’t believe are fully established yet, the national wire service said.
The group is appealing a 2001 order by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to pay damages of $7,500, Canadian, to Kimberly Nixon, who was turned away because she was not born a woman.
“This decision has opened the door for men to demand entry into women’s organizations,” Jay said, according to the Canadian Press.
In an appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeals, the group is arguing the tribunal failed to recognize counselors at a rape crisis center need to have the life experience of being treated as a girl and a woman.
Nixon did not have those experiences growing up, Jay contended.
“We are warned for a longer period of time to be aware of strangers, we worry about getting our first training bra and how it will look, we worry about getting our period,” she said, according to the news service.
“These are some of the range of physical and social experiences Kimberly Nixon hasn’t had in her lifetime,” Jay continued. “We draw on those to do our peer counseling and also to decide amongst ourselves what we want to organize for, or fight for on behalf of women as a group.”
The group also points out the B.C. Human Rights Code allows charitable groups to define their own membership.
Nixon’s lawyer, Barbara Findlay, interprets the exemption as the right to limit the group’s services to women but is not a license to discriminate, the Canadian Press reported.
“This is a very straightforward human rights case,” Findlay said. “They don’t like transsexuals, they want to keep them out.”
Nixon said she has become a volunteer-training facilitator at a similar group in Vancouver.
“I think Canada is a very exciting and more and more accepting place around diversity as a whole,” said Nixon, according to the news wire. “Eighty per cent of crisis centers around the province are opening their doors to transsexuals and establishing policies around inclusion. I hope that one day Rape Relief will take that position too.”
Nixon said the aim of joining the volunteer staff was not to become a counselor but to make the group’s services available to transsexuals.