Vancouver city council has voted to cut public funding from Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre because they refuse to allow trans-identified males into spaces reserved for female victims. Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR), which was founded in 1973, was defunded because they were “supporting transphobia,” according to city council member Christine Boyle, who explained that she was voting to strip the organization of public funds because she could not support an organization that was not “inclusive” of transwomen and sex workers. Transgender advocates have long considered the non-profit group as a hub of bigotry towards transgender persons.
The rape crisis centre said in an statement online that they were the victims of discrimination masked as “inclusion” and said the city government was attempting to “coerce us to change our position” of barring males and only offering services to females. “Our services are available to all women who have experienced male violence. We provide assistance to women and girls in prostitution who have been assaulted by johns, pimps or men pressuring them into prostitution. We provide assistance to women who are currently being prostituted, women who are trying to escape prostitution, and women who have been trafficked into prostitution,” VRR explained.
“Being girls and women in this world often impacts on both how we look and how we act in private and in public; what we are allowed to do, encouraged to do and rewarded for; and also what we are discouraged from doing, or punished for.” “In the last few days we have received many messages of support and donations from around the world. We are encouraged and grateful for this support,” the group said in part. VRR has long maintained that forcing females, particularly those recovering from rape and other forms of male violence, to share intimate spaces with males, even if they present as female, is disrespectful of the victims and often serves to re-traumatize them.
The City of Vancouver funds represents only $33,972 of VRR’s over $1 million annual budget, the majority of which is provided by the Province of British Columbia. VRR said the city funds were used for programs which were “freely accessible and available to everyone,” including those who identify as transgender. “Rape Relief is strong enough and has enough supporters in the community to continue without the money,” VRR spokesperson Hilla Kerner said. Meghan Murphy, the Vancouver-based advocate for VRR’s work, said the city government’s action against them was “disgusting.” “We live in such a sad, confused time.”
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