An Inclusive Litany

2/22/01

In Vancouver, transsexual Kimberly Nixon filed a human rights complaint against a female-only rape counseling group after it rejected her as a volunteer counselor because she had once been a man. Supported by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, Nixon seeks $10,000 in damages and an order for the group to offer transsexual sensitivity training.

The Vancouver Rape Relief Society argued that in the absence of a statutory definition of a woman, the group had the right to use its own "political understanding" of womanhood. Since its founding in 1973, the group has excluded not only men as members, but also women who are either opposed to abortion or "not dedicated to pursuing equality." It did not ban transsexuals until Nixon tried to apply in 1995.

Rape Relief argued that while Nixon had managed to change her biological sex through surgery, she could not change her "life experience" of having been a man for 29 years, which might cause discomfort among rape victims. Furthermore, the group believes that "women's oppression is a social order in which men by birth rule women."

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