In 2002, Nelson and District Women’s Centre was one of the first women’s centres in Canada to affirm the belonging of trans women, when the West Kootenay Women’s Association (WKWA) board of directors began including all “self-identified women.” This is part of our legacy as a progressive community. It is also a matter of human rights, enshrined in 2017 as part of Canada’s Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. Stripping away the inclusion of trans women would be not only unjust, but also illegal.
In 2019, the WKWA board was mandated to conduct a community engagement process around expanding services and membership to trans men, non-binary and two-spirit people. The inclusion of trans women in women’s spaces is a federally protected human right, and therefore beyond the scope of this consultation.
The inclusion of all marginalized genders has been an important question that has torn the Women’s Centre community apart over the last five years. COVID-19 created understandable delays on the community consultation promised for 2020. But as a member and former staff of the Women’s Centre, the complete lack of action or public timelines for this process makes me question if these board members are more concerned with the needs and hopes of the community, or with maintaining an exclusionary status quo.
I was alarmed by Donna Macdonald’s recent statements and the WKWA board’s refusal to affirm the inclusion of trans women. By taking a regressive stance on transgender inclusion and human rights, falling behind women’s centres across Canada, the Nelson Women’s Centre jeopardizes Nelson’s reputation as a progressive community.
I know many local trans people have watched this story unfold and lost their sense of safety in our community, through violence, harassment, and the questioning of their belonging. To the trans community, especially trans youth, know that so many of us are fighting to build a world where you are safe, supported, and celebrated.