Female-only Services

Due to the pandemic of male violence against women, many vulnerable women are in need of female-run support and recovery services.

There are two primary reasons why fully female staffed facilities are required:

  • Many women, after suffering male violence, become wary of all males, no matter how well-meaning or non-threatening they may be.
  • Muslim women, due to their religious tenets, are forbidden to live in a place with any unrelated males.

Male-to-Female Transsexuals, particularly part-way through their treatment or late-transitioners, may appear to other service-users as crossdressing males. Both wary victims and Muslim women may be discouraged in using the services if it appears that ‘males’ are also using these services.

Whilst we recognise that MTF transsexuals may suffer the same male violence, and often for very similiar reasons, and whom need the support services as well – this should not impact other service-users. The solution is for the Government to dramatically increase funding to Domestic Violence services and shelters to expand facilities to accomodate all service-users so that all users can utilise the facilities for their own needs without impacting others. Another alternative is to create Trans-run shelters and services specifically for Trans-persons, to cater for their unique needs.

It is not ‘transphobic’ to be concerned for women’s safety and well-being, in fact, that is our primary concern in this sector.

The number of UK Transsexuals/Transgender persons is estimated to be around 5,000, although we feel that to be an underestimate given some of the overly-broad definitions of “transgender”. The Transgender Recognition Panel is currently receiving 20-30 applications per month (240-360pa), and this cumulative volume will have long-term effects on already-stretched women’s services.

Vancouver Rape Relief vs Nixon

A 10-year legal battle occurred between Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR) and Kimberly Nixon, a post-operative male-to-female Transsexual. At the time Nixon had lived most of her life as a man, and was an airline pilot (still a male-dominated field). Nixon had used VRR’s services, and like many former service users, wanted to work for the organisation. Nixon was told that all volunteers must wait at least a year after counselling before being considered for the programme. There was also the additional situation that Nixon had been born and raised male, and would not relate to the majority of service users. Nixon persisted, and then made an official Human Rights Complaint.

VRR tried to make amends with Nixon, offering a position in Fund Raising (which would not affect FAAB counselling) as well as $500 compensation. Nixon rejected the offer, and a 10-year legal battle through the various courts ensued. The drain on VRR’s finances put the organisation in danger of closure, potentially affecting many thousands of rape and domestic violence service users.

Although the initial  judgement went for Nixon on the grounds that VRR had not proven its case of the importance of being raised female, all subsequent judgements went against Nixon.

Chronology of Events in Kimberly Nixon vs Vancouver Rape Relief Society

November 5, 1990
Kimberly Nixon had sexual reassignment surgery. Kimberly Nixon was 33 years old at the time of the surgery. Until that time, Ms Nixon had been brought up through a boyhood and lived as a man achieving success as an airline pilot.

May 1994
Kimberly Nixon completed eight months of weekly one-to-one counseling with a counselor at Battered Women’s Support Services. Following one-to-one counseling, Ms Nixon used the drop-in support group at Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) until May or June of 1995.

May or June 1995
Kimberly Nixon was told by BWSS workers that it was necessary for her own healing that she take a year off before applying for the Battered Women’s Support Services training program.

August 29, 1995
Kimberly Nixon arrived at a training group conducted by Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. She was rejected from the training program because she did not share the same life experiences as women born and raised as girls and into womenhood.

August 30, 1995
Kimberly Nixon made a formal Human Rights Complaint.

When Vancouver Rape Relief collective women were informed of the complaint the women were sorry to have offended Kimberly Nixon and quickly tried to make amends. The Rape Relief collective women offered a formal written apology, and suggested that Kimberly could support the rape crisis line and shelter work by joining a fundraising committee. The collective also offered to apologize in-person to Kimberly as well as offering $500 in acknowledgement of Kimberly’s hurt feelings. The Rape Relief women also requested mediation. Kimberly Nixon rejected these offers.

September/October, 1995
Kimberly Nixon returned to Battered Women’s Support services for counseling which concluded March 1996.

Fall 1996
Kimberly Nixon commenced the training program for volunteers at Battered Women’s Support Services. She left BWSS over a dispute regarding the role of transgendered women in the organization.

The Vancouver Rape Relief Collective initiated consultations with feminists across the country in the process of deciding what course of action to follow. The collective women searched for information and analysis to inform the decisions they took in defense of their actions.

December 11, 2000 – February 23, 2001
The case was heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

January 18 2002
The BC Human Right Tribunal released its decision that Vancouver Rape Relief acted on good faith and had been respectful in their treatment of Kimberly Nixon. However, the tribunal ruled that Vancouver Rape Relief had not proved that life experience as a girl and woman was a necessary pre-requisite to be a peer counselor to raped and battered women and ordered the payment of $7,500 to Kimberly Nixon for hurt feelings.

August 2003
The BC Supreme Court conducted a judicial review of the BC Human Rights Tribunal decision.

December 19, 2003
The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal, finding that the Tribunal had made an error: Vancouver Rape Relief had not discriminated against Kimberly Nixon and the group does have the right to freedom of association to organize as women only.

The court further declined to send the matter back to the Tribunal for a rehearing.

April, 2005
Nixon appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

December 7, 2005
The B.C. Court of Appeal held unanimously that Vancouver Rape Relief has the right to prefer to train women who have never been treated as anything but female.

The Chief Justice said: “The respondent Society was entitled to give preference to women who are not post-operative transsexuals, because there is a rational connection between the preference and the respondent’s work or purpose.”

February 1, 2007
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Kimberly Nixon’s request to appeal the B.C. Court of Appeals decision. The Supreme Court further awarded Vancouver Rape Relief with “costs”. Which as of June 2009, Kimberly Nixon has not paid back.


Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon 2005 BCCA 601 Summary of Decision
Saturday, January 1, 2005

In August 1995, Rape Relief excluded Kimberly Nixon, a post-operative male-to-female transsexual, from its training programme for volunteer peer counsellors because Kimberly Nixon had not been born and raised as a girl and woman, and she had experienced what it is like to have lived in the world as a man. Ms. Nixon initiated a complaint under the Human Rights Code alleging that Rape relief had discriminated against her in violation of the Human Rights Code.

In Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon 2005 BCCA 601, the Court of Appeal confirmed that Vancouver Rape Relief Society did not contravene the Human Rights Code when it excluded Kimberly Nixon. In so doing, the Court of Appeal held that Rape Relief is a group that is protected by section 41 of the Human Rights Code.

The Court of Appeal held that a group that is protected by section 41 can prefer a sub-group of those whose interests it was created to serve, provided that the group acts in good faith and provided there is a rational connection between the preference and the group’s work, or purpose.

The Human Rights Tribunal had previously ruled that Rape Relief’s decision to allow into the training programme only women who had been born and raised as girls and women was rationally connected to Rape Relief’s work of counselling women victims of sexual assault and fighting male violence and women’s inequality. The Tribunal also held that that Rape Relief’s decision was made in good faith. The Court of Appeal upheld those findings of the Tribunal.

Having found that Rape Relief’s decision was rationally connected to its goals and was made in good faith, the Court of Appeal held that Rape Relief’s decision did not contravene the Human Rights Code.