A Canadian woman has come forward to reveal that she was removed from a transitional shelter after expressing concerns to management about gender ideology following two disturbing incidents within the residence.
Speaking exclusively with Reduxx, Jane* says she’d never given much thought to the gender identity issue prior to being moved into Peggy’s Place, a shelter for women in a suburban neighborhood of Vancouver, British Columbia which services women struggling with mental illness who have also been the victims of domestic violence.
“Before I arrived, I had never thought or cared much about gender identity,” she says, reflecting on the lead-up to her placement at the shelter. After escaping a situation of domestic violence and experiencing difficulties in access to urgent medical care, Jane says she was initially relieved when her social worker advised her she had been found a room at the shelter in May of 2019.
“It was a door I could lock. It was a private room for myself. I had what I needed nearby.” Jane describes being asked upon intake whether she was comfortable being around trans-identified people. She explains she’d both worked and socialized with trans-identified people without issue in the past and had no problems with them, so said she was.
“I had assumed there would be a really small chance of one of them being in the house, but I figured there would be some sort of screening process in place and there wouldn’t be any violations of our boundaries.”
But shortly after Jane moved in, she found that a trans-identified male had been living in the residence, and her assumptions were rapidly proven incorrect.
At first, Jane says she’d just tried to avoid Max*, who she described as being over 6′ tall and obviously male. But just weeks after arriving, Jane says she caught him in the hall outside of her room, completely nude but for a bra he was holding to his chest as he modeled his body in the full-length mirror near Jane’s door. He was fully intact, and was not covering his genitalia in any way.
“In my mind, I shut down. There was so much fear.”
“I froze and never made direct eye contact. A part of me died. I went into my room and locked the door,” Jane says, “I kept telling myself I had a door that locked. In my mind, I shut down. There was so much fear.”
Jane states she had briefly considered returning to the house she had escaped from, but it was the fact she had a locking door and room to herself that made her feel she could make it work at the shelter.
Jane attempted to complain to staff over what had happened, but says her concerns were given a low priority and dismissed.
“They just said ‘some people don’t respect boundaries.’ Nothing was done. It didn’t matter that I had sexual trauma,” she recalls, noting that the event had taught her she needed to keep quiet.
Shortly after, Max was involved in an incident with another female shelter resident.
Jane describes Lucy* as being severely physically and intellectually disabled, and anorexic to the point of often not having the strength to walk unassisted. But Jane describes Lucy as being the victim of a violent tirade by Max, with the man screaming verbal abuse at her.
“Hearing a man scream [like that] reminded me of my dad. If someone is doing a falsetto when they speak but then drop down to their natural octave when they are enraged and screaming, it communicates to you that this is a danger in a really primal way,” Jane says, noting that she hadn’t been privy to what had set Max, but that his rampage had created unease amongst staff and other residents – especially as he had a tendency to steal knives from the kitchen, and threaten both himself and others with them.
“I felt so angry that [this male], who was physically strong and abled bodied was screaming at someone who was physically disabled and psychologically weak. [Lucy] genuinely didn’t know what was going on,” Jane says, describing that the incident had been rattling enough that afterwards, staff went around the residence and asked the women if they were alright.
Jane describes attempts to confide in a shelter staff member about how hearing Max scream at Lucy had brought back childhood trauma related to her father’s abuse. But the staff member quickly express they were more concerned about Jane having perceived Max as male.
“I can’t lie and say it was another sexless person … It wasn’t just the yelling, it was the deep, angry voice.”
“She was very distressed at hearing this. I can’t lie and say it was another sexless person. It was specifically my father. It wasn’t just the yelling, it was the deep, angry voice.”
As a result of the incident, Max was removed from the home, and Jane says that for a period of a few weeks in the summer, conditions in the shelter improved for all residents.
“I did better in the parts of the summer when no males were in the house. There was even a time in the house, the only time this happened actually, when there was a group therapy session with just us as women,” Jane says, “A woman in the house who was constantly undergoing psychosis and could not speak in clear sentences was able to open up about her past trauma.”
Close to the end of the summer, Jane says a second trans-identified male was moved into the shelter, bringing an entirely new dynamic, and a new set of concerns for Jane.
Sam* had been released into Peggy’s Place from a men’s recovery house, and was only amongst the women briefly before being shuttled away for a full vaginoplasty after which point he was returned. Jane describes feeling “horrified” as she witnessed someone who was mentally unstable be ‘affirmed’ through a major, body-altering surgery.
“This person was unable to think critically. I do not believe they were in a place where they could have meaningfully consented,” Jane says, “Part of me was hoping or assuming that someone, somewhere in the line of [medical professionals] would have said ‘stop,’ but no one had.”
Jane, who has her own trauma associated with abuses within the medical system, says witnessing the pain and unawareness Sam was experiencing made her feel like he was being subjected to “torture,” and could only recall it through fits of uncontrollable sobbing.
“One night, Sam agreed with me about having needed more questioning before getting the surgery. At one point, [he] said ‘if I had known, I might not have done it.’ To admit that involves being cognizant of a violation that in my opinion is on par with some of the most violent sexual assault because it is literally physically cutting up and hurting the sexual organs.” Jane also notes that Sam had shown her a stack of paperwork he’d been given to read and sign prior to his surgeries, but says Sam only had a Grade 5 education and was blind in one eye.
Jane notes that Sam’s post-surgery care became a central focus of the shelter, leaving many of the women fighting to access bathrooms, or being exposed to things they did not have the capacity to cope with. After her last experience, Jane felt frightened to talk to staff about the impact it was having on her own mental health.
“[Sam] was in so much pain for so many months,” Jane says, “There were specific smells of blood and rot in the bathroom. Things indicative of infection and pain. Things I don’t want to remember.”
When Sam was struggling with an infection in his genitals, he went to Jane for help researching at-home treatments and vitamins. Jane says it was a turning point in her understanding of the gender identity issue, which she had only briefly given attention to after Max had been in the house.
“I came across Trans Care BC website, which was horrifying. It read more like an advertisement than a resource for serious medical information. There was nothing about infections or vitamins. Nothing.” Jane felt the information on the website was almost a “conflict of interest,” with all of the resources telling patients to speak to their surgeons.
“The surgeon makes a living off of giving the procedures, not off of counseling people and figuring out what is best for them. It was criminal that this happened to [Sam] in my opinion.”
As Jane continued to research into issues surrounding gender identity, she quickly became overwhelmed with the realization that what she had experienced in the shelter was not isolated, but rather part of a rapidly expanding problem.
“Everything was surreal. Just surreal. It’s such a horrible and shocking problem. You’re supposed to be working on yourself and all I did was curl up into a little ball and sleep all day,” Jane says, “I was also someone who cared. Other’s found it easier to not care.”
In July of 2020, Jane was informed she was being evicted from the shelter as a result of her increasingly vocal concerns about gender ideology both inside and outside of the house. She was told she had 3 hours to pack her things and find alternative housing, something that was extremely difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had resulted in limited available services.
Jane provided Reduxx with a series of recordings she had made while attempting to engage with staff on her issues. In one, she is heard speaking with the manager of the shelter as she was being evicted.
“We are a trans-friendly house. We will be having more trans women coming in. So the decision has been made that this is not the right place for you,” the manager says, before accusing Jane of being “dishonest” about her position on trans rights during her intake.
“I am really clear about asking people before they move in — you needed to be honest and say you weren’t comfortable with transgender people, and then we wouldn’t have done all this. You wouldn’t have moved in… I felt like we were misinformed.”
The manager then tells Jane she should call Vancouver Rape Relief, which she had labeled as having the same “fears about trans people” as Jane did. Vancouver Rape Relief, Canada’s oldest rape crisis shelter, was stripped of city funding in 2019 after asserting it had a right to cater to females only. Jane told Reduxx she had previously attempted to volunteer at Rape Relief after she had become more interested in gender ideology and witnessed their struggle against the city. She said she’d found the prospect of going there as a resident to be embarrassing after she’d already applied to volunteer.
“There’s only two things going on: You’re transphobic, and this is a trans-friendly agency.”
“The fact is, you’re transphobic. We are a non-transphobic agency, and it is not appropriate for you to be living here,” the manager is heard saying, “I asked you when you moved in and you lied — you said you weren’t transphobic.”
Jane then is heard crying, and trying to insist her views had only recently changed, to which the manager responds: “There’s only two things going on: You’re transphobic, and this is a trans-friendly agency.”
Jane was removed from the house and sent to a facility with a 30 day time limit. Her experience rapidly became one of scrambling to find a new place to live without having to return to her sexually abusive ex-boyfriend.
In November of 2020, after settling into a more stable place, Jane tried writing BC Housing multiple times to file a formal complaint against Peggy’s Place, but was repeatedly bumped back to internal complaint processes within The Kettle Society, the organization which oversees the shelter.
Throughout 2021 and even into 2022, Jane tried reaching someone at BC Housing, and she showed Reduxx multiple chains of emails she’d sent detailing the lack of care from staff towards her concerns, as well as the exact incidents she’d experienced in the shelter.
By May of 2022, Jane still hadn’t received any response from BC Housing, and says she resorted to “begging” for someone to respond, and had an emotional breakdown while trying to contact Ali Ayala-Davidson, an operations manager for BC Housing’s Women’s Transition Housing & Supports Program division.
“There is no help,” Jane wrote in her last email, “Just say I am worthless. Say women are worthless. Say they are. Say they are nothing. Say they are only as good as a male whose dream they can be a prop in. Say that by saying nothing.”
Jane describes being burdened with feelings of guilt and shame related to not having spoken out about her experiences sooner, but it was witnessing the escalation of gender ideology’s impact on women that convinced her she had to take a stand.
“I was in a women’s only space. Women’s only spaces in Canada are now unisex. Most people don’t know or believe it,” Jane says, expressing some degree of disbelief at her own situation, “Women deserve better … How are women supposed to heal from sexual violence when they are forced to pretend sex isn’t real?”
Jane says she considered going to a Human Rights Tribunal, but feared she wouldn’t be able to keep her composure.
“I feel that even if I do send a human rights complaint, I’m going to be so upset they won’t take me seriously and just throw me out,” Jane says, “My time is also almost up at my current residence, and I am searching for new housing … but I struggle with agoraphobia, and find it difficult to organize myself.”
She is currently in the process of seeking a lawyer who might take on her case for reduced-to-no cost as she has limited resources, but has been unsuccessful so far.
Reduxx reached out to The Kettle Society for comment, but did not get a response prior to publication. This article may be updated in the event one is received.
* Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.
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