The transgender policy in Toronto’s women’s shelters is causing an uproar with its female residents as straight men have been accused of entering women’s shelters with questionable motives.
“I am just here because I am hiding from the police,” said a longterm women’s shelter resident, who did not want his name used. “I just put on a skirt and paint my nails and walk in and they can’t say anything to me.”
A transgender female resident at a Toronto women’s shelter, known as Brandy, says these situations make it harder for transgenders within the shelter system.
“I lived in a shelter with a person who was not a transgender woman. They were just hiding in a women’s shelter to flee from warrants out for their arrest. He continuously sexually harassed females in the shelter. He liked women’s shelters so that he could find new girls to sleep with,” Brandy said. “In the end it makes us actual transgenders look bad.”
When accepting new clients into their shelters, the city’s providers have strict rules to follow ensuring clients aren’t discriminated against.
“Shelter providers accept gender identity and gender expression as defined by the client,” says Andrea Gonsalves, a senior communications advisor for the City of Toronto. “Shelter providers do not question the validity of how a client defines their gender.”
Brandy does not agree with the Toronto Shelter Standards (TSS) and is calling for changes to prevent males from wrongfully entering women’s shelters.
“I, as a transgender, think the TSS should be changed,” Brandy says. “Especially when it comes to a women’s shelter, staff members should be able to question someone claiming to be transgender that comes in with a full beard, not on hormones, who doesn’t dress like a woman or doesn’t act like a woman.”
“They should be able to question that for the safety of the women that reside there because a lot of females are coming to the shelters because of abusive relationships or other trauma and suffer from PTSD.”
For the city to maintain shelter standards, questioning new residents’ gender would conflict with the city’s directives set in place to protect its clients.
“This is also in keeping with the city’s gender identity and gender expression guidelines, which require all service recipients to be treated equally and without discrimination,” Gonsalves said.