Nova Scotia

Dal transgender student claims harassment from staff

A transgender student at Dalhousie University says she has been harassed by workers at the campus cafeteria.

Transgender student Jessica Dempsey says she was harassed on several occasions by food service staff

Jessica Dempsey says some faculty and staff have made her uncomfortable. (CBC)

A transgender student at Dalhousie University says she has been harassed by workers at the campus cafeteria.   

Dalhousie student Jessica Dempsey, who was born male, began her physical transition two years ago. She said that's when her problems started on campus.

She said some faculty and staff have made her uncomfortable.

The first incident happened earlier this summer at the Shirreff Hall cafeteria. Dempsey said she was with a friend when a male cafeteria worker asked her name. She said it was "Jessica. He said 'No, that's not your name.'"

Dempsey said the same worker then refused to serve her food.  

After her first complaints were made against the food service staff at Dalhousie’s Shirreff Hall residence, a dining hall manager apologized in an email in July.

The complaint was then passed on to staff in the school’s Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Protection office.

Staff then went through sensitivity training to ensure both management and staff were aware of human rights.

But Dempsey said nothing has changed.

"They called me by my old name and then they called me Jessica.  And then the person asked me if my boobs are real … I said ‘Excuse me?’"

She said it has become so bad that her school work is suffering and feels her safety is at risk.

“You know I was told they did a training session one day but I shouldn't be asked these questions,” she said.

"It wasn't my job to educate the entire campus. All the pressures of trying to transition, plus do my studies -- it affected my school work too."

Dempsey finished some of last year’s work late and has lost some of her funding.

She is now staying at a shelter because she said she feels safe there.

Dempsey said she hasn’t filed any more complaints with the human rights office at Dalhousie but she is considering filing a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Kevin Kindred, with the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, said this kind of discrimination continues to happen.

“We hear it in obtaining services and also in employment and people trying to seek housing so sort of all across the board we hear stories of trans people facing discrimination,” he said.

CBC News attempted to contact Aramark, the company responsible for food service at Dalhousie, but they did not return our call.

A spokesperson for the human rights office at Dalhousie University said the school can't comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. 


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