Sudbury shelter faces human-rights complaint

A transgendered woman has filed a human-rights complaint against a Sudbury shelter for women.

YWCA staff asked 'very sexual' questions, complainant says

A transgender woman has filed a human-rights complaint against a Sudbury women's shelter.

Jessica Larabee — who is transitioning to female from male — claims the YWCA asked her personal sexual questions and then turned her away.

When Larabee, 23, visited her hometown of Sudbury last July, she said she had problems with her partner and called the YWCA shelter for help. After she told shelter staff she was born male, she said, she was asked a series of questions about her genitals.

"The only people who should really know what I have or what I don't have or what it looks like — the only people who should know — are me, my partner and I guess the doctors," Larabee said.

"They asked me if I have a penis or a vagina, if I pee standing up, sitting down — very sexual questions that if you asked someone who is not trans, I believe would be considered sexual harassment."

Spent the night in a park

Larabee said she was then directed to a men-only shelter, but instead spent the night in the city’s downtown Memorial Park, before going home to Toronto.

YWCA executive director Marlene Gorman said she can't comment on individual cases. But she said transgender women are not allowed in the shelter.

"Someone who identifies as a transgendered woman would be referred to another safe space," she said.

Gorman said that policy is currently being reviewed "in terms of how we can best support transgendered women leaving violent situations."

The Ontario Human Right Tribunal will decide in the coming months whether it will hear Larabee's complaint.