During her disciplinary hearing on Friday, a BC nurse accused of engaging in transphobic speech said the quiet part out loud for those concerned about the erasure of private sex-based spaces.
Amy Hamm, a clinical nurse educator and a single mother of two, initially faced trouble with her licensing college in September 2020. Inspired by British women's rights activist Posie Parker, she and a friend decided to explore a new approach to their advocacy for women and children's sex-based rights.
The two activists arranged for an I “heart” JK Rowling Billboard to be posted in Vancouver, during a time when COVID-19 restrictions made indoor events for activism unlikely.
The endearing support for Rowling, the famous Harry Potter author, was trending at the time due to her publishing an essay a few months earlier that described her concerns about gender identity issues and their impact on sex-based rights.
“It was a huge moment, I think, for a lot of us women who were really trying to start these sorts of discussions and to see one of the most famous and talented women in the world join this debate, it was a an incredible moment,” Hamm stated during her testimony about why Rowling's words resonated with her.
While the billboard generated discussion, it also prompted free speech critics like Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung to successfully demand its removal on the grounds of “hate speech.”
Shortly after this incident, Hamm discovered that two individuals who were not her patients, one of whom chose to remain anonymous, had filed a complaint against her with the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM).
The college then initiated an investigation into Hamm's off-duty conduct, which included a review of years of her online speech related to her activism, such as her assertion that there are only two genders. In 2022, the college charged Hamm with making “discriminatory and derogatory statements regarding transgender people.” She finally had the opportunity to resume her testimony on Friday during her ongoing disciplinary hearing.
Drawing on her extensive medical experience, Hamm explained that, besides the essential knowledge of someone's biology needed to provide them with adequate care, a patient's self-identification is a non-issue. “Frankly, I don't really care if someone identifies as trans; that's fine,” Hamm stated.
Hamm further explained that the essence of her activism centers on preserving the privacy, dignity and safety of historically female spaces, including women’s sports, rape shelters, bathrooms and women’s prisons.
“There are in Canada, male rapists and pedophiles housed in Canadian women’s prisons,” said Hamm.
In great detail, Hamm described some of the shocking examples of this gender issue, starting with the case of a trans-identifying male who goes by the name Tara Desousa. Tara Desousa is currently serving time in a women's prison after being convicted of raping a three-month-old baby and admitting to drowning another toddler.
Hamm expressed her strong disapproval, stating that she finds it completely unacceptable for marginalized and vulnerable incarcerated women and their children, who have “already had a lot of their rights and freedoms taken away,” to be “literally caged in with rapists and pedophiles.”
Choking back tears, Hamm recounted another horrifying example involving a fellow nurse. In 2018, Rhoderie Estrada, 41, was brutally raped and murdered in her Toronto home while her daughters slept down the hall. Following this heinous crime, one of the two murderers, Yostin Murillo, began identifying as a trans woman and took advantage of sex-identification policies that allowed him to apply to serve his life sentence in a women's prison.
“Women have good reason to fear male violence and that is the reason that we got sex segregated spaces in the first place,” Hamm stated. While she sympathizes with trans women who may fear using male-only spaces, she emphasized that the reason that they have such a fear “is because, again, male violence. So, I don’t believe that it should be incumbent upon women to accept males into our sex segregated spaces to protect this particular group of biological males from other biological males.”
Shifting the focus to rape shelters, Hamm expressed concerns about the lack of shelters exclusively for females in Canada, despite the fact that most of the victims they serve have been sexually assaulted by men.
“Canada right now only has one rape shelter where biological males are not allowed to self identify their way into the shelter,” said Hamm.
Additionally, explaining the costly legal battle that the Vancouver Rape Relief shelter had to endure to maintain its female-only status and the opposition they've faced, including vandalism and the City of Vancouver cutting their government funding.
“I’m a single mother, I’m taking care of two young boys. It would be devastating for me to lose a career that I love and that I’ve worked hard in for over a decade” said Hamm.
“I simply want to continue working and just being professional at work, while continuing to do this advocacy that I strongly believe in, in my spare time."
Hamm’s testimony resumes today under direct questions posed from her representing council, Lisa Bildy.
To continue with the virtual hearing, click here. Alternatively, you can catch up on today's proceedings by viewing my live tweets on X (formerly Twitter).
If you value freedom of expression in Canada, you can contribute to preserving it by clicking on the link here to sign and share our petition, urging the Trudeau government to repeal their online censorship laws.