3 min

Cops bust private club

Hamilton's Tranny Shack raided

Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

Transgendered activist Jamie Lee Hamilton says she’s being targeted by police, city and provincial government officials after her recently opened Davie St meeting spot for cross-dressers, transsexuals and their admirers was raided Jul 4.

Hamilton opened the door of her Davie Street Tranny Shack to find members of the Neighbourhood Integrated Services Team (NIST) wanting to come in. They had no warrant. She gave them a tour, she says.

“I was quite traumatized,” Hamilton says. “It’s a much-needed service, the only one of its kind in the province.”

No charges have been laid against Hamilton. Her lawyer is looking into the situation. Hamilton says it’s time the queer community stood up to harassment.

“It’s time our community supported one another and make sure the police and the city are held accountable for their actions and start filing lawsuits against them.”

Hamilton stresses the Tranny Shack is not a business but a private members’ club. While her name is on the lease, members pay a drop-in fee that is used to pay the rent and expenses, she explains. Visitors can get make-overs, change from their street clothes in curtained cubicles or socialize in the living room.

She readily admits she does not have any licences to run the operation but is in the process of applying for them.

But, say police, that’s exactly why the operation, located in a residentially zoned suite, was targeted.

“It’s part of our responsibility to the community to ensure we have the proper permits and licences in place,” says Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sarah Bloor.

And, says Bloor, the situation was hardly a raid. She says Hamilton invited them into the second floor apartment.

She says NIST helps solve community problems. When it showed up at Hamilton’s, it was investigating criminal activities such as the operation of a business without proper permits.

City licensing inspector Paul Teichroeb wasn’t aware the NIST team was involved or that Hamilton was at that location. He said a complaint had been received about the use of the premises and an inspector was duly dispatched.

Teichroeb has had dealings with Hamilton in the past and says she understands the permit process.

“She does tend to open up shop and do her thing,” he says.

It’s the fourth raid Hamilton has endured in 10 years. With bawdy house charges against her Grandma’s House having been stayed several months ago, Hamilton says the Friday raid is proof she’s being targeted and harassed by public officials.

Jim Deva agrees.

The Little Sister’s co-owner and member of the boards of the Davie Community Policing Centre and the Davie Village Business Improvement Area, says the Village community should work with Hamilton to ensure the city provides her with appropriate licences.

If there are no categories to cover what Hamilton wants to do, then the city needs to be flexible and deal with it expeditiously, Deva says.

“Council should get restrictive policies changed so people like Jamie Lee can set up on Davie Street,” Deva says.

Hamilton says the provincial ministry of human resources representative in the raid, Pam Brown, told her the cat and mouse game with her was going to keep going.

“She’s on a vendetta against me,” she says. “She’s been in all the raids.”

Brown did not return phone calls.

And, says Hamilton, the presence of transsexual Det Roz Shakespeare and lesbian Const Cheryl Leggatt indicates the police are willing to use any means to legitimize their actions.

“[Shakespeare] has always been used by the Vancouver Police Department when it suits their purposes,” Hamilton says. “I’m really, really disappointed.”

Shakespeare referred questions about the visit to Bloor. Bloor called Hamilton’s statement disappointing.

“To say a person is put in the community based on their sexual orientation is neglectful on Ms Hamilton’s part.” Shakespeare’s official title is GLBT Programs Coordinator.

Leggett told Xtra West in April she’s not looking to be a poster cop for the queer community. She may be an out lesbian but she’s a cop first, she said. But when asked about busting men using the park trails, she added: “Why put resources into something where there’s no victim?”

Hamilton says it’s ironic she was raided the same day the Vancouver Sun ran a Page One story about Chief Constable Jamie Graham praising his officers for their work in the face of “unfounded criticism.”

On Jul 6, protesters, including family members of the Downtown Eastside missing women, and of people who have died in police custody, gathered outside Vancouver Art Gallery to demand accountability from Vancouver police.