Dalhousie student Jessica Dempsey waiting on the Human Rights Ruling

Jessica Dempsey
Jessica Dempsey stands next to one of the flyers announcing the rally held Monday.

Even universities that have policies inclusive of gender expression aren’t perfect. This held true for transgender student Jessica Dempsey, a student at Dalhousie University. The harassment and transphobia she faced overwhelmed her resulting in an inability to concentrate.

Jessica’s grades suffered so bad that eventually she lost her student funding.

Jessica refused the settlement offered by Aramark and submitted a complaint to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry. The hearing was on the 18th, and a decision should be forthcoming.

The first incident happened earlier this summer at the Shirreff Hall cafeteria as reported by CBC Canada. 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.”

Nova Scotia 2 PNG
Jessica center surrounded by supporters and friends.

Jessica Dempsey wasn’t about to let it end like that

Jessica talked to Planet Transgender about the Rally.

Jessica: “The rally is a visibility rally. The idea came to me when a friend of mine was on campus promoting a group on campus the person asked if they knew me, Yes, they answered. ‘well I want to say I have a lot of respect for Jessica and she is one badass lady’.
My friend thanked me for just being visible on campus.”

Planet Transgender: What impact do you think the rally has had?
Jessica: “I actually ran in to the president of the university while putting up the event flyers. President Richard Florizone did indicate it’s been a difficult year for me. I have him an event flyer.”

Planet Transgender: Has the on campus transphobia affected your studies?
Jessica: “Yes, the constant questions, barriers and oppression on campus has taken its tole on my academic studies. The Aramark incident I lost a week of school, I had to get medical notes from my doctor for missed time. I got ILLs on several grades which I lost all my student funding. It hasn’t been easy.”

Jessica will be the MC when Julia Serano comes to the campus

Introductions and thank yous will be made by Jessica Dempsey when DalOUT presents Julia Serano: Making Queer and Feminist Movements More Inclusive Wensday, October 22nd.

Yes, Jessica is one bad ass lady!

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender



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