Alex Blaze

Why I don't donate to the Salvation Army bell ringer

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 23, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Ali Forney Center, Austin, Jennifer Gale, LGBT homeless, Salvation Army, scrooge, Texas, transgender, transphobia

Stuff like this just makes me sick:

Equality Texas mourns the death of Jennifer Gale, a 47-year-old transgender homeless woman who died yesterday. Jennifer's body was found Wednesday morning. She was lying in an outdoor walkway at the First English Lutheran Church in Central Austin.[...]

"Jennifer most nights slept outdoors," said Austin Mayor Will Wynn. "Jennifer, we believe, is the 136th person who has died sleeping on the streets (of Austin) over the last 12 months."

Marti Bier, policy aide for Austin City Council Member Randi Shade, said, "Something Jennifer would never talk about, but was a reality for her, is that she is a transwoman living in a transphobic society. Homelessness in the trans-community is a really big problem, and one that goes ignored. There are no laws in Texas protecting transgender people, whether from job discrimination, housing discrimination or hate crimes.

"There was really nowhere for Jennifer Gale to go to protect herself from the cold last night," said Bier. "The Salvation Army (the only shelter in town that takes in women) would not let her in there unless she was grouped with the men (which includes sleeping with, and showering with, other homeless men). They would make her use her male birth name and completely disregard, and disrespect, her identity as a trans-woman. There is so much to be learned from Jennifer Gale, and so much to be worked on in our community."

She didn't deserve to die. I know the logic when it comes to the homeless - they did something to deserve it, they're deranged, they should just get a job, providing enough shelters would be too expensive, helping them with a handout like a warm bed or food isn't really helping them, they should just get off the hooch. And you know what? It's all bullshit. We live in a culture that believes that isn't generous enough to provide the basics to everyone and often actively hates the homeless.

And the people who are willing to help the homeless are often homophobic and transphobic. Like the Salvation Army.

It may seem petty to point it out. They are doing some good work. It's needed. I get that.

But turning away transgender people from a shelter (or making it so undesirable to be there that they have no choice but to leave) isn't OK. It makes people die. People like Jennifer Gale.

I know, the Salvation Army is improving the world by at least taking in some people. The people who do receive their services shouldn't be punished because of their discriminatory policies.

But I have a problem with an organization that picks and chooses who it wants to help based on prejudice. There's no excuse for that. It's an attempt to control the people that they're supposed to be helping and that makes it less an act of generosity and more an attempt to gain power.

There are alternatives. The Ali Forney Center in New York and the Jeff Griffith Center in LA, which both cater to LGBT youth. And they're both in desperate need of cash. Please donate to them instead of the Salvation Army, because if we don't support these shelters, who will?

The Salvation Army also practices hiring discrimination against queer people. But this, to me, is materially worse. Someone died.

So I don't put money in the red bucket and I'm not a Scrooge for not doing so.


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Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 23, 2008 12:23 PM

For those with cities over-relying on religious shelters that discriminate rather than providing access to shelter in city shelters run in a nondiscriminatory fashion, a case the Indiana Civil Liberties Union won prior to the city adding LGBT people to its civil rights ordinance might be of use. The attorneys were Rich Waples and Fran Quigley and the plaintiffs were a gay male couple who had been denied service and didn't appreciate being subjected to antigay proselytizing just to get a cot out of the cold.

Good reference point, Marla. By the way, it's probably a violation of Bilerico's terms of service, but I just tried to send you an extended offline reply (and Holiday greeting) to another comment of yours to your AOL address and got a big "mailbox full" message back. Probably clogged with all of those messages that trying to follow many Bilerico threads generates.

Technically, we ALL donate to Salvation Army via the Faith Based Initiative

And we donate LOTS!!

And the sad part about Texas laws not covering Texas transgender people is that our inclusion in the James Byrd Hate Crimes Law passed in 2001 before thwe GOP takeover of The Lege and other progressive GLBT oriented legislation was fought tooth and nail by Diane Hardy-Garcia and the LGRL, the proto-organization of Equality Texas.

Then opponents of trans-inclusion who fought ought to be held accountable by the whole community,.

No LGBT leader ought to be fight against the rights of any group in the community without serious reprecussions from all of us.

I cried as I read this. This poor woman fit nowhere and died alone.

And people who ought to have been her own brothers and sisters made it so.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 27, 2008 2:37 AM

Let us not forget that if the truly inclusive laws are passed to protect all people from freezing to death they could elect to get out of the "shelter" business much as the Boston Catholic Diocese got out of the adoption business when they were forced to treat all potential adoptive parents equally. These institutions do not care about the people they serve and never have.

The salvation Army is such a whacked "company" in some ways, but it's hard to ignore all the good they do.
This case was dispicable, but I'm not going to let this instance take away from all the good they have done for so many years. I'll continue to donate.
They will, like the rest of the world, eventually learn what is right and wrong.

Anthony in Nashville | December 23, 2008 4:22 PM

I was never a big fan of the Salvation Army in the first place, but especially after learning about their homophobic policies over the last few years.

I don't know if Salvation Army gets any government money, but I always feel uneasy about religious-oriented social services. On one hand, I think all eligible people should be able to benefit from their services, but if they are privately funded I don't see a way to make them accept people who don't fit their criteria.

Angela Brightfeather | December 23, 2008 4:33 PM

Well, I stopped contributing to them long ago for the same reason. We had a similar incident here in Raleigh, NC about 10 years ago that was brought to my attention. When I questioned the SA about it, I was told that they don't have services for "those kind of people" and that they can't accept them. Nothing has changed and they are still lamenting the same thing, with tongue in cheek I am sure. I checked after reading your entry just to make sure.

If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times. That ENDA and having Transgender people out of work and homes, costs lives. It is a matter of life and death and this latest death proves it.

So the next time you may think that you are tired of hearing us screaming "trannies" yelling about HRC, Barney Frank, Harry Reid and Nancy Peolosi as not having any heart or feelings for Treansgender issues like ENDA, please try to remember that while you may not like to hear it, ENDA is a matter of life and death to Transgender people. If you can't work, you can't pay the rent.

There was a time when I could not pass a Boy Scout fundraiser or a Salvation Army bell ringer without giving them money.

Then I found out how bigoted both organizations are, and I have not given one red cent to either since.

We have a program with the local Salvation Army that they bring a few people to our church to "upgrade" accommodations for a night. What these refugees have told us about conditions at these shelters is appalling. We who are volunteers supporting this program at our church are dedicated to giving these people in our care all that we possibly can. I have many times personally dug deep into my own pocket to prepare food for 15, went without sleep to rise at 2 the following morning to go to a 14 hour work day, and in that process welcomed each and every one of them into my life and my church and my care, without once asking anything about who they were or why they were in the situation they were in. They are God's children, and that is enough for me. That these two supposedly "Christian" organizations finds reason to reject anyone is blasphemous and a supreme insult to Almighty God.

If you would care to help the kids, or the homeless, there are ample ways of doing it that do not pass through the hands of the Salvation Army or the Boy Scouts.

Do not let either of these organizations deter you from doing the good that is in your heart.

Well, actually, Austin has an inclusive ordinance which covers transgendered people concerning employement and housing. I am not sure if there is a "get out of jail free" card for religious charities or not, but maybe someone should look into it. It covers restroom access as well as housing and employment discrimination.

Of course the difficult part is proving discrimination, especially when it comes to employement as I have found out in my job search, but still, she should have been covered barring any exceptions. Jennifer most likely did not check, or press the issue if she had checked with the shelter, so I don't know if the Salvation is truly culpable in this case.

I friend of mine who is in Austin sent me the city ordances for employment, housing and accomidation. Housing has a religious exemption, but the other two do not.

Yes it is sad, tragic that this person died from neglect, and I too feel that it could have been avoided, but please lets put it in perspective.

She was the 136th homeless person that died from sleeping on the streets of Austin this year. Where is your outrage for the other 135?

Singling out that this person was transgender and therefore discriminated against is all very well but the truth is that this person had as much responsability in her death as any of the others did. ENDA is not going to stop this sort of thing from happening. Yes the SA might have taken her in and given her shelter for the night but they have rules, and those rules are well known. They didn't suddenly make them up on the spot. She could have as easily gone to a police station and asked for help, and got denied just as the other 135 people that died from sleeping on the streets could have.

I am reminded of a story that dysonnance once wrote on her blog at dyssonance.com .. I quote:

"A few months back, I watched as a homeless woman came to TIH and began building her life back up right until she discovered a pair of horrible truths.

First, the House was supported primarily by donations from the LGB community.

Second, she’d have to participate in the Pride March as a gesture of thanks for that.

She opted to drink herself back into homelessness and a sudden, violent death as a result."

So you see, the LGBT has their rules too and just like the Salvation Army, if someone doesn't want to follow those rules, they are on their own.

At the urging and with the help of the Arizona ACLU, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Inc., the largest shelter service provider in Arizona, recently changed its long-standing policy of refusing to allow transgender people to be housed according to their gender identity -- http://www.cagaphoenix.org/news/66-local-news/105-cass-homeless-shelter-adopts-new-transgender-policy.html. In addition, the Prescott Area Women's Shelter -- http://www.prescottshelter.org/, on whose board I serve, is in the process of adopting a similar policy. I am saddened by Jennifer's death, and the deaths of all the other homeless people in Austin and elsewhere, who die every year due to our society's refusal to provide them with the basic necessities of life. And, Angela, I agree completely that an all-inclusive ENDA is a matter of life and death for far too many trans women and men. Why is it so hard for others to see that?

Was the SA supposed to give him/her a special room? At least it was given an option.

I hate the SA. I lived there for 6 months and it's nothing but a work camp run by phony hypocrites who do not practice what they preach; continue to collect food stamp benefits of their beneficiaries long after they are gone and treat these beneficiaries as inmates and show them no respect.

But as far as this transgendered person dying, well, I guess he/she should have slept with the boys that night, huh?

Melissa Howard | August 24, 2009 2:30 AM

I worked at a Salvation Army and have been witness to horrible treatment to the gay community.

While moonlighting at a shelter while employed as a case manager, I witnessed a woman being checked into the womens dorm. Within 15 minutes word had spread that she was a lesbian.

Sher was escorted out before even being able to unpack, was humiliated in front of all of the dorm residents, and was told by staff that "we don't accept your kind".

By far the worst job I have ever had.