06 May 2014

This Army Doesn't Want Us

Time was when I used to donate to the Salvation Army, even when I could barely afford to do so.  During the holiday season, I almost never passed one of their missionaries on the street without leaving some money--even if it was just loose change--in their donation buckets.

In time, I stopped donating, even when I could afford to do so.  For one thing, I became cynical, as many other people did, about "charitable" organizations, especially those with religious affiliations.  Of course, when I abandoned faith--let alone organized religion--altogether, I had even more reason to avoid SA. Sure, they do charitable work, as most churches and other houses of worship do, but (I reasoned) such work was in the service of furthering the religion.  I just happened to think, even in those days when I didn't believe (or denied any belief) in any Supreme Being, that it should be the other way around:  Belief or faith should further charity and good works.

Then, of course, once I began my gender transition, I had even less reason to support the Salvation Army.  If they are a private non-profit institution, I guess it's their right not to hire people they deem as incompatible with their beliefs and values. (Don't quote me on that: I'm not a lawyer!)  But I believe, as I always have, that there's no way they or anyone else can justify denying services to anyone who needs them, regardless of that person's beliefs (or lack thereof), race--or gender identity or expression.

Now, as someone who has stopped denying her faith (and started going to church), I am saddened and appalled that any organization that claims to be based on faith or any system of ethics can deny someone, especially a trans person, badly-needed housing or other services.  And that is exactly what the Salvation Army is doing in Dallas.  

Jodielynn Wiley fled death threats and dead animals left on her doorstep in Paris, Texas.  After arriving in Dallas, found temporary housing in an SA-run service center.  As the end of the thirty-day limit on her stay neared, she sought other options, including a two-year housing program run by SA.  But she was told she didn't qualify because she hadn't had gender reassignment surgery.  Meanwhile, two other women who arrived in the temporary shelter at the same time she did were admitted to the longer program.

If the Salvation Army wants to remain true to the spirit of its mission, it must recognize the dangers trans women--especially those early in their transitions--face.  In addition to the risk of violence--we're sixteen times as likely as anyone else to be murdered--we have more than twice the rate of homelessness as the general public.  And some of us don't have surgery because we can't afford it, are prevented from doing so for medical reasons or want to retain our reproductive capacity while living our lives in the gender of our mind and spirit.

The Salvation Army must recognize these facts.  Otherwise, they are just another organization that practices taxpayer-funded discrimination under the guise of religious belief.