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Transgender woman alleges housing discrimination by Salvation Army

Sunday, May 4, 2014
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DALLAS — A transgender woman facing homelessness has filed a lawsuit with the Fair Housing Office in Dallas after being denied housing by the Salvation Army because she has not undergone gender reassignment surgery.

Jodielynn Wiley

Jodielynn Wiley, who fled Paris, Texas, earlier this year after receiving death threats because of her gender identity, had been staying at the Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Service Center on a temporary bases until she could be placed in a two-year housing program.

But the Dallas Voice reports that when Wiley met with a Salvation Army counselor to discuss her move to the program — in which she would have to share a room and restroom with other women — the case worker asked if she had undergone gender reassignment surgery.

“After I said no, she said, ‘Well, that’s why we can’t give you a room,’” recalls Wiley. “It was putting me in an uncomfortable situation and very rude.”

Wiley says the counselor then changed the story and claimed that there was a waiting list, but she notes that two women who arrived at the emergency shelter after she did had already entered the longer program.

Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative, says she was sitting in on the meeting by phone, and explained to the counselor that she was “requiring a special condition that they wouldn’t require of another person.”

Wiley has now filed a complaint under the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. The ordinance, however, provides a housing exemption “when the dwelling contains common lavatory, kitchen, or similar facilities available for the use of all persons occupying the dwelling.”

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Blake Fetterman, Operations Director at Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, said Wiley’s complaint comes as a surprise because of the Salvation Army’s non-discrimination policy.

“Clients receive services and placement with their self-identified gender,” said Fetterman, adding that questions regarding about pre- or post-operation status of applicants isn’t part of their conversations with people for placement.

In the meantime, Wiley has found housing through the “Shared Housing Project,” a new program by the Trans Pride Initiative to provide shared accommodations to transgender people in need of a home.

Fair Housing spokesman Calvin McAllister said the complaint would be investigated.

More at the Dallas Voice

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