Workshop: Respecting transgender people living in shelters

posted by Mike on October 28th, 2008

“Implementing a Policy of Respect for Transgender People Living in Shelters”

Held at the SS. Francis & Therese Catholic Worker, 52 Mason St, Worcester, 7pm, October 29, 2008.

This is specifically for people who find themselves helping this segment of the population. In my experience, a lot of shelters are thrown for a loop when it comes to trans people.

One of the facilitators says, “This is not Trans 101. This is intended for people who already have a basic understanding of who trans people might be, and who are already committed to everyone’s basic right to dignity. It’s kind of nuts and bolts (what do I do about bathrooms, bedrooms, incidents w/ other residents, etc).”

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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On October 29, 2008 at 15:06 Cha-Cha Connor said:

    Mike, thanks for reporting on this workshop. I appreciate it.

    One of the reasons I’m giving this workshop is because I (and many of my co-workers) routinely are called up by other agencies and told something like, “We have a transgender person trying to access our services, we don’t know what to do, y’all have an LGBT department at AIDS Project Worcester, YOU deal with it.”

    Never mind that shelters are supposed to serve everyone. Never mind that trans folks pay taxes to support our social services too. Never mind that transgender people experience extremely disproportionate rates of homelessness, and have absolutely no housing or employment anti-discrimination legislation that explicitly protects them in the state of Massachusetts.

    This kind of sentiment frequently comes from well-meaning people. However, as an LGBT person and a member of the radical community in Worcester, it continues to be frustrating that many progressive folks espouse solidarity with LGB and trans folks, but when the proverbial crap hits the fan, our communities and individuals are largely left to deal with our problems on our own. I have yet to see the progressive/radical community in Worcester challenge discrimination against trans people, or even LGB people, in a real and sustained way.

    I am so happy that the CW is helping me put on this workshop. Yet it remains disturbing to me that the CW continues to be the only shelter that has consistently helped me and my colleagues shelter transgender individuals in Worcester. I’m really glad that CW folks are open to a workshop about adequate care and service for trans folks. But, where is everyone else?

    How many times have I been to workshops and events put together by trans folks, LGB folks, and LGBT service providers, only to look around the room at my fellow service providers from the LGBT community, sigh and think, “Well, I guess it’s just us, again…”

    But our issues cannot be solved if its “just us” every time, preaching to the choir. The consequences of discrimination are dire: MURDER is still the #1 killer of transgender people, transgender people experience homelessness in Worcester every day, and although the press doesn’t discuss it much, hate crimes and hardship frequently occur for LGBT people on the basis of our identities. Crossing lines of male-female, crossing gender boundaries, remains very difficult and dangerous in today’s world. And it’s going to take everyone’s efforts to rectify the situation and stop gender-based oppression.

    I applaud the CW for holding this workshop, and hope that others soon get involved and follow suit.

  2. On October 29, 2008 at 22:53 Mike said:

    That was a great conversation. The only thing I missed was the perspective of people who work at big shelters–the Catholic Worker is all about dealing with individuals, developing policies on an ad hoc basis and changing them as needed. Homeless trans folks presumably have a lot more contact with more institutional places, where policies are Policies.

  3. On October 31, 2008 at 00:08 Jesse said:

    Yes, and apparently the Policies of our local homeless shelters who receive tax dollars to provide accomodation to everyone (including transpeople) is to turn homeless transpeople away. This happens routinely. Come to APW and talk to some of our clients.

    Just try and imagine what happens to transgender women who are literally surviving on the street. It’s what happens to most homeless women–they are preyed upon and are walking targets for sadistic predators. A bed in a shelter can be the difference between life or death for homeless folks. Therefore, I hope that our local shelters realize that when they turn away transpeople, they may be sentencing them to death.

    I feel very strongly about this issue. You would to if 2 people from your community (in my case, the trans community) were murdered every month for being who they are!

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