TX transgender woman sues Salvation Army for discrimination after housing request denied

A transgendered Texas 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 yet to have gender reassignment surgery.

Jodielynn Wiley of Paris, Texas, had been temporarily staying at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center in Dallas until she could be placed in a two-year housing program. However, when she met with a center counselor to discuss her move to the program she was told she would have to go on a waiting list because she had not undergone gender reassignment surgery, according to dallasvoice.com.

According to Wiley, she met with a counselor on April 17 to discuss her options prior to her temporary housing exit date of April 21. After discussing the next stage housing program, the counselor asked Wiley if she had undergone surgery.

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

Wiley stated that counselor offered to put her on a waiting list to which Wiley replied that two women who had arrived at the shelter after her had already been placed in the program.

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

Gaither added that Wiley “had never hidden” her transgendered status from the staff and that it was wrong to deny her a room in the program because she hadn’t undergone “surgical conditions placed on her in order to meet stereotypical characteristics according to sex or according to gender identity.”

Blake Fetterman, the operations director at Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, said Wiley's complaint came as a surprise because of the Salvation Army’s nondiscrimination policy.

“What you describe is not in keeping with our nondiscrimination policies,” she said. “Clients receive services and placement with their self-identified gender.”

Fetterman added that questioning about pre- or post-operation status of applicants isn’t part of their conversations with people for placement.

Wiley, who moved to Dallas after death threats drove her out of her hometown of Paris, is suing under the city of Dallas nondiscrimination ordinance, which bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Gender identity is included in the city’s definition of sexual orientation.

The Salvation Army maintains a webpage stating that they do not discriminate against LGBT people, stating: "The Salvation Army believes that all people are equal, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor, including race, gender and ethnicity," while admitting "occasionally one of our millions of employees and volunteers might say or do something that does not reflect our values. We address these incidents as soon as they arise. "

The Dallas-Fort Worth Salvation Army reported $59 million (pdf) in donations for fiscal year 2012, with over $6.8 million coming in government grants.

[Image Jodielynn Wiley Facebook]