The Texas Civil Rights Review has a piece up entitled Jennifer Gale Death Caused by Lack of Shelter for Transgender Homeless, explaining how the perennial candidate for Dallas and Austin public office died this past Wednesday. From the article:
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’s voice rang through Austin Council Chamber doors every week, often times in support of the homeless population of which she was a part.
“Let’s give the homeless a place to exercise that need jobs and need help,” said Gale Tuesday night before the city’s Health Services Board.
Her death points to critical problems faced by the homeless, and especially by homeless women and the transgender homeless.
“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 the following regarding Ms. Gale’s death:
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. 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.
I have chills running through my spine over this. Homelessness is a scary reality that many trans people face in every city — they don’t have jobs because they’re discriminated against for being trans (and often in combination with also being a member of a second minority group or protected class, such as regarding race, disability, etc.), and there are often no shelters that will take trans people as they are. If gender expression doesn’t match natal sex, there is often no shelter for them to get out of the cold.
My eyes are already welling over Jennifer Gale, and how she died sleeping on the streets…how she appears to have died from exposure on a cold, cold night.
* KUVE Video: Jennifer Gale remembered
* Pivotal Austin, Texas transgendered figure found dead