This week, intrepid City Paper reporter and friend to the average queer, Melissa Meinzer explores the ramifications of Rebecca Hare's rescue from a rising river and the media free for all around her gender identity.
While it is fairly self-evident that Pittsburgh's media botched coverage of this story and that Rebecca's gender was not relevant to her rescue, Meinzer explores the connection between her status as a trans woman and her decision to live under the Convention Center.
If reporters were intent on discussing issues of gender, Lombardi and others say, they could have done so by focusing on a deeper question: whether Hare's trans status was a factor in her being homeless in the first place. Transgender people are often stigmatized and marginalized, and sometimes even homeless shelters struggle to find a place for them.
“We're not designed as a shelter system to make these accommodations,” says Adrienne Walnoha, the executive director of Oakland-based Community Human Services Corporation. The private nonprofit social-service agency takes a special interest in the plight of transpeople accessing services.
In most shelters, people live in a congregate living situation, sharing space with the other residents. But residents, Walnoha says, can feel threatened by a person they perceive as different. Women in shelters are often victims of domestic violence and can “look at [a transwoman] as a sexually deviant man coming into their space,” says Walnoha. In men's shelters, meanwhile, “the automatic assumption is that if someone's making a transition, they're gay, and that puts the person in a position of being victimized.”
That puts shelter staff in a tough spot. “If you're working in a facility and the people staying there say, ‘I don't want to stay with this person, I don't feel safe,' it's very difficult to make the decision of who is more important,” says Walnoha. “You don't want to put the transperson in a position of being in a place where they're not wanted.”
Well done. Check out the full story for more details.