Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Covenant House Texas- Not A Home For Trans And Intersex Youth

This is a guest post from the ever fabulous Monica of TransGriot

The Covenant House location in Houston opened its doors on June 27, 1983 and has been around in the Montrose gayborhood for over 25 years.   It claims on its website that it has counseled, mentored, educated, inspired, transformed, and healed thousands of lives.

Unless you happen to be transgender or intersex.

Covenant House was begun by a Franciscan priest back in 1969, and founded as an organization in New York City in 1972.

Lady Gaga recently gave Covenant House a $20,000 donation for their  work with LGBT youth, but judging by how they handle things in Houston, you'd be hard pressed to give them a passing grade for the way that Covenant House-Texas deals with Houston area transgender and intersex kids..

Over the last few years the anti-trans attitudes injected into the Vatican hierarchy by Father Urbano Navarrete and Dr. Paul McHugh are entrenching themselves in the Roman Catholic Church and trickling down to the flock and its faith based service organizations.

It seems that one of those service organizations that has been affected by the faith based transphobia is Covenant House Texas    .

Cristan Williams of the Transgender Foundation for America and Houston City Councilmember Jolanda Jones have been disturbed about the ongoing reports of under 21 people who have attempted to access the services of Covenant House Texas.

They have either being turned away or if they are admitted, encounter less than respectful treatment .

One of the young trans people denied services by Covenant House Texas, Cinnamon (Kendrick) Perry, ended up a few days later on the Remembering Our Dead list.
 
Perry was shot to death July 20, 2003 by someone in a passing car as she walked down the 1200 block of Lovett Street.  The location where Perry died is tragically blocks from the Covenant House Texas facility located at 1100 Lovett St.
Perry told Cristan Williams before she was killed that 'They said they won't take people like me."
When Williams was investigating why Perry was denied admission, according to a post on the TFA website, CH staff member Victor Hay explained to Cristan that the reason CH withheld shelter services from an 18 year old HIV+ transgender person (Perry) was because CH is a faith-based organization and as such, could not house transgender people for fear that 'the transgender person might snap and rape the biological women'.
Excuse me?  

That's unacceptable because Covenant House Texas gets federal funding via the Houston City Council, which means that  some of the tax dollars trans Houstonians pay go to funding anti-trans and intersex discrimination  

If you think it's just transpeeps who get no respect from Covenant House Texas,  intersex people are also being rejected and disrespected by CHT staffers.

A meeting was held June 11, 2010 at Covenant House attended by Cristan, Darin Quintero, TFA Board of Directors Vice-President, Councilwoman Jolanda Jones and her aide, Houston Covenant House Director/CEO Ronda Robinson and Josephine Tittsworth with the NASW-TX GLBT Equity Committee.

It was called to address the concerns the Houston trans community had about this increasingly intolerable situation.   Director Robinson admitted during this meeting that Covenant House has no policy whatsoever concerning protecting GLBT youth and that equal treatment is discretionary for staff.

Robinson also promised that by July 19, 2010 CHT would provide the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) with Policies and Procedures as it applies to Intake, Assessment, Placement, and Discipline regarding transgender youth and a follow up meeting would be scheduled to discuss solutions to the ongoing discrimination problems at Covenant House Texas..

One month later, Councilmember Jones sent this letter to Director Robinson about the glacial paced response of CH-Texas towards fulfilling the promises made to her and other attendees at the June meeting.. .

On November 24 Covenant House-Texas finally ended their stonewalling silence as board member Andrea N..Moore sent a message to Cristan asking for another meeting..   .
 
Council member Jones' response to Moore and Williams' e-mail exchange pretty much sums up our  view as to how serious Covenant House Texas is in wishing to deal with this still festering situation..
Ms. Moore,

Hello. I would love to meet with you. I am hopeful that you will be more productive than my meetings with Ms. Robinson, who made promises which have not been addressed and who has not answered follow-up communications. I would be lying to you if I said I was not disappointed in how the Covenant House has handled issues with the GLBT community, especially the transgender community.

While I appreciate your interest in investigating, I am concerned that that route is a band aid rather than getting to the root of the problem. I am still waiting on a non-discriminatory policy by the CH. None has been given. This problem reminds me of what's going on with bullying in schools. The schools aren't acknowledging the problem yet children are killing themselves. Acknowledgment is the first real step to a meaningful and productive solution.

With that being said, I will have my Scheduler, Josaphine Bocardo, schedule a meeting. I also anticipate inviting Cristan Williams, who has worked long and hard on transgender rights.

Ultimately, I believe we are all created equal and all deserve to be treated equally.

The People (All People) Are The City,

Council Member Jolanda "Jo" Jones

There is definitely a transphobic stench emanating from the Houston Covenant House branch that needs to be disinfected and cleaned up.  The National Association of Social Workers, the Houston trans community, Cristan Williams, Councilmember Jones and the TransGriot are more than fed up with the foot dragging and obfuscation going on.  

We're demanding nothing less than Covenant House Texas simply treating all children they house in their facility with dignity and respect.   As long as they are accepting funding from the city of Houston, some of which comes from the taxes trans Houstonians pay,  they are obligated to write non discrimination of transpeople into their policies and follow them with no excuses and no more delays..     

The question is at this juncture is will Covenant House Texas actually do so?