Monday, December 13, 2010

Covenant House Texas Update-Cristan's Thoughts About The CH Secret Shopper Investigation

This is a guest post From the fabulous Monica of Transgriot.  It is a follow up on a previous post regarding the hostility of Covenant House to TLBG you.

TransGriot Note:  Covenant House Texas and Mr. Mike, to borrow a line from former President Ronald Reagan, 'trust but verify'.    

Frankly you and your people at CHT have not earned the trust of the Houston TBIGL community based on your past decade long actions, your organization's connections to an increasingly homophobic and transphobic Catholic Church and your stonewalling this community and Councilmember Jones for months as to why you have not come up with a written policy that will codify what the Houston community has asked for.

What have we asked for?   A policy that explicitly states how TBLGI kids will be treated at CHT, makes clear they will be respected and protected while in the program, the created policy has teeth and penalties for violation of it up to and including termination.   

Because otherwise, 'Fairness' is just a word subject to your goalpost shifting interpretation.

And now, here's Cristan.

Many of you know that Council Member Jones hosted a come to Jesus talk at City Hall between several community leaders and a Covenant House representative yesterday  (December 9). If you follow my FaceBook, you know it was a really intense meeting that lasted almost 3 hours. The Covenant House representative made a number of claims about how GLB and especially T kids are treated there. These claims were in direct opposition to what many of us have witnessed over this last decade.

Since the Covenant House representative seemed dismissive of much of what we claimed to have observed over the years. She was also dismissive of what is located at covhou.com .

So, today (December 10) I called Covenant House intake as a secret shopper and was told that the policy is that TG kids are identified by what is on their ID - that staff will not use preferred names and/or pronouns. This is the exact opposite of what the Covenant House represented was true at the meeting yesterday at Council Member Jones' office. Additionally, I spoke to "Mr. Mike" in intake. I specifically asked to speak with him because I've had reports that he tends to treat TG kids more harshly than non-TG kids.

When I asked if my MTF client would be recognized by their preferred name, he said, "they will be treated fairly." When I asked if my MTF client had any chance whatsoever of being housed with the other females, he said, "they will be treated fairly." When I asked if my MTF client would be recognized by their preferred gender pronouns, he said, "they will be treated fairly." When I asked what he meant by fairness, he said, "fairness." We went round and around. I would ask specific policy questions and he would dodge the question by saying that everyone is treated "fairly." When I pointed out that his notion of fairness might be different than what the client's notion of fairness was he said, "I've answered your question. They will be treated fairly." When I asked if he could tell me what the policy was for working with transgender kids, he said CH does not discriminate and that everyone would be treated fairly. During the entire conversation, he never once answered my actual question.

Mr. Mark is perhaps one of the most hostile people I've ever spoken with in a professional capacity. I asked a couple of very simple, explicit questions. Instead of providing a simple answer, he decided to play a game with me by pretending to be obtuse. He could have said that he didn't know, that he wasn't sure or he could have said at the beginning of the call that I needed to speak to his supervisor or ED concerning questions of policy. Instead he chose to rebuff me, dodge my questions and infer that I was unreasonable to expect him to provide anything like a direct answer.


Had this been an actual call I was making on behalf of a real client, I would have ended it about 4 minutes into the conversation and I would have NEVER referred the client to him. By the 4 minute mark, it was obvious to me that he was playing a game. I was asking him to provide information and he was withholding information. It was a simple power game. The only reason I continued the conversation was because I wanted to know how far he was willing to take his power game.

"Fairness" is not an answer because it is not a quantifiable policy. Bullies believe that they are treating their victims fairly; the concept of fairness, unless actually defined, is largely meaningless where matters of policy are concerned.  I literally had a headache after speaking with this man. I honestly shudder to think how power games like this plays out in real life with real kids.