DV Shelter Employees Puzzled by Transgender Woman’s Request to be Housed with Biological Women
REGIONAL – With recent controversy over President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse the Obama Administration’s federal guidelines that allow transgender students to use the restroom they identify with, a new dilemma has emerged that may affect how the LGBTQ community receives services from state and federally funded domestic violence shelters.
After Democrats introduced the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) back in 1994, heterosexual and homosexual males began filing complaints of discrimination over exclusionary language that prevented them from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual and homosexual women. But what happens when biological males who identify as females try to enter a domestic violence shelter that traditionally only accepts biological females? That’s what one woman says happened to her when she reached out to several local DV shelters but was turned away.
The victim who we will refer to as “Virginia” says she’s identified as a woman almost her entire adult life but she has never undergone therapy to make the full transition. Virginia says over the last few years she’s been physically and emotionally abused by her male partner and is trying to escape the relationship. During our interview, Virginia said “I tried contacting the Dawn Center but they seemed confused and unsure, so they told me that they would have to call me back with an answer.” Virginia says she never received a call back from Dawn Center, so she called other area shelters that also turned her away or offered services that were intended for male victims. Virginia says “I can’t stay in a male only shelter – I would never make it in there.” Virginia hasn’t spoken to her family in years, over her change in gender identity, and she has no local friends who can help until she gets back on her feet.
Dawn Center did not respond to our requests for comment but the very next day they did post an ambiguous statement on their official Facebook Page that reads “Did you know that abusive partners in LGBT relationships use all the same tactics to gain power and control as abusive partners in heterosexual relationships?” They go on to explain “At Dawn Center we are proud to offer all services to all survivors of domestic and sexual violence without discrimination.” But that statement isn’t entirely true because male victims of DV are not allowed inside the shelter or most, if not all of the 42 taxpayer funded shelters across Florida. Despite statistically being nearly half of all victims of DV, males are referred to homeless shelters or given enough funds to stay at a motel for a few nights. So that just leaves victims like Virginia who fall through the cracks, even though society’s push for equality among the LGBTQ community says that would be discrimination.
Major Shannon Winters with the Pasco County Salvation Army Domestic Violence Shelter says as long as the victim’s State issued identification card classifies them as a woman then they will be allowed to stay at their shelters. But state law requires that transgender applicants submit a letter from their physician stating that they are undergoing clinical treatment for gender transition. So that still leaves out those who simply identify as women.
We contacted Debra Petersen of CASA, which is located in Citrus County, who was a bit guarded when we asked the same question, but after a short tug-of-war Petersen finally confirmed that they would provide services to transgender women. However, the parameters may be the same as those required by the Salvation Army.
We haven’t been able to reach Virginia since we spoke to her last week, so it is not known if she finally found the help that she needed.
But a perplexing question remains; If you allow transgender women (biological males) into government subsidized domestic violence shelters, intended only for biological women, then what about biological males who identify as males?
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