Two years have passed since transgender woman and former mayoral candidate Jennifer Gale died on the steps of a Austin Church. Jennifer's serenades often preceded council appearances and her notoriety spurred a outcry and a memorial was held. It was so very, very cold at her memorial on that grey Austin day but sadly her death has yielded no concrete results. The publicly funded homeless city shelter the ARCH, still offers no overnight accommodations to transgender woman.The Eulogies and tears shed at her death were most moving. From the Austin Statesman:
In a email response Charles Kemp, Office of the Director, Austin/Travis County HHSD stated that the city funded homeless shelter ARCH does not allow transgender people to overnight, have a transgender written transgender policy or separate facilities to insure safety of transgender people should they take advantage of the 'day sleepers' program.
All seven members of the Austin City Council gave personal tributes to Jennifer Gale today is what was a touching and sometimes funny goodbye to the transgendered homeless woman who was a regular speaker — and singer — at council meetings. She also ran and lost numerous races for the council and other elective offices.And in 2010, 2 years later...
Gale had made her last three-minute appearance at a council subcommittee meeting Tuesday evening, spooling out her typically crowded list of concerns — health care, Iraq, abortion — and singing an on-tune and lilting version of “Silent Night.” A tape of her performance was played at council chambers today, with most of the audience and several council members joining in the singing.
“She’s always been an incredibly sweet person,” said Council Member Brewster McCracken, who recalled sitting with Gale for about 30 minutes not that long ago and asking about her life story. She told him about living in the Carolinas, about serving in the Marines, about working at a Stuckey’s.
The outpouring for such an unusual person, McCracken said, ” is a reminder of the better angels of all of us as Austinites. But the idea that she died alone on a park bench on a cold night is a reminder that we have not lived up to our better angels as a community.”
Council Member Mike Martinez pointed out that Gale had a particular problem finding proper shelter. She couldn’t go to a male shelter because she lived her life as a woman, but couldn’t go to a woman’s shelter because she was “anatomically” a man, Martinez said. He pointed out that the homeless residential facility that the council briefly considered months ago might have provided a place for someone like Gale.
Council Member Laura Morrison recalled that Gale was among the six who ran for the seat Morrison won. Gale came in fourth, Morrison said. Her favorite memory, Morrison said, was a Real Estate Council of Austin election forum when Gale “led about 500 suits and their guests at the Four Season’s ballroom in a rendition of “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.”
Mayor Will Wynn said he had the “distinct honor of running twice for mayor with Jennifer. You didn’t run against Jennifer, you ran with her.”
“Jennifer will be sorely missed,” Wynn said. “Semper fi.”
According to Natasha Ponczek, Homeless Program Coordinator at City of Austin to the best of her knowledge there are no plans to make facility changes at the ARCH to accommodate transgender people.No action. No plans for action, now or in the future.
Spare us the crocodile tears. It's easier to fight against honest malice than unctuous mouthings and deliberate neglect.