Jodielynn Wiley said she feared for her life while living in Paris, Texas. Calling the violence she endured “typical redneck bigotry,” she regularly found death threats and dead animals on her doorstep. The police refused to help, telling her that “being the way you are you should expect that.”
So she got up and left.
“I got up in the middle of the night and took off,” Wiley told Lone Star Q. “I just needed to get out of there. I didn’t want to wake up with my throat cut.”
Wiley moved to Dallas, where she found shelter at the Salvation Army. Now, however, Wiley needs another place to go. She was denied a two-year placement there because of her gender reassignment surgery.
“I have no idea where I’m going,” Wiley said. “They could tell me tomorrow it’s time for me to exit, and there’s not much I can do about it.”
Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative, founded the Shared Housing Project to help transgender or gender nonconforming people like Wiley.
“This idea grew out of spending too many frustrating attempts to locate or navigate existing options only to end up going nowhere,” Gaither said. “Providers don’t call back, program funding lost or cut, your client just doesn’t quite meet the qualifications. This is a stop-gap attempt to do a little to alleviate the problem, but I thought it worth trying.”
Gaither says most shelters have nine to 18-month waiting lists. She helps place people in shelters, and while some are simply at capacity, others are not comfortable accepting transgender people.
“It’s so frustrating with ‘Well, you don’t quite fit the qualifications’ or somebody doesn’t give you a call back, which may just be that they’re busy,” Gaither told the Dallas Voice. “But some of it could be transphobia. I think there are a lot of other reasons. That’s totally not the single reason that people are not getting in a shelter.”
One thing Wiley knows is where she won’t be going—back to Paris.
“I sure don’t want to go back,” she said. “It’d be like going back to hell.”