For those unfamiliar with memes, a picture of a dress went viral last week which some perceive as black and blue, whilst others perceive as white and gold. An independent design agency came up with the above ad, which capitalizes on the popularity of the dress meme by showing a woman who is the victim of domestic abuse wearing the dress (white and gold), covered in bruises (black and blue). The message is simple – it’s easy to see the glamour of the dress, but one has to look twice before they notice domestic abuse.
The Salvation Army, a charity which primarily deals with homelessness, has bought this ad and begun distributing it with their tagline. The ad is laudable and clever, but the Salvation Army doesn’t deserve it. The charity’s dark history of intolerance shows that campaigns like this are only aimed at straight cis (not transgender) women, and prove that any other homeless charity would be a more deserving candidate of this ad than the SA.
Questions about the Salvation Army’s unethical treatment of transgender women (those born biologically male but who identify as female) first came to light in Christmas of 2008, when transgender homeless woman Jennifer Gale sought refuge at an SA shelter. Gale identified as female, but staff at the shelter said she could only stay if she slept and showered alongside men, forcing her to disregard her own gender just because she was born biologically male. Gale, out of total desperation, slept outside of the shelter instead, only to die that night due to freezing cold conditions. The SA made no comment.
Another case came to light last year, when transgender woman Jodielynn Wiley was driven from her home after repeated death threats and dead animals being left on her doorstep. Wiley sought refuge with the SA, and she was granted temporary housing in one of their shelters. But when her time was up and Wiley asked for help with permanent housing arrangements, the SA turned her down because she hadn’t undergone gender reassignment surgery, an extremely expensive and lengthy procedure that middle class people struggle to afford, let alone homeless people. Thankfully, Wiley did not meet the same end as Jennifer Gale, and eventually found permanent housing with another trans-inclusive homelessness charity.
You may think these are isolated incidents, but they are but two examples among many. To make matters worse, the Salvation Army also has a well-documented history of lobbying various world governments to reject civil rights legislation, even succeeding in exempting themselves from laws which would treat LGBT people with respect:
- In the mid 80’s, the SA protested against a bill in New Zealand that would decriminalize same-sex activity.
- In the late 80’s, the SA successfully added a notorious provision to the UK’s Local Government Act (Section 28) which made it illegal to talk about homosexuality in schools.
- In 2001, the SA demanded that the U.S. government make it exempt from civil rights legislation pertaining to equal employment for gay people.
- That same year, the SA also demanded that the U.S. government not give grants or tax exemptions to any cities which had laws protecting homeless LGBT people.
- The SA has also fired people for being bisexual in the past, and provided links to anti-gay “conversion” therapy centres on its website.
Perhaps the worst thing they’ve done came in 2004, when New York was considering passing a law which meant all food vendors, regardless of their beliefs, had to serve LGBT citizens. Instead of accepting LGBT citizens in their soup kitchens, the SA threatened to close them all down and stop operating in NY state. In other words, the SA would rather see all homeless people in New York starve and die, than serve the LGBT ones food.
Do not be fooled by the Salvation Army – they refuse to divorce religion from charity, and only care about your black and blue bruises if you’re a straight cis woman. Anybody else is deemed sinful and not worthy of basic care. There are a thousand and one charities which do exactly what the SA do without the anti-gay and anti-trans bigotry. Choose one of them instead.