Gale Rumor Untrue

Speculation about cause of death lead to inaccurate accusations about shelter provision

Jennifer Gale
Jennifer Gale (Photo by Alan Pogue)

In the wake of the untimely death of perennial City Council candidate and gadfly Jennifer Gale, public sympathy with her homelessness – she died, of yet unconfirmed causes, while sleeping outside Wednesday night, Dec. 18 – has led to misleading speculation about the circumstances of her death.

A Burnt Orange Report blog posting by Karl-Thomas Musselman quoted an email from Marti Bier (aide to City Council Member Randi Shade) describing Gale as a "trans[gender] woman living in a transphobic society," and therefore with "nowhere … to go to protect herself from the cold [last] night."

Bier's sympathetic rumor had become conventional wisdom by Thursday's Council meeting, and a subsequent press release by Equality Texas was headlined in part, "Her death can be directly attributed to lack of shelters accepting of transgender homeless."

In fact, a somewhat embarrassed Bier says now, that's not true. She says she had confused a story she'd heard about another transgender woman's bad experience at a local shelter with Gale, and that she has since contacted both the Salvation Army and the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and learned that both shelters do what they can to accommodate all homeless people, regardless of gender status although they do have to adjust accommodations to particular circumstances. "I think I was trying to call attention to the problem of trans women accessing services," Bier said.

Although we're still inquiring, there is in fact currently no evidence that Gale was ever refused shelter, or indeed that she had ever requested it.

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Jennifer Gale, Randi Shade, Equality Texas, Salvation Army, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless

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