Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army This Christmas

Jodielynn Wiley, a transgender woman, left Paris, Texas so quickly after receiving death threats, in 2014, that she didn’t have time to make housing arrangements for her arrival in Dallas. Instead, she sought help with the Salvation Army, having nowhere else to go.

She was given emergency housing, at first. But when she applied for a two-year housing program with the organization, she was reportedly rejected due to the fact that she had not had gender confirmation surgery.

I could spend an entire article’s worth of space writing about the expense about gender confirmation surgery, the recovery time, the complications that can accompany it, and the difficulty in even getting the right paperwork together for it—but unfortunately, this is only one of the many attacks Salvation Army has made against the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2004, the charity organization that prides itself on Christian values threatened to shut down soup kitchens in New York in an attempt to pressure the city into not passing legislature that would require businesses to provide the same-sex partners of employees with the same benefits that the partners of straight employees received. In 2012, leaders of the Salvation Army, along with other religious leaders, denounced marriage equality as a threat to religious freedom—and while they claim to adhere to what is now constitutional law, they still make public the fact that they believe in marriage defined by the Christian bible: between a man and a woman. And, as recently as 2017, a substance abuse center run by the Salvation Army in New York City was caught refusing trans individuals as patients, as well as otherwise discriminating against them.

image from The Advocate

The Salvation Army has apologized for all these things, and has said that they are moving forward. But their constant habit of discriminating against LGBTQIA+ individuals seems like a pattern, rather than a set of unrelated incidents—and as a result, it is impossible to know if the money given to them this holiday season is also going towards LGBTQIA+ discrimination.

That being said, there are some extremely worthy organizations that do charity work without discriminating against the people they serve. Doctors Without Borders helps to treat people in areas of the world that don’t have easy access to medical centers or professionals. Planned Parenthood helps people access health care (including sexual health care and, in some centers, hormone replacement therapy for transgender individuals). The Coalition for the Homeless works in New York City to feed and shelter the homeless without discriminating against the individuals they assist. The Trevor Project is aimed at reducing the rate of suicide in LGBTQIA+ youth—and, of course, there are many, many more organizations to choose from. But this December, if you see a bell-ringer with a red kettle, the right thing to do might unfortunately be to walk by and donate elsewhere.

image from Unspalsh