Salvation Army among New York City drug clinics rejecting transgender people

Substance abuse clinics are violating the city’s gender identity protections.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) announced last week that it was charging four different substance abuse centers, one of which is run by the Salvation Army, with discriminating against transgender patients in violation of city law.

The centers found to be discriminating were the Addicts Rehabilitation Center (Manhattan), Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (Brooklyn), Promesa Residential Health Care Facility (Bronx), and the Thomas and Marie White Health Center (Queens). The announcement did not specify which clinics engaged in which discriminatory behaviors, but the violations found included:

  • Refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants
  • Assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity
  • Unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery
  • Segregating transgender patients into separate rooms

The discrimination was found through a testing process after the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) tipped off the commission that mistreatment was happening. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”

The NYCCHR has the authority to fine violators up to $250,000 and can also require trainings, policy changes, community service, and mediated apologies.

Two of the clinics found to be violating city law have religious affiliations. The Addicts Rehabilitation Center was founded by a church, operates a gospel choir as one of its programs, and is currently run by Rev. Reginald Williams, a baptist preacher. The Center’s splash page proclaims, “We believe that if you discover the wonderful person the Creator has given to you, that nothing in this life can stop you from reaching your fullest potential.”

The Salvation Army is itself a church with a long history of discriminating against LGBTQ people. While that history has mostly focused on its rejection of homosexuality, a Salvation Army-run homeless shelter in Texas was also accused of anti-transgender discrimination in 2014. Their public relations campaign to improve their LGBTQ image has rung rather hollow.

Transgender people have been found to be at higher risk of drug abuse because of the employment and housing discrimination they are prone to experience. The recent U.S. Trans Survey found that 22 percent of trans people had been harassed or denied treatment when trying to access services from a drug or alcohol treatment program. It also found that 29 percent had used illicit drugs at some point in their lifetime, with rates particularly high among those who had lost a job for being transgender (43 percent), who had experienced homelessness (42 percent), and who had done sex work (56 percent) or other underground economy work like selling drugs (75 percent).