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Transgender Woman Fights Public Housing Discrimination

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Transgender Woman Fights Public Housing Discrimination

Gloria Allen. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)

Transgender people often face housing discrimination. So the federal government is currently conducting a first-ever study to learn more about it. In Chicago, one woman has faced bias from a tenant. She lives in public housing for seniors. And unlike many other transgender people, she's speaking up.

Meet Gloria Allen.

ALLEN: I'm 64 years old and I'm a transgender. I've been living as a woman ever since I was 24 years old and I'm happy with my life.

She was born George Allen.

ALLEN: I hate that name.

Growing up between Hyde Park and Englewood, Allen says she had a supportive family who embraced her, even after surgery.

Two years ago, the retired nurse moved to Flannery Apartments. It's a Chicago Housing Authority property for seniors on North Clybourn Avenue. She's complained about run-ins with another tenant in the building.

ALLEN: He called me everything but a child of God.

Then there were more incidents. Last month, on the third incident, Allen says he again mocked her for being transgender and took his contempt a step further.

ALLEN: I was coming off the elevator; he was coming out of management's office. He took his crutch, saw me, he ran toward me; he started swinging his crutch all around and I got out of his way.

Allen says someone grabbed him from the back but the crutch slammed the wall and counter.

ALLEN: Called me a nigger bitch. Told me he was gonna kill me.

The police were called and incident reports were filled out.

Allen has one request.

ALLEN: He should be gone. He's still in here. He should be gone.

CHA officials acknowledge the incident and say “corrective actions” are in process. That's as specific as they will get.

CHOU: All I can say is that it's not anyone's expectation that Ms. Allen should be inconvenienced as a result of this incident.

Jadine Chou oversees the management of public housing buildings.

CHOU: The CHA has a formal policy that we do not discriminate against any person due to race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, etc.

The Illinois Human Rights Act protects individuals against gender-identity discrimination. However, the federal fair housing act doesn't have that language. There's a resolution in Congress that would protect the transgender population.

A report from the National Center for Transgender Equality concludes that transgender people have significant housing instability… including eviction and homelessness.

These facts, coupled with the federal housing study that's underway, push Gloria Allen to speak up on behalf of people like herself. One weekday afternoon, she works with teenagers on an oral history project they are doing on gay, lesbian and transgender senior citizens. The students are interviewing them about their life experiences.

ambi: You don't really see kids interacting with other kids and teens outside of their sexual orientation of status.

Allen nods her head. She fields questions with a calm assuredness. Lean and fashionable, chunky silver bracelets dangle from her arms.

ambi: I don't think there'll ever be another Gloria like me and I love that.

I called the man who Allen says harassed her. He denied any wrongdoing but did tell me that the judge ordered him to stay away from her.

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