My Stint as a Transgender Bell-Ringer in Salvation Army

Jennifer Finney Boylan faces dilemma between group's work and values

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 17, 2013 12:00 PM CST | Updated Dec 17, 2013 12:25 PM CST

(Newser) – The Salvation Army has, in recent years, made waves for anti-LGBT views, not least one rep's comment that gays "deserve death." Would the group tolerate a transgender woman taking up bell-ringing? Jennifer Finney Boylan tells her story in the New York Times. She opted to volunteer before the group's opinions on sexuality had emerged, though she had her concerns: "I could picture the scene—the head of the Red Kettle corps taking one look at me, knocking the Santa hat off my head, contemptuously snapping all my candy canes in half."

But when Boylan arrived for duty, the woman holding the post gratefully handed over the bell. Donors were grateful, too. Eventually, a friend questioned Boylan: "Don’t you know how awful they are to gay men and lesbians?" When she learned more, a "moral quandary" emerged, pitting the group's values against its millions of dollars of aid. "When a hand reaches out to help us in our hour of desperation, should we stop to question the beliefs of the person to whom that hand belongs?" Ultimately, Boylan decided to stop volunteering—but not to stop giving. Meanwhile, she works for other charities, including gay-rights group GLAAD. Click for her full column.

Transgender novelist and Colby College English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan poses Monday, March 3, 2008 at her home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.
Transgender novelist and Colby College English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan poses Monday, March 3, 2008 at her home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.   (AP Photo/Joel Page)
In this Dec. 17, 2008 file photo, a bell ringer for the Salvation Army solicits donations on Fifth Avenue in New York.
In this Dec. 17, 2008 file photo, a bell ringer for the Salvation Army solicits donations on Fifth Avenue in New York.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
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