Saving Shay


”I identify as a transgender female.  I have lived my truth as a female for about 12 years now.  Before that I always knew I was a female my whole life growing up.  My mannerisms, the way I care for people.  I didn’t fit in.  When others were playing with Tonka trucks, I was playing with Barbie.  It’s been present all throughout my life.  It’s not an easy walk.  I run into a lot of people who don’t even think I should draw a breath.  It’s difficult sometimes.  I just try to live my truth and walk on despite the ignorance.”

“I could walk down the street looking like a million bucks but people would still talk crap.  You have to hold your head up high and walk through it.  It’s the only way to fight against it.  It hurts at times that people can’t accept me for who I am.  It’s been a long process to get where I am at.  Finding yourself is not an overnight job.  The journey has taught me so much about myself and others.”

“I moved to Columbus in 2015 from Lancaster, Ohio.  I lived in a smaller town.  Everyone knew me and came to terms with who I am.  I didn’t get weird looks walking down the street.  I had a lot of friends there.  I moved to Columbus and expected a warm welcome.  It’s not always like that for us.  The ‘T’ in LGBTQ, I feel like we are isolated sometimes.  I feel like there should be more unity.  It’s something I would love to see grow.”

“My mother passed away and it was hard being in a small town that reminded me of her.  I would go everywhere there and see her.  I came to Columbus to plant roots and start a new life.  I actually grew up in Mt. Vernon.  I have been everywhere.  My mother was on SSI.  She had a seizure disorder and couldn’t work because of that.  It was really hard sometimes.  We depended on places similar to The Open Shelter for food, clothes and even school fees and supplies.  You pay rent and utilities and then your money is gone when you are on public assistance.  But my mother did the best she could.  My parents divorced when I was 1.  I had a barrage of stepfathers, it was very unstable.  I find it hard to find stability myself right now because of that.  It’s just one more thing to rise above.”

“In Columbus I was placed in a living situation I did not feel safe in.  I was trafficked.  It led me to leave and I ended up on the streets.  I ended up in a shelter and couldn’t follow the rules there.  There really is no safe place for trans people in the Columbus shelter system.  We are either housed with males or females.  Somebody told me about The Open Shelter one day.  I just came through to get a sack lunch and I remember Kent and Mary Beittel (our former Directors).  Mary was so sweet; she came to me with open arms.  I met Sheli and Solomon (current Directors).  In them I saw the same people I looked up to growing up, so I attached myself.  I started coming every day, staying around and trying to help wherever I could.  I don’t like to take without giving back.  I found family here.”

“When I was trafficked, I ended up in a situation where I was sexually abused by multiple people.  I felt powerless in that situation.  I am not going to hand anyone my power.  My power to say ‘no’ is very important.  I have been working with The Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking unit for about two years. There are a lot of issues with trafficking and transgender people.”

“I have felonies on my record.  Nothing violent, no sex crimes, nothing crazy like that.  I am a recovering addict.  In my addiction, I stole.  I stole from stores; from a charity.  I was not a good person.  I went to prison for burglary in 2013.  I broke into a house to steal a coat.  When I got out of prison, that is when I was placed in an unsafe living situation.  It was nice having The Open Shelter and that support; having people I could talk to and know I have a safe place.  I would have been lost wandering the city without them. I remember days where I would wake up off the concrete, get myself together and would have nowhere else to go but The Open Shelter.  I can’t say enough how much The Open Shelter has helped me.  I would be dead without this place.”

“I was addicted to amphetamines and opiates.  I was on methadone.  While it had its place in my recovery, I felt like it tore me down more than it built me up.  I made the decision in February of this year that I was going to get off of it.  In March, I went to a place called Bridges in Portsmouth, Ohio and I went cold turkey off of methadone.  I had to.  My spirit wasn’t alive and I could feel it.  I had to go and shake off all the chains.  I am doing well now; I am in sober living.”

“I would go to the shelters, get kicked out and be on the streets for a week and then pop into the psych ward for a week.  It was just for a place to stay and for three meals a day.  It would also help me try to reset all the crazy stuff that was going on in my head.  Even after I had found housing, I hadn’t truly got my mental health in order.  I am on mood stabilizing medication which evens me out.  Because of it, I am not always overanxious.”

“PRIDE is being able to hold your head up when the world doesn’t agree with who you are.  It is showing your best face every time.  PRIDE is walking through adversity and not giving up on yourself.  Several times I just wanted to throw in the towel.  I am getting ready to start my chemical dependency counseling and coursework.  I am so excited because I have friends who are getting ready to open sober living facilities in the city.  They want me to come on staff.  I never thought that would happen.  I would love to start a nonprofit to help the trans community in Columbus.  I don’t want them to go through what I went through.  It’s a lofty goal but I believe it is attainable.  Trans people and LGBTQ people are not asking for special treatment.  We just want equal treatment.” 

“The Open Shelter is where I found a home.  It is where I found a family.  It is where I found support when no one in the world would help me.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, it would not be enough to give for what you have done for me.  I always refer people to The Open Shelter.”