“Her family disputes this”
In the last issue of Street Sense, Director of Community Engagement for the Human Right Campaign, Tori Cooper wrote a piece entitled, “Honoring Baby Alice.” While I understand and wholeheartedly support most of what Cooper had to say about the plight of young trans folks, I cannot support what Cooper had to say of Alice in particular.
Cooper makes the following statement: “Some claim [Alice] was kicked out of her parents’ home because of her gender identity. Her family disputes this.”
And that’s as far as Cooper went in offering a rebuttal to rumors on the street. Yes, indeed, her family, and I — as her closest friend of more than a dozen years — dispute this. Because it simply is not true. While Alice’s story is a tragic one, there is no need to overdramatize her life by making stuff up. And if Alice were still with us she would feel most dishonored to have her mother’s name dragged through the mud for no reason other than it makes for a sexier story.
Likewise, I was concerned when reading the first issue of Street Sense to come out in the immediate wake of Alice’s passing that she was consistently being referred to as homeless, which at the time of her death she most certainly was not. As a matter of fact, it was Street Sense that got Alice her single room occupancy.
Article after article, in the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, gave the impression that Alice was homeless most of her time here in D.C. There’s no mention of the fact that she lived with me in my apartment on 14th street NW for nearly 10 years, nor that she actually had her own one-bedroom apartment in Southeast D.C. for a couple years until she managed to lose it.
Alice had problems and occasional homelessness was one of them. But what most folks don’t know is that Alice chose to roam the streets of the city at night. She had a home to go to, she just didn’t go there much of the time, mainly out of loneliness. Alice’s main problem was self-medicated mental illness. Full stop! Yes, this led to other problems, but her mental illness and inability to accept it was the core issue.
I suppose maybe it speaks to how much Baby Alice was loved that groups have been so quick to want to adopt her as a poster child for their causes. But let’s all try to stay reality-based in assessing the life of Alice Carter and where society failed her. Society housed her three times in D.C., once with me and twice on her own. Her acceptance as a trans woman in D.C., this supposed bastion of tolerance, was much more of an issue than it should have been. But even that would have been navigable for Alice if her mental illness had been self-acknowledged and adequately treated.
Jeff Taylor is a vendor and artist with Street Sense Media.