Jamie Boeglin lived on the fringes of society, and now that she has been missing for a year, her family fears they have lost her forever
ANDREA GRIMES | Contributing Writer
Jamie Boeglin lived in Fort Worth, but she didn’t really have any kind of permanent home to go missing from.
Sometimes she crashed at her brother’s house on the west side or squatted in an abandoned house. She’d spend a night at a shelter here or there, or just sleep on the street.
Many times, she could have listed her address as a jail cell after she’d been picked up for shoplifting or fighting.
Jamie Boeglin did have one place she could reliably be found — the AIDS Outreach Center where she went to refill her medicine.
There, she’d chat up the case workers and get her upcoming medical and mental health appointments in order. She might miss a few of those — could be jail time, could be she’d landed in the hospital — but she always, always came back to seek help from the folks at the AOC.
Except this month, it’ll have been one year since Jamie Boeglin picked up her medication.
No one — not her family, not her doctors, not her counselors — has seen her since May 18, 2010.
Her brother, John Boeglin, says he knows Jamie could be unreliable. But not this unreliable.
“We’ve not heard anything,” says John Boeglin, who along with his four other siblings in North Texas and New Mexico, has been trying to understand how and why their relentlessly “attention-seeking” Jamie dropped off their radar a year ago.
To the Boeglins, however, Jamie is “Jimmy,” their brother, who was born James Martin but began transitioning toward living as a woman in 2008.
Though most people came to know her as Jamie, John Boeglin finds it hard to call his missing sibling anything but Jimmy.
“He’s just always been our brother,” says Boeglin, and despite the family’s many ups and downs dealing with Jamie Boeglin’s homelessness and addiction problems over the years, they’re desperate to find out whether Jamie has run away or if, as John puts it, she’s “a pile of bones under a bush somewhere.”
Even as John Boeglin distributes flyers to area shelters and cruises in vain down Fort Worth’s blighted Lancaster Avenue, looking for any sign of his missing sibling, he knows in his heart that Jamie isn’t the kind of person who’d intentionally go very long without trying to get someone’s attention.
To make things worse, John fears his sibling may have been a victim of anti-transgender violence.
“What if he’s been hauled off by someone who doesn’t like transvestites or transsexuals or transgenders?” John wonders. But he’s so far been unsuccessful in convincing the Fort Worth Police Department that harm may have come to Jamie.
Because they’ve found no clear evidence of foul play, a representative at FWPD says there’s little they can do when an adult does not want to be found.
“We have no reason to suspect foul play,” Fort Worth’s LGBT Community Liason Officer Sara Straten tells the Dallas Voice. As best they can tell, says Straten, Boeglin left town “of her own volition,” based on their detectives’ investigation.
Because Boeglin is listed as a missing person, if she were to be arrested or stopped by police for anything at all, the Fort Worth Police Department would be notified.
“If she’s out there, we’re going to hear about it,” Straten says.
But that’s precisely one of the reasons John Boeglin believes Jamie’s disappearance isn’t voluntary: His sibling has a real habit of running afoul of the law.
In just the first few months of 2010 alone, Jamie Boeglin was cited by Fort Worth police as the victim in a drunken fight that landed her in the hospital with 19 reconstructive pins in her skull. Then, she was arrested for criminal trespass in May, a little more than a week before she was last seen at the AIDS Outreach Center.
In fact, even when the police weren’t involved, it was always some kind of drama with Jamie, remembers her brother — especially around her birthday and on holidays.
John didn’t hear from Jamie last July, which would have been her 48th birthday, and when it comes to holidays, John says Jamie never misses an opportunity for “raising a big stink” about presents and get-togethers.
“Unless he is amnesiac or dead, then there is really no reason that he would not be trying to contact us on a regular basis,” John insists.
But as annoying and dramatic as he says Jamie could be, the most frustrating part of all for John is knowing that, in fact, there is information out there that could help him find out if Jamie is dead or alive. He just can’t access it.
Because of governmental restrictions, John cannot find out whether Jamie’s Social Security debit card has been used in the past year. To do so would require a court order — something he can’t get as long as the police consider Jamie to be absent of her own volition.
If John just had that debit card information, he says, he’d know if his sibling were alright — angry, perhaps, and estranged, but at least alive and well.
“At least we’d know he’s alive and doesn’t want to be contacted,” says John, who says he wouldn’t even care to know where the card has been used — just that it has been. “That’s probably the most frustrating thing.”
But pain and frustration are recurring characters in Jamie Boeglin’s life story.
While homelessness, substance abuse and other catastrophic life events can happen to anyone, transgender people especially lack the help and resources they need from law enforcement, social services and medical professionals. A survey on discrimination against transgender people (See Sidebar) released earlier this year by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force details just how maddeningly common Jamie Boeglin’s situation is.
According to the study, “Injustice At Every Turn,” transgender people are nearly twice as likely to be homeless than is estimated for the general U.S. population, which correlates with the fact that they are also very likely to be incarcerated or suffer from drug or alcohol addiction.
And when it comes to HIV, says Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, transgender people have a “hugely disproportional” infection rate — four times the national average — due in large part to economic marginalization.
“[Jamie] has got to feel fairly discarded by society,” says Keisling, whose her research has made her a difficult person to shock when it comes to stories like Jamie’s. The possibilities Keisling sees for Jamie are many — and none are very positive.
“She’s more likely to be disrespected by the medical community and law enforcement,” says Keisling, which could prevent her from getting help in a crisis.
Keisling added that it’s “fairly common” for transgender people to be victims of violent criminals who “often will look for the most marginalized people.”
These kinds of possibilities weigh on John Boeglin’s mind, especially because he admits that over the years, he’s wished Jamie would stop being such a nuisance in the family.
“He’s done something to alienate every one of the siblings,” says John. “But when it’s like this, we want him to be around.”
Even their tumultuous family life hasn’t broken the bond of blood, and John dwells on the times he and his siblings wished for Jamie to leave them alone: “For a long time we really wished he would disappear, and now he has. We wish we’d never had those moments of thought.”