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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 39
HUD requires equal treatment of Trans people in shelters
Section One
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HUD requires equal treatment of Trans people in shelters

by Mike Andrew SGN Staff Writer The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued the final version of its guidelines on shelter access for Transgender people on September 20, requiring all shelters that receive federal funding to provide emergency short-term housing based on gender identity.

This rule amends the groundbreaking LGBT Equal Access Rule issued by HUD in 2012 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status in public housing and HUD's core housing programs.

Under the new regulation, Trans women would be accommodated with cisgender women in shared sleeping and bathing spaces, and the same would apply to Trans and cisgender men. The HUD regulation instructs shelters to disregard complaints of other shelter residents when the sole basis for the complaint is the perceived gender.

'A recipient may not make a determination about services for one beneficiary based on the complaints of another beneficiary when those complaints are based on gender identity,' the rule states.

The provision does allow that 'under narrow circumstances, a written case-by-case determination can be made as to whether an alternative accommodation is necessary to ensure health and safety.'

'We applaud HUD for providing such clear guidance to shelters and for affirming the equality and dignity of transgender people,' National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Policy Director Julianna Gonen said in a statement.

'This new rule ensures that no transgender person will be denied shelter simply because of who they are and that transgender women, in particular, will no longer be forced to choose between being housed with men or going without shelter. This is a huge step forward for the transgender community and will empower transgender individuals who need shelter to stand up for their rights. We strongly support this rule and the example that it sets for policymakers across the country that our laws and policies should respect and affirm the people they affect.'

According to a 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBT Task Force, nearly one in three Trans people who sought access to homeless shelters had been turned away on the basis of gender identity at some point in their lives.

Of those accepted into a shelter, 42% were forced to stay in facilities designated for their assigned birth gender rather than that with which they identified. Many respondents reported experiencing harassment and physical and sexual abuse, and nearly half said they had to leave the shelter because of this abuse.

A study conducted in 2015 by the Center for American Progress and the Equal Rights Center reported similar findings.

Researchers called up 100 homeless shelters to inquire if they had space available for a Transgender woman. Only 30% of the shelters were willing to house Transgender women with other women. Another 21% refused them shelter altogether.

'A person seeking shelter is already in a very vulnerable situation, and they deserve to be treated with dignity when they request our assistance,' HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement when the rule change was first proposed in November last year.

'This rule takes us one step closer to full acceptance of transgender men and women, and will ensure they receive the proper services that respect their identity.'

In May, the Obama administration directed public schools to provide Transgender students with facilities, including bathrooms and locker rooms, appropriate to their gender identity. The instruction is now on hold pending litigation.

The Justice Department is also challenging North Carolina's notorious HB 2 law, which requires people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender they were assigned at birth.

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