The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today proposed a new regulation for federally funded emergency shelters aimed at assuring that transgender people are housed according to the gender with which they identify.
This rule updates HUD’s 2012 Equal Access Rule, which prohibited federally funded housing from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and formalizes guidance published by HUD in February of this year. It requires sex-specific shelters to house transgender people according to their gender identity rather than their birth sex and offers a definition of gender identity, stating, “Gender identity means the gender with which a person identifies, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth.”
Transgender rights advocates welcomed the proposed change, which they say will assure transgender people’s safety in emergency housing. “Transgender people’s lives are at risk all over the country today because shelters refuse to house them appropriately,” said Lisa Mottet, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a press release. “This action by HUD advances a common-sense approach that has worked in many communities for over a decade.”
Homelessness is a significant problem for transgender people, with 19 percent reporting being homeless at some point in their lives due to being trans, NCTE points out. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, released in 2011, found that nearly a third of those who attempted to access homeless shelters were denied access on the basis of their gender identity, and 42 percent were forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender. Of those who stayed in a shelter, 22 percent reported being sexually assaulted there, and 47 percent reported having to leave a shelter because of harassment or assault.
“Transgender people face rampant discrimination and harassment across the country — a tragic reality that forces many into positions of vulnerability no one should have to face,” said a statement issued by Human Rights Campaign government affairs director David Stacy. “Fundamentally, this new rule change will help ensure people have access to appropriate facilities and the help they need when they need it the most, regardless of their gender identity. We’re grateful for the Obama administration and Secretary Julián Castro’s leadership on this vitally important issue.”
The announcement comes on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international observance that memorializes trans lives lost to violence.
The NCTE and HRC have both advocated for such a rule change for several years. The public has 60 days to comment on the regulation before it becomes final. NCTE will file formal comments urging HUD to finalize the rule and recommending that it be further clarified and simplified to strengthen its protections, its press release noted.