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Ben Carson Backs Discrimination Against Homeless Trans People

Ben Carson

In its latest attack on LGBTQ people, the administration of Donald Trump — specifically, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, headed by Ben Carson — wants to allow homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender clients.

HUD today issued its plan to amend the Equal Access Rule, implemented in 2012 under President Barack Obama and revised in 2016, preventing shelters that receive HUD funding from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also required that people in single-sex or sex-segregated shelters be placed according to their gender identity, as transgender and gender-nonconforming people often experience harassment and violence when placed according to the sex they were assigned at birth, and many have indicated that being on the streets was preferable to that option.

The new proposed rule, however, would allow shelter providers “to consider a range of factors in making such determinations, including privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities, the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with,” according to an abstract published on the Office of Management and Budget website. “The proposed rule does not dictate a required basis for making determinations other than that they be consistent with an overall policy.”

The issuance of the rule, which is subject to public comment before becoming final, comes even though Carson told a House committee Tuesday that HUD had no plans to revise the Equal Access Rule. And just last month he pointed to the Equal Access Rule in defending HUD against criticism over its removal of LGBTQ nondiscrimination guidance from its website.

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a press release. “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country. Secretary Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of tragic cruelty of this administration.”

The NCTE noted that trans people have a high rate of homelessness. According to its 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, one in three were homeless at some point in their lifetime and one in eight were homeless in the previous year. Those who experienced homelessness were more likely to face physical and sexual violence as well as be forced into survival sex work. Seven in 10 of those who accessed a shelter in the previous year were kicked out for being transgender, physically or sexually assaulted, or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity.

Trans people also frequently experience housing discrimination, which contributes to homelessness. One in four transgender adults experienced some kind of housing bias in the previous year, including being evicted or denied a home, the survey found. One in eight Black transgender women were denied a home because they are transgender in the previous year. And 40 percent of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ, according to the Williams Institute.

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