On Wednesday (May 22), the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduced a new rule that would weaken protections for transgender people at homeless shelters. The new rule allows federally funded shelters to deny transgender people entry on the basis of religious beliefs. It would also force trans women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with cisgender men.
The rule is the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to eliminate Obama-era transgender protections, including a 2016 regulation titled “Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.” Last year, in a slew of anti-trans policies, Trump signed a memorandum that banned transgender people from serving in the United States military. He also signed a “religious liberty” executive order that advocates say opens the door for more trans discrimination. In October, The New York Times reported the Department of Health and Human Services’ intention to change the legal definition of gender in a way that would write transgender peolpe out of existence in the eyes of the law.
In the summary of the latest policy proposal, HUD officials wrote:
The proposed rule permits 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.
On Tuesday (May 21), while testifying before the House Committee on Financial Services, HUD Secretary Ben Carson told the committee that his agency had no plans to change the HUD Equal Access Rule. “The rules from 2012 and 2016 adequately provide for fairness for all communities,” Carson said. “They’ve not been removed. We have not changed any of the rules.”
Per The Washington Post, the HUD website has removed links to resources that inform emergency shelters how to best serve transgender people and follow agency regulations. The agency has also upended policy proposals that require federally funded shelters to post notices that provide information on LGBTQ+ rights and protections.
Trans people already face disproportionately high rates of homelessness. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender people have experienced homelessness. Black and Native American trans people have reported the worst outcomes in discrimination in employment, police and street violence, healthcare access and homelessness. Trans youth of color, especially Black youth, experience disproportionately higher rates of homelessness. In a 2014 survey, providers for youth with no homes reported that Black LGBTQ+ youth made up 31 percent of the youth they serve, despite comprising just 14 percent of the general population for their age group.
In the last year, 70 percent of transgender people who attempted to enter a homeless shelter were removed or physically or sexually assaulted because of their gender identity, the National Center for Transgender Equality told The Post.