The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that they intended to change an Obama-era change to the Equal Access Rule which stated that any homeless shelter the received HUD funding had to house people according to their gender identity. However, the Trump administration is planning to change the law so that people have to be housed according to their “biological sex” (which, presumably, means sex assigned at birth). This means essentially that homeless shelters can choose to turn away transgender people who need help.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who has referred to transgender women “big, hairy men,” has been pursuing these changes for some time. He has justified his position by calling LGBTQ protections “extra rights” that “impede the rights of one for the sake of the others” because, he said, cisgender women are “not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, with somebody who had very different anatomy.” The rule is said to be a part of “safeguarding victims of domestic violence or human trafficking,” implying that transgender people are some sort of threat to people in shelters.
The HUD release echoed Carson and said that the rule change would “better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers.”
This rule will be a huge blow to transgendered people, who are disproportionally affected by poverty. As many as a third of transgendered people experience homelessness and this rule will prevent them from getting the help they absolutely need.
“One in three transgender Americans has been homeless at some point in their lives, and this proposal would have them sleep on the street rather than get help,” wrote National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement.
“The difference between being sheltered and unsheltered is especially dangerous for transgender homeless persons, particularly transgender persons of color, who face harassment and threats from private individuals, as well as elevated rates of policing and violence within police custody. When combined with President Trump’s recent policy proposals to increase criminalization of homelessness, while cutting HUD’s affordable housing budget and rolling back support for Housing First, it is clear that getting transgender persons off the street and out of harm’s way is a matter of life and death.”
Keisling also said that the HUD rule change “flies in the face of the Bostock Supreme Court ruling,” referring to last month’s Supreme Court decision that said that discrimination against LGBTQ people is a form of discrimination “because of sex.”