- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed a new rule ensuring that housing assisted or insured by the department is open to all eligible individuals, regardless of gender identity.
- Homelessness is a significant problem for transgender people, often because they are denied access on the basis of their gender identity or forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender.
“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.
To help bring the housing arena closer to full acceptance of transgender men and women, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has therefore proposed a new rule ensuring that housing assisted or insured by the department is open to all eligible individuals, regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
What the rule would do
HUD’s proposed “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs Rule” — or its simpler title, the “Gender Identity Rule” — would require recipients and sub-recipients of assistance from HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development to provide transgender persons or others who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth with access to programs, benefits, services and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity.
The rule would extend to owners, operators and managers of shelters, buildings and facilities with shared sleeping quarters or shared bathing facilities.
Equal Access Rule too limited
HUD has been working since 2010 to strengthen protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. It adopted the principle that sex stereotyping and gender nonconformity is considered sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, as well as a requirement that applicants for competitive HUD funds must comply with state and local LGBT nondiscrimination laws.
But the department decided that its 2012 Equal Access Rule, which prohibits certain inquiries about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity when determining eligibility for housing, was too limited.
The proposed Gender Identity Rule would eliminate the Equal Access Rule’s current inquiry prohibition, but maintain its ban on discrimination on those bases.
“Every American deserves to live with dignity, regardless of who they love or who they are,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro about the proposed rule.
“HUD is committed to fighting unjust discrimination and to expanding housing opportunity for all. We believe there are no second-class citizens. And I will do every single thing that I can to make sure that everyone is protected.”
A significant problem for transgender people
The proposed rule is applauded by transgender rights advocates. Jeff Berger, founder and CEO of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, said the proposed rule “clearly expresses HUD’s commitment to fighting unjust discrimination and to expanding housing opportunity for all.”
Lisa Mottet, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, pointed out that homelessness is a significant problem for transgender people, often because they are denied access on the basis of their gender identity or forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender.
“This action by HUD advances a common-sense approach that has worked in many communities for over a decade,” Mottet said.
“HUD is committed to fighting unjust discrimination and to expanding housing opportunity for all. We believe there are no second-class citizens.” – HUD Secretary Julián Castro
This proposed rule will be open for public comment until Jan. 19. Comments may be submitted electronically or by mail. The proposed rule is published in The Federal Register and can be viewed here.
So far, only one commenter has voiced opposition to the proposed rule.
An anonymous commenter stated, “I do not support allowing biological males into female-only, sex-segregated emergency housing, or any other sex-segregated spaces. Even though they may identify as women, if they are biologically male, this puts the burden on the resident females (including small girls) to determine if these males are safe or not. For example, in a battered women’s shelter, if there is a biological male in the shelter (who is there because he considers himself a woman), it will be up to the females there to figure out if this guy is there because he is a danger, a batterer who got in, or if he is safe. Unacceptable. I do not want any female to be in this position, in a homeless shelter, in a battered women’s shelter, in a bathroom, in any space that is designated as female-only (by biological sex) because these are places where females are vulnerable. This is not ‘trans-phobic’; this is putting the safety of females first, which is the entire point of having sex-segregated spaces. If transgender males are not safe in male-segregated spaces, then there needs to be a third option for transgender biological males. Opening up female-only space is unacceptable; it puts all the burden and all the risk onto females, which undermines the whole reason for having female-only spaces.”