Homeless shelters have become the latest battleground in the national debate over transgender rights.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is expected in September to finalize regulations that would allow people to stay in homeless shelters based on the gender they identify with.
The proposal has set off a firestorm, pitting LGBT groups against religious organizations that operate many homeless shelters.
“Transgender women are women regardless of whether they were born male,” said David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign.
“If you’re a transgender woman and you walk into a homeless shelter and they treat you like a man, it’s traumatizing,” he added. “These people are already vulnerable, they’re homeless, they don’t have a job. To face discrimination the entire time they’re there is a real problem.”
Religious organizations see things differently.
Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, lamented having to “make room for people who are sexually confused at the expense of everyone else.”
“No one is in favor of beating up transgender people,” Wildmon told The Hill, “but why do you have to force other people to feel really uncomfortable, and in some cases unsafe, just to make your political point?”
“What if I self-identify as a woman today, and tomorrow I want to self-identify as a man?” he asked. “Why not self identify as a minority? Today, I’m white. Tomorrow, I’m black.”
The controversy comes on the heels of a contentious North Carolina law that requires people to use public bathrooms that match their assigned gender at birth. The Department of Justice has sued to stop the law, putting transgender issues at the forefront of the 2016 campaign.
HUD’s proposed regulation instructs homeless shelters to disregard the “complaints of other shelter residents” who feel uncomfortable living with someone who is transgender.
“It is likewise prohibited to deny appropriate placement based on a perceived threat to health or safety that can be mitigated some other less burdensome way,” the proposal says.
The agency declined to comment on the rule until after it is finalized.
According to a 2011 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 29 percent of transgender people who sought emergency shelter had been rejected at some point in their lives, while another 42 percent were forced to stay in shelters for the gender they were assigned at birth.
The Center for American Progress and Equal Rights Center conducted a more recent 2016 study that found only 30 percent of homeless shelters in Virginia, Connecticut, Tennessee and Washington state accommodate transgender women.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits homeowners from refusing to sell or rent to people because of their race, religion or gender, but HUD is looking to extend similar protections to homeless shelters that provide short-term housing.
Source: The Hill | Tim Devaney