WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a proposed rule that aims to revise the Equal Access rule, which requires HUD-funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The new rule, if finalized, would allow homeless shelters to deny transgender people access to single-sex and sex-segregated shelters that align with their gender identity.
“Poverty and homelessness disproportionately impact transgender people, particularly transgender people of color and youth. This rule, if finalized, would negatively impact an already vulnerable population during a period of economic downturn,” said Luis Vasquez, Renberg Law Fellow at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. “In addition, the rule authorizes shelters to consider a list of physical characteristics when determining an individual’s sex for admission into a sex-segregated or single-sex facility—an approach that could seriously impact people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, even if they aren’t transgender.”
Some key research findings included:
- LGBTQ youth make up 22 percent of homeless youth.
- 8 percent of transgender adults report experiencing homelessness in the past year, compared to 3 percent of non-transgender LGB people and 1 percent of cisgender, heterosexual adults.
- Nearly 30 percent of transgender people are living in poverty, significantly higher than almost all other cisgender groups of people.
- According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey (USTS), conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 70 percent of respondents who experienced homelessness and stayed in a shelter in the previous year reported some form of mistreatment, including being harassed, assaulted, or kicked out because of their gender identity.
- More than one-quarter (26 percent) of USTS respondents who experienced homelessness in the previous year avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated.
- Over 20 percent of transgender respondents to the USTS who experienced homelessness in the past year had attempted suicide during that time.
- Transgender people who reported that they had been denied equal treatment in the past year because they are transgender were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who had not been denied equal treatment (13.4 percent compared to 6.3 percent).
- Over 30 percent of those who were physically attacked in a place of public accommodation reported attempting suicide in the past year, which is over four times the prevalence among respondents who were not similarly attacked.
- 98 percent percent of transgender respondents to the USTS who had undergone four experiences of discrimination or violence in the past year — losing a job, eviction, homelessness, and physical attack — reported seriously thinking about suicide and 51 percent attempted it.
“Research shows that there is a cumulative effect of experiencing multiple minority stressors, such as discrimination, economic insecurity, and violence, which is associated with dramatically higher prevalence of suicide thoughts and attempts among transgender people,” said Jody Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “This rule may increase minority stress and related health impacts for those who are already facing challenging circumstances.”