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Local Groups Condemn Proposed Ban on Trans People in Homeless Shelters

Equality Texas and TENT speak out against Trump Administration's discriminatory plan.

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Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez (l) and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) Executive Director Emmett Schelling released a statement condemning a proposed ban that would roll back housing protections.

Two Texas LGBTQ organizations have partnered to denounce the latest anti-transgender policy rolled out by the Trump administration—a proposed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule change that would exclude transgender people from homeless shelters. 

Equality Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ people, and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), a trans-led, trans-focused organization, released a joint statement on July 27 condemning HUD’s plan to undermine regulations now in place that prohibit discrimination in federally funded housing.

“This proposed rule released by HUD puts thousands of Americans at risk from receiving adequate shelter and safety, and puts transgender lives at risk,” the organizations said.

First announced in a press release issued on July 1, the HUD proposal would reverse an Obama-era rule that required homeless shelters to house trans people according to their gender identity. The new rule would “better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers” by allowing single-gender shelters to determine admissions based on an individual’s “perceived” sex. 

The proposed rule modification, which was written by HUD secretary and anti-LGBTQ activist Ben Carson, also included instructions on what a shelter can do to spot a trans person. Shelter workers may use “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple, and other physical characteristics which, when considered together, are indicative of a person’s biological sex.” The rule also states that workers may ask those seeking housing for proof of their “biological sex.”  

“Making ‘a good-faith determination’ using a stereotypical binary lens erases the humanity of nonbinary, gender-expansive transgender people, and will likely negatively impact cisgender people whose gender presentation deviates from perceived gender norms,” Equality Texas and TENT said. “It is insulting to outline which physical characteristics of a person can be used as reasonable considerations to arbitrarily determine someone’s sex and discriminate.”

Emmett Schelling, TENT’s executive director, said close to 1 in 3 trans and gender nonbinary individuals will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. The situation is even more dire for LGBTQ people of color, nearly half of whom report experiencing homelessness. 

“Denying anyone access to shelter will put lives in danger,” Shelling said. “The current administration has showcased a continuous pattern of intentional cruelty targeting our nation’s transgender population, and this treatment is unacceptable.”

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez agreed. “We cannot stand by as this administration seeks to systematize the further degradation of an oppressed minority of people,” he said. “Transgender people have inherent value as human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.” 

HUD’s rule modification would permit people to discriminate, rather than protecting the safety and well-being of those in need, Martinez added. “Shelters should be places that people can turn to for protection from harm,” he noted. “These actions are transphobic and inhumane—especially during a pandemic.”

Those who wish to testify against HUD’s proposed rule can do so until September 22 by submitting a comment to regulations.gov

For more information about Equality Texas, visit equalitytexas.org. For more information about the Transgender Education Network of Texas, visit transtexas.org

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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