Metro Weekly

HUD proposes gender identity rule for shelter placement

Proposed rule would require transgender individuals to be placed according to gender identity

HUD Secretary Julian Castro (U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, via Wikimedia Commons).

HUD Secretary Julian Castro (U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, via Wikimedia Commons).

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Friday proposed a rule that would require emergency shelters to treat transgender people according to their gender identity.

The amended rule would update HUD’s Equal Access Rule, which prohibits federally-funded housing from discriminating against LGBT individuals. The proposed language would require sex-specific shelters to house transgender people according to their gender identity, rather than their birth sex.

The text of the proposed rule seeks to distinguish and define definitions of actual versus perceived gender identity. While gender identity is currently defined as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics,” the new definition will read as follows:

“Gender identity means the gender with which a person identifies, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth. Perceived gender identity means the gender with which a person is perceived to identify based on that person’s appearance, behavior, expression, other gender-related characteristics, or sex assigned to the individual at birth.”

The proposed rule would apply to all recipients of federal housing assistance, as well as to owners, operators and managers of shelters or other facilities funded by various housing programs. It also would require temporary or emergency shelters with shared sleeping quarters or share bathing facilities to make placement decisions based on a person’s gender identity.

There is an exception to the rule that allows an owner, operator or manager of a shelter to use their own discretion in placing a shelter seeker in a single-sex facility, so long as the seeker’s placement is based on ensuring the person’s health and safety are protected and not based solely on their actual or perceived gender identity. The rule does allow for such facilities to provide alternative arrangements, such as single-use bathing facilities, for transgender clients.

The rule is currently open for public comment until Jan. 19, 2016. A number of LGBT-focused organizations are expected to write comments supporting the adoption of the rule. Public comments can be submitted via regulations.gov.

“Transgender people’s lives are at risk all over the country today because shelters refuse to house them appropriately,” Lisa Mottet, the deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “This action by HUD advances a common-sense approach that has worked in many communities for over a decade.”

 According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,  which was released in 2011, nearly one-third of transgender people were denied access to homeless shelters based on their gender identity, and 42 percent were forced to stay in a shelter designated for members of the opposite gender. Of those who did stay in a shelter, more than one-fifth reported being sexually assaulted and almost half reported having to leave because of harassment or assault.

“Today, on International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we applaud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for continuing its work to ensure the safety and well-being of transgender people and their equal access to emergency shelter housing,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “This day reminds us that transgender people suffer acutely from poverty, homelessness and violence — which are all interrelated. The anti-discrimination protections announced today are an important step in ensuring that all who seek shelter have a safe place to go, a place that will respect them for who they are.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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