Homeless shelters could deny transgender people under proposed Trump administration rule

A Trump administration proposal could allow federally-funded homeless shelters to deny services to transgender people, marking what advocates say is another attack on the community.

The proposal, published Wednesday, would rollback Obama-era protections to prevent single-sex shelters from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development rule change, homeless shelter operators could create a policy to consider “an individual’s sex for the purposes of determining accommodation within such shelters and for purposes of determining sex for admission to any facility or portion thereof.”

Nearly one-third of transgender Americans who responded to a 2015 survey have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Requiring transgender people to stay in shelters that don’t match their gender identity can put them at further risk of violence and harassment, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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The factors that shelter operators can consider to determine someone’s sex include “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs,” the proposed rule says, and “the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents.”

The Obama administration first passed an “Equal Access” rule for HUD programs in 2012, and in 2016 moved to ensure transgender and gender non-conforming people get services in accordance with their gender identity.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the rollback proposal contradicts the mission of the department.

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Keisling said in a statement. “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union described the proposal as not just another discriminatory move against transgender people but an attempt to justify it with religion.

“When shelters are allowed to turn transgender people away — a policy that is sanctioned by a government that continues to push the lie that the mere existence of trans people threatens the privacy and safety of others — deadly violence against the trans community on the streets will rise,” said Ian Thompson, a senior legislative representative for the union.