The US Government Says Homeless Shelters Should Be Allowed to Ban Trans People

The new rule would allow shelters to deny a population more than twice as likely to be homeless.
A transgender woman sitting on a therapist's couch and crying
Photo by Zackary Drucker, via the Gender Spectrum Collection.

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration proposed a Housing and Urban Development Department policy revision that would allow homeless shelters to deny access to transgender people. If enacted, these changes would dismantle protections established in 2012 under The Equal Access Rule—which prevents discrimination in shelters on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—leaving one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations out on the street.


The alterations introduced Tuesday, known as FR-6152, would enable any shelter provider under the Department of Housing and Urban Development programs—including emergency shelters—to create policies around admission based on sex, permitting discrimination in “single-sex or sex-segregated facilities,” such as bathrooms and sleeping quarters.

The proposal also states that shelter providers may implement processes for “determining [the] sex” and admissability of homeless individuals—but gives no protocol for how those processes should or should not look. Rather, it states that providers may shape such processes around their own perspectives on privacy, safety, and religious belief—topics that are commonly cited by conservatives as justification for discriminating against LGBTQ people. It also proposes explicitly that individuals may be formally refused entry to shelters based on their legally identified gender or their self-identified gender.

The proposal butts up against moves by the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force that aim to protect the rights of trans Americans. Earlier this month, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the trans-inclusive Equality Act, a bill that would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to extend federal discrimination protections to both gender identity and sexuality. The bill is expected to have difficulty passing through the Republican-controlled Senate.


In a press release issued by the National Center for Transgender Equality, executive director Mara Keisling said, “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families,” adding that, “a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country.”

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2011, collected information from more than 6,400 transgender Americans. It found that transgender people reported rates of homelessness more than 2.5 times that of the general population.

In 2015, the NCTE conducted follow-up research, this time with nearly 28,000 respondents. It found that “one in four transgender adults experienced some kind of housing bias; one in eight Black transgender women were denied a home because they are transgender in the last year; one in three were homeless in their lifetime; and those who experienced homelessness were more likely to face physical and sexual violence as well as be forced into survival sex work.” This issue affects adults as well as children; according to The Williams Institute, 40 percent of homeless LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are transgender. Prior reporting by Broadly has shown that this lack of housing has tragic ends for trans people, as homelessness has contributed to violent deaths in this community, disproportionately impacting transgender women of color.

Discrimination within shelters is already a significant issue. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 70 percent of those who accessed a shelter in the previous year were kicked out for being transgender, physically or sexually assaulted, or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity. The new policy would make part of that mistreatment legal.

Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, said that the proposed policy revision “is just one of the many examples of this administration targeting the trans community and feeding anti-trans violence through false and dangerous rhetoric about trans people’s lives and bodies.”

Strangio has been a primary figure in many of the country’s largest cases in the legal movement against trans discrimination. If the Administration continues its ongoing efforts to dismantle the civil rights of trans Americans, he said, it will only “further our resolve to fight for trans survival at every turn.”