Bay Area Legal Aid today published our response to a request for comment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), strongly opposing a new proposed HUD rule for shelter admissions. The rule would enshrine in approved HUD practice anti-transgender discrimination in shelter admissions based on gender stereotyping, create additional barriers to shelter access particularly for transgender and gender nonconforming youth, and needlessly threaten to exacerbate an existing public health crisis. BayLegal stands with our transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming clients, staff, and communities in strongly urging HUD to withdraw this reckless, egregious, and cruel policy.
The proposed rule change would allow single-gender shelter operators to refuse admission to clients based solely on shelter staff’s “good faith belief” that a client’s “biological sex” / sex assigned at birth differs from their current gender identity and presentation. Despite HUD’s own admission that there is no data to support a belief that trans* individuals “pose an inherent risk to biological women,” the rule would allow the harmful, discriminatory stereotypes rooted in this belief to become shelter policy. The additional barriers created to transgender shelter seekers would disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ youth, who already face disproportionately high rates of unsheltered homelessness and severe barriers to securing safe shelter. Finally, the rule would needlessly exacerbate the COVID-19 public health crisis. It would force people into unsheltered homelessness based on their gender identity, increasing exposure to viral transmission and distance from healthcare resources—and in California, further complicating issues of displacement and health impacts related to wildfires.
Our country and state face overlapping and mutually reinforcing economic, health, and housing crises. We urge the administration not to devote precious resources with this new proposed rule to intensifying the impact of these crises on individuals and communities already disproportionately traumatized, displaced, and threatened with long-term harm. Public policy that enables and emboldens anti-transgender discrimination is harmful to our transgeder clients and communities, and to the broader public health and housing needs of this challenging time.