Adam Polaski

HUD Explores the Reality of Trans Housing Discrimination

Filed By Adam Polaski | October 14, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, intersex, LGBT homeless, LGBT housing, trans

HUDLiveFree.jpgThis week the White House responded to recent reports that a disproportionate number of LGBT people continue to experience discrimination while searching for permanent housing and other residency. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published a release yesterday that detailed the government's plans to eliminate this discrimination and enact policies that assure proper investigation of anti-LGBT discrimination cases.

HUD said they have pursued 114 complaints of anti-LGBT discrimination in the first two year's of the Obama administration. That's three times more than in the previous two years, before Obama took office.

Much of the anti-LGBT housing discrimination has been targeted at the trans community. The discrimination, in part, contributes to many trans persons' experiences with homelessness.

The HUD release cited the results of a recent survey (PDF) from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, which found that 19 percent of transgender people had been refused a house or an apartment because of their gender identity.

The Advocate elaborated further on the results of the NGLTF and NCTE survey:

The story line imagined by the survey responses is bleak. Although 1.7% said they were currently homeless, 19% said they'd been homeless at some point in their lives. And trans homeless people were four times more likely to perform sex for money, 2.5 times more likely to end up in jail, and more likely to become HIV-positive. They were also more likely to attempt suicide.

It's not easy getting off the streets. Of trans people who said they'd tried to get into homeless shelters, 29% reported being turned away, while 42% were forced to room with people of the wrong gender.

In the end 40% found someplace cheap to live, while 25% lived with family or friends. Unfortunately, 12% weren't as lucky and reported having sex with people just to sleep in their beds.

HUD is now taking further steps to lessen the impact of anti-trans housing discrimination. Foremost among these steps is changing the language of the Fair Housing Act to explicitly prohibit landlords from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, although HUD has the authority to pursue complaints of anti-LGBT discrimination, that behavior is not technically prohibited by the federal policy. HUD explained more in its release:

HUD published a rule that proposes regulatory changes to further ensure LGBT equal access, including clarification that a "family," which is the term used to define persons eligible for HUD-funded programs, includes persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. HUD anticipates publishing the final version of this rule by the end of the year.

Changes like these, which help to break down barriers to acceptance of LGBT people, are necessary if we're going to achieve any sense of full LGBT equality.

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I am one of the people that those numbers speak about.

In October of 2007 I went into the office for the apartment complex I lived in at the time to pay my Rent. I let them know what was going on with me -- somewhat dramatically, but without drama.

In November I went in to pay my rent, and my money was no longer good enough.

A few days before thanksgiving, I was evicted for non-payment of rent -- payment they refused to take.

I ended up in a motel room, where I stayed for a couple weeks -- a motel 8, in point of fact. 65 bucks a night. My rent was much less than the amount I paid the motel.

Today I am the Executive Director of This Is H.O.W. (www.thisishow.org), a non profit organization in Phoenix that works with other local organizations to assist in helping them to handle the issues of trans lives and solve the problem of trans housing.

Over the last 6 years, TIH has housed over 500 trans individuals, giving them a chance to move forward and get their legs under them as they head through transition or hardship. We offer programs and services to agencies, providers, and trans people. Our residents come from all over the US, from all kinds of backgrounds, from the trans person attending college to study psychology to a former sex worker trying to make a break from the life.

Men, women, both, and either/or have found refuge.

Thanks in part to the support of the Bilerico Project, TIH raised 20K in funds that are being used to purchase a property owned by the organization to continue our housing program. It is the first step of many, as we plan to continue to add additional housing and expand beyond Phoenix and even Arizona, bringing our leading programs and tools to more people, in a sort of "franchise" system.

This is greatly needed, and I personally thank TBP for taking the time to report on it.

Thanks, Antonia, for your thoughtful comment and for your continued advocacy and care for the community.

Good for you, I wish there was an organization like yours 20 years ago.

The city of Oneonta NY, where I live has an ordinance that limits the number of unrelated people living in a single housing/apartment unit to 3. There are, as far as I'm aware, no limits on how many related people can live in a unit. So 4 unrelated people is overcrowded, an 8 member family of two parents and 6 kids living in the same unit is not.

I am not aware of anyone who was evicted who was gay/lesbian or part of some other non-traditional family unit being evicted, but the ordinance has been used repeatedly to evict college students (who are the targets of the discriminatory nature of the ordinance).

Ultimately, I have been concerned with the ordinance and feared that it would be used against a same sex couple/other non-traditional family, not to mention that it has been used to promote discrimination in housing against college students.

Phoenix has a similar ordinance that limits the number of unrelated persons to 5 without a specialty license that runs around 8K. Glendale -- one of the metro cities in the Phoenix area -- has a rule of no more than to persons per bedroom in a house.

In both cases, the law is used in a similar fashion -- and is something that limits the ability of providers to attend to such issues. It has a disproportionate impact on many young, urban students and particular young, urban LGBT individuals since safety lies in numbers and shared costs make living much more possible.

This effort on the part of HUD won't change the laws, but it should have a very chilling effect on the way that these laws are all too often enforced when it comes to LGBT individuals.

If I could ask a favor, do you have any information on the specific instances where that ordinance was used against LGBTQ individuals?

Between working with the Oneonta's Human Rights Commission and getting to know a couple of city council members, I might be able to persuade enough people if I was able to back my case up with actual examples, even if they were from another city.
-Jeremy

"trans homeless people were four times more likely to perform sex for money, 2.5 times more likely to end up in jail, and more likely to become HIV-positive."

Again, I question the using term "trans people"... what we're really talking about are trans women (or trans feminine spectrum people). How many trans men are currently doing survival sex work or in jail because of it?

In the community I live in we fought to get the homeless shelter to accept t people it took the first one in to screw it up. It took an idiot to go in with a pin that said my breasts are real and so is my penis. I had a a gender queer downstairs neighbor played loud music and acted like an idiot the landlord refered to her as it. Made me nervous about my transition and how the landlord would treat me. You know what he treats me fine and as far as I can tell I'm not the new it. Then there is the time I went shoe shopping with another T friend. She had shoe boxes and shoes strewn everywhere. Come time to leave she was going to leave the mess. Her reasoning they all just hate us anyways so screw the sales people. Not one of the sales people had said anything negative to any of us and I refused to leave until she cleaned up her mess. I know other T people that run around with knives on them and act like the entire world is trying to kill them. Their personal attitude helps to creates the problems they get into and makes all of us look like shit. We can fight the fight but its useless unless you can drive the point home to everyone we are our own best advocates and to act accordingly.

I gotta find out where they got that pin...

Ya know Antonia some times you say some pretty intelligent things but it's your response to my post that drives me to the conclusion that I'll never be able to see you as a serious advocate for my rights.

The most wonderful thing about a thousand fires, Lisa, is that it isn't necessary for you to see me as such.

Or vice versa.

If one can't have a sense of humor about one's self, though, of what value is one to others?

Now that is an interesting question.

Lisa: You said: Their personal attitude helps to creates the problems they get into and makes all of us look like shit. We can fight the fight but its useless unless you can drive the point home to everyone we are our own best advocates and to act accordingly.
This is a very astute and important observation.
Others won't respect us if we don't respect ourselves. The best advocacy we can do is to simply do the right thing. Others tend to judge the whole community by the actions of a few.

Wilberforce1 | October 16, 2011 12:46 AM

Here's another positive development in chaging attitudes toward trans folk. Here in Seattle, I often hear of changes that'll help trans people. Maybe you darlings are finally winning the pr battle. Sweet.