June 17, 2019

HUD Proposal on Equal Access Rule May Harm LGBTQ+ People

Recently, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would weaken protections for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking refuge in shelters or seeking housing services. This rule provides shelters and housing services with the ability to create policies that could use sex as a determinant of who can access services.

From the official ruling:

This proposed rule provides that grant recipients, subrecipients, owners, operators, managers, and providers (Shelter Providers) under HUD programs which permit single-sex or sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or temporary, emergency shelters and other buildings and facilities with physical limitations or configurations that require and are permitted to have shared sleeping quarters or bathing facilities) may establish a policy, consistent with state and local law, by which such Shelter Provider considers 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.

Additionally, the rule allows “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs…the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with” as determinants for Shelters and Housing Services to create policies for who can access services.

What Does This Mean?

Shelters and Housing Services are now able to create policies that refuse services to LGBTQ+ people based on their gender and sexual identity. While the rule does not enforce any rules against LGBTQ+ people, it allows individual Shelters and Housing Services who are receiving federal funding to create their own policies that can discriminate survivors based on their gender and sexual identity. Many shelters are already inaccessible to trans people, so this rule would make it easier for shelters to turn them away.

A HUD Office representative introduced this rule expressing, “there are some women who said they were not comfortable with being in a shelter” with “somebody who had a very different anatomy,” as said at the House Subcommittee Hearing. “We obviously believe in equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT community. But we also believe in equal rights for the women in the shelters, and shelters where there are men, and their equal rights. So, we want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn’t impede the rights of one for the sake of the other,” said Sectary Carson.

The Impact

The estimated prevalence of lifetime experience of Intimate Partner Violence among transgender people is between 31-50% based on various studies. Transgender people also face higher rates of Intimate Partner Violence than cisgender people, despite being a much smaller population, as about 20.4% of cisgender people experienced Intimate Partner Violence or dating violence on average.

Additionally, bisexual men and bisexual women experience rates of Intimate Partner Violence at 37.3% 56.9%, respectively. 25% of gay men experience Intimate Partner Violence, and about 40% of lesbian women experience Intimate Partner Violence.

These numbers are staggering and should yield increased access to assistance. However, research shows that LGBTQ+ people face barriers to seeking help that are unique to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

These include:

  • Legal definitions of domestic violence that exclude same-sex couples
  • Dangers of “outing” oneself when seeking help and the risk of rejection and isolation from
  • family, friends, and society
  • The lack of, or survivors not knowing about, LGBTQ+-specific or LGBTQ+-friendly assistance resource
  • Potential homophobia from staff of service providers or from non-LGBTQ+ survivors of IPV with whom they may interact
  • Low levels of confidence in the sensitivity and effectiveness of law enforcement officials and courts for LGBTQ+ people

YWCA Spokane Services Open to All

YWCA Spokane will never turn a person away based on gender identity, sexual identity, sexuality, race, or ethnicity. While our Shelter serves all who identify as a woman based on grant restrictions, we are proud to assist any person who identifies as a man with finding safe refuge. Additionally, our Women’s Opportunity Center is open to all people who identify as a woman. Our Mental Health Therapy and Advocacy services are open to all survivors of Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence regardless of gender or sexual identity.

To contact our helpline, please call 509-326-CALL (2255) and we can direct you to the appropriate service. 

By: Olivia Moorer

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