A copy of the new rule that will allow homeless shelters to refuse transgender people has been leaked to the media, and it contains instructions on how to spot transgender women to target them for discrimination.
Earlier this month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would be rolling back the Obama-era Equal Access Rule, which required homeless shelters that receive HUD funding to house transgender people with the gender they identify as.
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The rollback – which HUD said would “better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers” – allows single-gender homeless shelters to decide if they want a housing policy based on sex assigned at birth or gender identity, effectively allowing shelters that house women to turn away transgender women and shelters that house men to turn away transgender men.
The announcement meant that homeless shelters would be allowed to determine who is transgender, which poses a significant risk to people’s privacy rights.
The news website Vox has obtained a copy of the rule, which includes instructions of what a shelter can do spot a trans woman.
Shelter workers may use “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple, and other physical characteristics which, when considered together, are indicative of a person’s biological sex,” the rule says.
If a homeless person appears too transgender for a homeless shelter, the shelter is allowed to ask them for proof of “biological sex.”
“Evidence requested must not be unduly intrusive of privacy, such as private physical anatomical evidence,” the rule states, barring shelters from forcing suspected transgender people to strip in front of them.
“Evidence requested could include government identification, but lack of government identification alone cannot be the sole basis for denying admittance on the basis of sex.”
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has criticized the Equal Access Rule in the past as allowing “big, hairy men” – how he once referred to transgender women – to “impede the rights of” cisgender women who are “not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, with somebody who had very different anatomy.”
He has also used “Biblical principles” to attack the protections for transgender people and said that LGBTQ anti-discrimination measures are “special rights.”
“One in three transgender Americans has been homeless at some point in their lives, and this proposal would have them sleep on the street rather than get help,” wrote National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement.
“The difference between being sheltered and unsheltered is especially dangerous for transgender homeless persons, particularly transgender persons of color, who face harassment and threats from private individuals, as well as elevated rates of policing and violence within police custody. When combined with President Trump’s recent policy proposals to increase criminalization of homelessness, while cutting HUD’s affordable housing budget and rolling back support for Housing First, it is clear that getting transgender persons off the street and out of harm’s way is a matter of life and death.”