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For Immediate Release: Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) Condemn Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s Proposed Rule Change Excluding Trans People from Homeless Shelters
Posted on July 27, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Contact:  Angela Hale, 512-289-2995 angela.hale@equalitytexas.org or info@transtexas.org

Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) Condemn Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s Proposed Rule Change Excluding Trans People from Homeless Shelters 

Austin, Texas- July 27, 2020 – Today, Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans and the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), the largest statewide, trans-led, trans-focused organization in the state of Texas, condemned the Housing and Urban Development Department’s proposed rule that will undermine two Obama-era regulations prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination in federally funded housing, including homeless shelters.

The HUD proposal would allow “a recipient, subrecipient, owner, operator, manager, or provider to establish its own policies for determining whether to restrict access” to homeless shelters based on an individual’s perceived sex for the purposes of determining admissions and accommodation within sex-segregated facilities. Further, “the policy could align with, or borrow from, a state or local government’s policy for determining an individual’s sex, but is not required to do so.” Lastly, policy would allow operators to consider a range of factors when determining whether or not to grant access to shelters, including “religious beliefs.” This proposed rule released by HUD puts thousands of Americans at risk from receiving adequate shelter and safety and puts transgender lives at risk.

Granting providers, the right to determine an individual’s sex based on “a good faith belief that an individual seeking access to the temporary, emergency shelters is not of the sex, as defined in the single-sex facility’s policy” is discrimination. Making “a good faith determination” using a stereotypical binary lens erases the humanity of non-binary, gender-expansive transgender people, and will likely negatively impact cisgender people whose gender presentation deviates from perceived gender norms. It is insulting to outline which physical characteristics of a person can be used as reasonable considerations to arbitrarily determine someone’s sex and discriminate. 

“Close to 1 in 3 transgender and gender non-binary individuals will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. This is a statistic that resonates with me on a deeply personal level: at different points in our lives, my child and I have both experienced the fear, helplessness, and isolation of being homeless. The situation is even more dire for LGBTQ people of color, nearly half of whom report experiencing homelessness. Denying anyone access to shelter will put their lives in danger. The current administration has showcased a continuous pattern of intentional cruelty targeting our nation’s transgender population and this treatment is unacceptable,” said Emmett Schelling, Executive Director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT).

“I struggle to see the need to prioritize the further marginalization of a community in desperate need of support. I would like to see the same sense of urgency applied to coming up with solutions to the disproportionate amount of violence transgender women of color face across this country. We cannot stand by as this administration seeks to systematize the further degradation of an oppressed minority of people. Transgender people have inherent value as human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The Housing and Urban Development Department is permitting people to discriminate rather than protecting the safety and well-being of those in need. Shelters should be places that people can turn to for protection from harm. These actions are transphobic and inhumane—but, especially cruel during a pandemic.” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.

Many congressional lawmakers denounce the proposed rule from HUD, which critics say will enable federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people.

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas is the largest statewide, trans led, trans focused organization in the state of Texas.