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Transgender Community Face Discrimination in Finding Housing, Homeless Services

Transgender and gender nonconforming people, and in particular trans women of color, face among the highest rates of discrimination and violence in the country. One in five transgender people have been refused a home or apartment, and one in ten have been evicted because of their gender identity. Homelessness is also a critical issue for transgender people, with one in five also having experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination and family rejection.  Nearly one in three transgender people who have experienced homelessness report being turned away from a shelter due to their transgender status. It is estimated 20 to 40 percent of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States are of an LGBTQ background. new report, released last week by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, offered more startling statistics:

Researchers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that the risk of attempting suicide was especially severe for transgender or gender nonconforming people who had suffered discrimination or violence, such as being physically or sexually assaulted at work or school. Among transgender people who became homeless because of bias against their gender identity, 69% said they had tried to kill themselves. Out of those who had been turned away by a doctor because they were transgender or gender-nonconforming, 60% had attempted suicide sometime in their lives, the survey found. Nearly two-thirds of respondents who were the victims of domestic violence at the hands of a family member had attempted suicide, the study also showed. Suicide attempts were less common among transgender and gender-nonconforming people who said their family ties had remained strong after they came out.

In 2007 Vermont passed the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination bill into law.  The law explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, banking, public accommodations, and other services.  The law defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” In addition, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance stating that discrimination against transgender renters or homebuyers based on gender identity or gender stereotypes constitutes sex discrimination and is prohibited under the federal Fair Housing Act.  In 2012, the new Equal Access to Housing Rule went into effect. The National Coalition for the Homeless offers a helpful guide for shelters to assist in the prevention of discrimination.  A check-list from the guide:

  1. Have you reached out to the local transgender community for guidance, training, and referrals?

  2. Have you developed written policies covering issues of respect, confidentiality, housing placements, bathroom and shower policies, harassment, and topics for intake conversation?

  3. Have you made any alterations to bathrooms and showers, including installing locks or doors and putting up curtains to increase the amount of privacy in your facility?

  4. Have you changed your intake forms to ask “Gender:____________” followed by a statement that transgender people are respected at your shelter?

  5. Have you put up a sign in your lobby that indicates that transgender people are welcome in your shelter?

  6. Have you set up a training session for all staff? For shelter residents?

  7. Have you integrated a training segment into the training program for all new staff?

  8. Have you reviewed your referral list to ensure that the agencies are welcoming and respectful to your transgender residents you refer there?

Discrimination is illegal in Vermont.  If you want information about your civil rights or if you think you have been discriminated against contact the Vermont Human Rights Commission at 800-416-2010, ext. 25 or 802-828-1625.  More guidance on how to file a complaint here.

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