The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is moving forward with a proposal that would allow federally funded homeless shelters to force transgender people to live in homeless shelters that match their sex at birth, not their identified gender, NBC News reported on Thursday. If the new proposal passes, trans women could be forced into all-male homeless shelters and trans men could be forced into all-female homeless shelters.
The proposal seeks to overturn measures passed in 2012 and 2016 which guaranteed that transgender individuals could be housed in homeless shelters that matched their gender identity instead of their sex at birth.
The 2012 Equal Access Rule prevented federally funded shelters from denying trans people access to shelters that matched their gender identity. In 2016, the Obama administration enacted measures that strengthened protections for trans individuals residing in homeless shelters.
On Wednesday, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced his intention to repeal the protections for transgender individuals enacted during the Obama administration, NBC News reported. Carson said that the federal measures prevented local shelters from making housing decisions that were in the best interest of their residents.
"This important update will empower shelter providers to set policies that align with their missions, like safeguarding victims of domestic violence or human trafficking," Carson stated. "Mission-focused shelter operators play a vital and compassionate role in communities across America. The Federal Government should empower them."
According to NBC News, the proposal, which was distributed to members of Congress in May, stated that single-sex shelters would be able to deny housing to trans people whose biological sex did not match the sex of the shelter, but that they would not be able to deny access to trans people whose biological sex did match the sex of the shelter.
So, a women's shelter could deny access to a trans woman because her sex at birth was male, but the shelter would not be allowed to deny access to a trans man because his sex at birth was female.
HUD first announced their intention to repeal protections for transgender people at federally funded homeless shelters in 2019, but it took over a year for the official proposal to make it to Congress.
Civil rights activists and advocates for the trans community immediately spoke out against Carson's announcement, saying that the proposal put trans people of all genders at risk. Lala Zannell, who works on transgender issues for the ACLU, also pointed out that the proposal would be especially harmful to trans women of color.
"Where should the Black and Brown trans women who have faced discrimination at work and violence in their homes and the streets go after we have been turned away from shelters?" Zanell asked. "Shelters funded by taxpayers should be open to all — period."
HUD's proposal comes less than a month after the Trump administration rolled back health care provisions for the transgender community.