Restore the Safety and Privacy of Women in HUD-Funded Emergency Shelters!
The Hands Across the Aisle Coalition has decided that it’s time for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to restore the safety and privacy of homeless and abused women who seek refuge in HUD-funded emergency shelters.
Federally-funded women’s shelters are presently required to admit male clients who claim to feel female, or risk closing their doors to the women who desperately need them. Traumatized women who object to sharing sleeping and bathing quarters with men have been stripped of the right to complain, and could lose their place in a shelter for continuing to do so.
Our coalition believes that this is an injustice in need of immediate remedy.
Currently, the final Housing and Urban Development Rule, “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs,” 81 Fed. Reg. 64763 (Sept. 21, 2016,) requires placement of biological men in programs and shelters previously reserved as safe havens for women, in accordance with gender identity and without regard to the sex recorded at birth or other factors. Shelters funded by HUD’s office of Community Planning and Development must now house applicants according to the self-declared, undefined category of “actual or perceived gender identity.”
The implementation of this rule ended single-sex emergency shelters with the stroke of a pen and is the epitome of arbitrary and capricious agency action.
This Rule now forbids staff from excluding male clients, described as transgender or genderqueer, from shared shower and sleeping areas in formerly single-sex women’s shelters. It requires all complaints by women about sharing intimate quarters with the opposite sex to be treated as “opportunities to educate and refocus” shelter occupants, and for staff to evict women if they continue to object to the presence of men in the shelter.
We believe that HUD’s desire to ensure that transgender individuals not be wrongly denied shelter does not support the conclusion that transgender-identified persons must be placed in intimate single-sex facilities with members of the opposite sex. Instead, we believe that HUD can and should revise its rules to reaffirm the principle that shelters and related programs cannot discriminate based on sex-stereotypes, that single-sex facilities should not be forced to permit clients of the opposite biological sex, that men who identify as women or non-binary must be kept safe at men’s facilities, and that women who identify as men or non-binary should be kept safe at women’s facilities.
While we understand that not all shelters are single-sex facilities, we object to the elimination of single-sex facilities and the prior administration’s insistence on allowing access for men to women’s spaces. Eligibility for single-sex facilities and services must be determined solely by sex; both “gender identity” and “perceived gender identity” are irrelevant.
In conclusion, The Hands Across the Aisle Coalition respectfully requests that Secretary Carson rescind and revise the final rule and restore the ability of HUD grantees to maintain safe, sex-segregated emergency shelters.