Rolling Back HUD’s Equal Access Rule Is Detrimental to Transgender Survivors and the Anti-Trafficking Field

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According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly one-third of transgender and gender non-binary people experience homelessness at some point in their lives. Even worse, nearly half of transgender and non-binary people who identify as Black, Middle Eastern, Multiracial, or undocumented experience homelessness. These intersections of oppression create vulnerabilities to exploitation and trafficking. Recently, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a proposed rule that would allow federally funded shelters to restrict eligibility for single-sex or sex-segregated facilities based on an individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, among other factors. This proposed rule weakens the Equal Access Rule, which protects transgender people from discrimination in homeless shelters by ensuring that they are able to access HUD-funded shelters consistent with their gender identity.

Freedom Network USA (FNUSA) stands firmly with the transgender community, and against the proposed change. The new rule allows for discrimination of transgender people based on religious beliefs, or force transgender people to use the wrong bathrooms and sleeping quarters. As the largest coalition of anti-trafficking service providers in the US, FNUSA knows that LGBTQ+ individuals are at increased risk of exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. We believe housing is a fundamental human right and having access to safe housing, including shelter, is critical to survivor’s healing and long-term wellbeing. With the proposed rule, transgender individuals will find it more difficult to leave their trafficking situations as they may not have access to safe shelter.

It is imperative to increase, not eliminate, services, protections and acceptance for transgender people. FNUSA stands firmly in support of trans rights as a critical form of human trafficking prevention; we strongly believe that transgender people are entitled to equal, welcoming services appropriate to their gender identity. As a field, it is critical to identify and address the root causes that fuel human trafficking, including racism, discrimination, and poverty. We cannot successfully address human trafficking in silos, ignoring the intersecting issues that survivors face. We encourage service providers to connect with local organizations serving LGBTQ+ individuals to identify areas of collaboration, and to join with us in opposing this harmful rule change.