When the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson was questioned about the removal of training materials used to ensure access to housing services for transgender people, Carson invoked a too often used myth – that allowing transgender women access to shelters would “impede the rights of one for the sake of the other”- while also using words like “uncomfortable,” “anatomy,” and “complex.” For those in the domestic and sexual violence field, the phrasing was clear code for justifying discrimination and even violence against transgender women by utilizing the myth that allowing transgender people to access shelters consistent with their gender identity places other residents in danger. This same language is currently being used in states around the country, such as upcoming ballot initiatives in Montana and Massachusetts, to push discriminatory legislation that would place transgender communities at higher risk of experiencing violence.
Hearing this myth from the Secretary of HUD was a reminder that, now more than ever, domestic and sexual violence survivors and service providers must stand with the transgender community to oppose this dangerous and false narrative and voice our support for non-discrimination protections, including the HUD Equal Access Rule, that are inclusive of transgender survivors and all survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
In 2016, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence released a consensus statement, signed by over 300 domestic violence and sexual violence organizations across the country, opposing anti-transgender initiatives and the dangerous myths used to support them. These organizations included rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and service providers and others who work with countless survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence every day. These organizations value principles of safety, healing, and privacy, and they know that non-discrimination protections for transgender people do not impede these principles, but strengthen them. These organizations support transgender people’s access to gender- specific facilities as necessary for public safety.
We, representatives of the undersigned organizations, are renewing that commitment today and ask that domestic and sexual violence organizations that have yet to join this effort sign onto this statement now.
The fact is that the domestic and sexual violence field has been at the forefront of championing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ survivors, whether the historic non-discrimination protections in the Violence Against Women Act or the Equal Access Rule promulgated by the HUD that includes explicit protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people. We serve everyone in domestic and sexual violence shelters and programs, including men, women, and non-binary survivors, as all individuals need a safe place to go when experiencing interpersonal violence. The reasoning is simple. Transgender people experience unconscionably high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence—and forcing them out of facilities consistent with the gender they live every day makes them further vulnerable to assault. As advocates committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence of every kind, we will never support any discriminatory housing law or policy and will stand against any statements that could put anyone at greater risk for assault or harassment.
Ways to Take Action!
· Sign onto the Consensus Statement: https://goo.gl/forms/KtiRtfm1aVQDIYV72
- Circulate the Consensus Statement to your networks and on social media. https://bit.ly/2qDJV6D
- Learn more about the anti-trans statewide bills, where they are, and how to support on the ground efforts.
- Write an op-ed or blog on why your organization opposes legislation that is discriminatory towards transgender survivors.
- Dispel myths that use transphobia to promote discrimination. Use social media to promote facts on sexual violence in LGBTQ communities and the importance of non-discrimination provisions for all survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
- Don’t know where to start or how to respond? Contact LGBTQ technical assistance resources for sexual and domestic violence programs for tips:
National LGBTQ Institute on IPV: http://lgbtqipv.org/;
National Center of Anti-Violence Programs’ (NCAVP) National Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Center. https://avp.org/ncavp/tta-center/;
- Share Know Your Rights information for transgender survivors: (https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/survivors-violence);
- Share NCAVP’s Policy to Practice nondiscrimination guide. This guide helps domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking organizations understand the VAWA non-discrimination provisions: http://avp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/From_Policy_to_Practice.pdf;
- Share this resource on how shelters can comply with the Equal Access Rule: http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/resources/Equal-Access-for-Transgender-People-Supporting-Inclusive-Housing-and-Shelters.pdf.