Transgender and gender non-conforming people continue to experience overwhelming levels of harassment and discrimination in shelters and programs across the Commonwealth and across the nation. Homelessness within the trans community is critically common.
Best Policies and Practices
In December 2013, MTPC released Shelter for All Genders: Best Practices for Homeless Shelters, Services, and Programs in Massachusetts in Serving Transgender Adults and Gender Non-Conforming Guests. This guide provides recommendations to agencies working with transgender and gender non-conforming persons in emergency and transitional shelters or services throughout the Commonwealth.
These recommendations were prepared by the Policy Committee of MTPC and reflect the best practices for inclusive shelters and programs used in other areas of the United States; existing laws, policies, and regulations for shelter systems in other states; and policy recommendations devised by transgender and LGBT think tanks and shelter policy specialists.
A 2009 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reports about 1 in 5 transgender people have been refused housing, and 19% have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives due to transgender-related discrimination. Of transgender people who have tried to access shelters, 55% have experienced harassment by shelter staff or residents, 29% were turned away altogether, and a staggering 22% experienced sexual assault by residents or staff. Furthermore, those trans people in the study who have experienced homelessness were highly vulnerable to mistreatment in public settings, police abuse, and negative health outcomes.
Additionally, the 2011 Institute of Medicine report on the health of LGBT people affirms the significant risk of homelessness among young transgender people. The overwhelming evidence indicates the necessity for safety and accessibility to homeless shelters and programs for transgender and gender non-conforming people. The experiences of homeless transgender people here in Massachusetts reflect the findings from national research.
MTPC applauds Governor Deval Patrick for issuing gender-identity inclusive executive order 526 Order Regarding Non-Discrimination, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action in February 2011 and the Massachusetts legislature for the passage of the state law An Act Relative to Gender Identity, which went into effect July 1, 2012. In addition to prohibiting discrimination in employment, education, and credit/lending on the basis of gender identity in Massachusetts, this law extends to housing protections.
Along with this guide, MTPC offers a story share initiative for transgender and gender-nonconforming people who have experienced discrimination, violence, or harassment in a shelter setting. This story share is respondent-driven. If you decide to tell us about your experience, you decide how much detail you want to include, if and how you want your account to be shared with others, and whether or not you would like to submit anonymously.
Every person who tells us their personal narrative of discrimination helps us learn more about our community and the challenges that trans people face.
Community members, service providers, and allies who have witnessed discrimination are also encouraged to tell us about it. These stories are very different from personal accounts, but they can be incredibly helpful in gaining a broader understanding of the barriers facing trans and gender-nonconforming people who are seeking shelter.