Most people remember growing up and always having a place called “home”. Many had a house to sleep and eat in and contained our belongings, but it was never a home. Nevertheless, we could go to school, come home and do homework and go out and play if we were young. If we were lucky enough to still be home into our teenage years, we’d do the teenage stuff. Our home, or house…would be there, always! We didn’t grow to adulthood thinking it might become a problem to find a place to live. Everyone did it, or almost everyone. The only ones that were homeless had obviously suffered some catastrophic event, it seemed. In fact, a number of events can lead a person or whole family to be without housing.
In actuality, there are tragic events that can cause homelessness. The loss of a spouse or family member, job loss, and forms of domestic violence and divorce can end up in homelessness. Sometimes, even day-to-day life can create such financial burden as to jeopardize the ability to pay for housing. vehicle costs, if substantial can be debilitating. Unpaid parking or other traffic fines or lack of insurance coverage can all be unforeseen expenses that, in the case of limited or depleted funds can render someone homeless.
Now that you’re of age and transgender, maybe you were lucky enough to land a job that doesn’t discriminate. You’ve just crossed what you thought was your biggest hurdle. It may have been, but now you’re in a whole new arena. You remember the job searching, the application, the perfectly worded resume, the award-winning interview. Well, brush up, because you have to do it all again. This time, however, there are even fewer discrimination policies in place to govern housing then there are concerning employment.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a report concerning discrimination against transgender renters or home buyers. It specifically addresses gender identity, cites it as sex discrimination and that it is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). However, the perceptive landlord can abuse certain aspects of the application process to reveal the transgender status of an applicant. In addition, even when transgender people are guarded by law, many do not know their rights or are afraid to pursue them. A trans person, faced with the choice of litigating a discrimination claim or expending resources to find a safe living space, has no real options.
The numbers are shocking, and since there have not been any in-depth studies done in the past 2 years, the drastic increase in homeless transgender individuals since then paints an even darker picture. The following is from The Report of the 2015 U.S Transgender Survey:
- Only 16% of respondents owned their homes, in contrast to 63% in the U.S. population.
- Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
- One in eight (12%) experienced homelessness in the past year because of being transgender.
- Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year. This includes being evicted from their home or denied a home or apartment because of being transgender.
- More than one-quarter (26%) of respondents who were homeless in the past year avoided staying in homeless shelters. The reasoning was that they feared they would be mistreated as a transgender person. Additionally, six percent (6%) were denied access to a shelter, including 4% who were denied access due to being transgender.
- Seventy percent (70%) of those who stayed in a shelter in the past year reported some form of mistreatment because of being transgender.
- More than half (52%) of those who stayed at a shelter in the past year were verbally harassed, physically attacked, and/or sexually assaulted because of being transgender.
- Nearly one in ten (9%) respondents were thrown out once the shelter staff found out that they were transgender, and 44% decided to leave the shelter because of poor treatment or unsafe conditions.
- One-quarter (25%) decided to dress or present as the wrong gender in order to feel safe in a shelter, and 14% said that the shelter staff forced them to dress or present as the wrong gender in order to stay at the shelter.¹
If those figures aren’t alarming enough, consider some of the ones released since then:
- San Diego, California has seen a 39% jump in homeless youth since 2016.
- In Atlanta, Georgia the number of homeless youth in 2016 was estimated to be nearly triple that of previous years
- After a concerted effort to count homeless young people, Seattle’s King’s County saw its numbers jump more the 700 percent between 2016 and 2017.
- Up to 40 percent of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.²
This is just a small sampling of how drastically the dilemma of the homelessness has compounded itself over a short period of time. The transgender community’s only desire and right is to exist and to have the same rights as anyone else. Why does society condemn them for this? Why are parents willing to reject their children? Why are they placed in a position where their chances of survival are limited to slim and none?
Merriam-Webster presents the following definition:
Definition of PARENT
: one that begets or brings forth offspring:
: A person who brings up and cares for another
Is a parent, then, someone who simply “brings forth offspring”, more like “a person who brings up and cares for another”, Or are they both?
Do we decide if our child is unfit to be cared for because they are different or transgender?
If so, why is that?
Only the parents that make these decisions ultimately have to justify, answer and live with them. In all likelihood, I would venture that with enough cognitive exploration of one’s self, these answers would be revealed. That would require some effort made, from both the individual directly involved, and through outside motivation.
We cannot change the way someone else thinks. Patterns of behavior are seeded in early childhood, developed over the course of time through life experience, environmental influences, and core beliefs. The change has to come from within. Without that, there will be none. Someone else has to pick up where others have left off in the care needed for these rejected, abused, vilified homeless people.
It needs to start somewhere.
It needs to start with us all, here, and now. It is already too late.
¹ James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality
³ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parent