Equal Access to Housing for HUD Assisted Housing Projects
As many managers of HUD-Assisted properties already know, HUD prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their gender identity. HUD published a final rule entitled “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs” on September 21, 2016. This rule built upon HUD’s February 2012 final rule entitled “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” These rules apply to all owners, operators, and managers of shelters, and other buildings and facilities as well as providers of services funded in whole or in part by any CPD program.
Now that managers of HUD-assisted properties of any type must ensure non-discriminatory actions when dealing with Lesbian/Gay/Transgendered/Bisexual (LGBT) individuals, it is important to understand various terms that are relevant to gender identity issues. Use of terms or phrases in an inappropriate way could lead a housing applicant or tenant to believe that you are discriminating against them. HUD recently provided information on various terms and definitions that managers and operators of HUD-assisted properties should be familiar with; here are some of those terms:
- Transgender: Umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex. Sometimes an individual may determine they no longer identify as transgender after they transition.
- Transitioning (Gender Transition): A process that some (but not all) transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. Transitioning does not necessarily require medical procedures.
- Gender Identity: Internal or innate sense of being male, female, or another gender; it may or may not match the assigned sex at birth.
- Gender Expression: External expression of gender identity (be aware that many times people do not feel they can safely express their gender identity), exhibited through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, body language, and voice.
- Sexual Orientation: Physical or emotional attraction to the same and/or opposite sex; this is distinct from one’s gender expression or identity. Sexual orientation includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, asexual, and questioning. Generally, the term “homosexual” should no longer be used.
- Non-Binary Identity: This is also known as “genderqueer,” and is a relatively new term describing an individual whose gender does not fit within the male-female spectrum. Non-binary/genderqueer individuals do not identity as male or female, and are not the same as transgender.
- Intersex: This is an umbrella term that describes people who have (were born with) natural variations that differ from conventional ideas about “female” or “male” bodies. Such natural variations may include genital and chromosomal, as well as a range of other physical characteristics. Intersex should not be confused with transgender. An out-of-date and offensive term used in the past for this condition was “hermaphrodite.”
- Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): This is a surgical procedure to transition an individual from one biological sex to another. SRS is often combined with hormone treatment and psychological assistance prior to and/or following surgery. SRS is a term that is preferred over “sex change operation.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS.
These terms, and the rules relating to providing equal access to housing for LGBT persons may be confusing to owners and managers, but it is a requirement. Operators of HUD-assisted programs must become familiar with the rules relating to equal access and should have a working knowledge of LGBT vocabulary.