June is Pride Month, and as we look at how far LGBTQ+ communities have come in recent years, it’s important to recognize that many in those communities still experience discrimination and injustice. One instance is housing injustice, specifically for transgender and gender nonbinary people. Currently, transgender and nonbinary individuals–those who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth–face all sorts of hurdles both subtle and overt when seeking housing.
For many trans and nonbinary people, housing discrimination can occur as early as the application process. People who use names and/or genders different than those on their government-issued IDs may be flagged as suspicious by landlords. The significant costs and legal hurdles people face when seeking name or gender changes on documents leave low-income transgender people most vulnerable to discrimination. Discrimination of all sorts against LGBTQ+ individuals plagues the job market as well, leaving many trans individuals especially caught in a cycle of being unable to secure stable housing or jobs. The National Center for Transgender Equality reveals that one in five transgender or nonbinary individuals has faced housing insecurity. Additionally, many trans people experience harassment, including sexual harassment, by neighbors and/or landlords.
Like other forms of identity-based discrimination, the housing injustice that trans and nonbinary people face is often insidious. Landlords cover their tracks with excuses about homes no longer being available or by simply not responding to LGBTQ+ applicants. An Urban Institute study conducted in Washington, D.C. found that landlords treated transgender applicants significantly differently from cisgender applicants, whether or not the clients revealed themselves as trans. This means that landlords were making assumptions about the identities of trans individuals based on their ability to “pass” as cisgender or not.
Though discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not explicitly outlawed under the Fair Housing Act, sex discrimination is illegal and courts have begun recognizing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as a type of sex discrimination because it punishes people for not conforming with sex stereotypes (including in a landmark Colorado case that found a landlord barring a trans woman and her partner from renting his property to be illegal housing discrimination). HUD has also in recent years made clear that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in any federally funded housing is illegal, with regulations released in 2012 and 2016. Still, the lack of strict federal or state protections against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination allows landlords and private housing providers to get away with clearly inequitable treatment. And recently, the Trump administration has begun delaying or rescinding many key civil rights regulations, leaving advocates worried about the future of federal protections for LGBTQ+ people.One prominent example is the 2016 regulation that requires federally-funded shelters to let residents stay in shelters that match their gender identity.
While some states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands and passed progressive legislation to protect trans community members, Louisiana unfortunately has not. While there are anti-discrimination ordinances that protect trans and nonbinary people in New Orleans and Shreveport, there is no statewide protection in place to shield the rest of Louisiana’s trans community from transphobia and discrimination. Of course, the intersections of identity mean that low-income, trans people of color and trans youth are especially at risk of being misgendered, harassed, or turned away entirely.
Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, there are things we all can do to ensure that all Louisianans have fair access to a place to live. Become a mystery shopper for GNOFHAC, sign up for action alerts, or donate to support fair housing work across Louisiana. If you or a loved one have experienced discrimination, contact GNOFHAC at (877) 445-2100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help is free and confidential.