Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) put forward a proposed rule change this week covering how federally funded shelters can deal with housing aid for transgender individuals. Under Obama era rules, men “identifying” as women had to be admitted to women’s shelters at facilities segregated by gender. This has caused the same issues we’ve run into wherever these transgender conflicts arise, including public facilities at schools. Under the proposed change to the rules, shelter operators would have the discretion to abide by more traditional definitions. Of course, when the Washington Post covered the story, they treated it in precisely the opposite fashion.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday proposed a new rule that would weaken Obama-era protections for homeless transgender people, allowing federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men.
The proposed rule comes one day after HUD Secretary Ben Carson assured members of Congress the agency had no plans to eliminate the 2012 Equal Access Rule, which barred federal housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
When questioned by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) on HUD’s treatment of transgender people, Carson said his responsibility is to “make sure everybody is treated fairly. ”
This is a particularly touchy subject because people in need of assistance from public shelters are already generally in dire straits and vulnerable to abuse or predatory behavior. That’s particularly true for women, including the homeless, but particularly those seeking refuge from abuse in shelters established for victims of domestic violence.
I have a small bit of personal experience in this subject. Several years ago, my wife and I answered a posting calling for volunteers and one of the agencies looking for help was the local battered women’s shelter. It wasn’t anything complicated. They were just looking for people to help with cleaning, laundry, pick up and delivery of food and supplies… that sort of thing. I was rather taken aback to learn that while they were happy to have my wife come and help out, my assistance was not going to be accepted for any jobs that involved physically going to the shelter.
The reason they gave was perfectly reasonable once it was explained to me. Too many of the women they help arrive completely traumatized, often in fear for their lives, and just the sight of a man could cause anxiety or panic attacks, setting back their recovery. With that in mind, no matter how politically correct you may tend to be, can you imagine the women in a shelter being informed that a “woman with a penis” was going to be wandering around and sharing their bathroom and shower facilities?
If we have to come up with a solution to this problem, it could be managed readily just as the school bathroom, locker room and shower question could. Of course, additional resources would be required, but it should be a one-time investment. Shelters could be divided up with separate sections for “transgender women,” and you probably wouldn’t need nearly as many rooms in any given shelter. Similarly, schools should be able to provide single user bathrooms, lockers and shower stalls that aren’t restricted by gender.
Of course, we live in the era of You Will Be Made To Care so that probably won’t be good enough for the activists on the left. But if you’re truly concerned with the welfare of women in shelters facing desperate circumstances, you could set aside your political outrage for a little while and show a bit of compassion.