You Belong: An Open Letter to Transgender People Experiencing Homelessness
Growing up, I never heard “they/them” as a singular pronoun. At school and elsewhere, transgender people were the object of jokes and ridicule. As a parent in 2022, I stand amazed as I watch my own children and their friends speak with ease and confidence about a wide range of gender expressions and exploration. They do not belittle. They do not marginalize. They embrace and celebrate gender diversity.
Yet despite many advances by the LGBTQ+ community in recent decades, full equality—especially for transgender people—remains out of reach. Trans people experience discrimination every day. In jobs, housing, education, health care, and other systems, transgender people face daily barriers that prevent them from accessing basic services. Even in homeless service systems, we see overt and covert discrimination. Many trans people do not feel safe in emergency shelters. Too often, they are not able to choose which dorm room they sleep in or which bathroom they use. Young trans people and trans people of color are especially at risk of violence and exploitation.
Here is the message I would like to share with transgender people experiencing homelessness in communities across the United States, in red states, blue states, and purple states: You belong.
The federal government and our partners have not always done enough to protect the rights and safety of transgender people. I want you to know that we at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will do everything in our power to do just that. We will acknowledge and respond to homelessness among transgender people through our speeches, our documents, and our presence in communities. We will work with our partner agencies to examine and strengthen policies to protect the rights of transgender people experiencing homelessness.
We support the work of HUD, HHS, the Department of Education, and all our council member agencies to protect the rights of trans people. We affirm HUD’s work to ensure equal access for transgender people in housing and shelters, and we implore communities to do this work not just because it is federal policy, but because it is the right thing to do. How we operationalize equity for trans people is a matter of life and death.
On this Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2022, remember you belong here. You matter. We see you. We celebrate you.
We must all look to the next generation as our teachers and guides on this one. They have it right, and they give me hope.
To those making judgements or shutting out trans people: what gives you the right? To those who may be fearful of change: what are you afraid of? To those who seek to target and destroy the trans community, we will fight back with all our strength.
We should celebrate our diversity and recognize everyone's right to live. Such diversity strengthens, not weakens. It is what brings vital power, beauty, and wisdom to our society.
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