All over the United States, transgender people suffer discrimination and violence when they enter homeless shelters and try to access resources for homeless people. This discrimination comes not only from other shelter residents, but also from employees and operators of such shelters. Though this is a problem everywhere, a few cities have begun to correct such problems, such as San Francisco and now Washington, DC.
Transgender people face obstacles in homeless shelters from the moment they walk in the door. Their gender is often identified based on their bodies, not on their self-identified gender. Showers and restrooms, which often have little privacy, provide an unsafe space for transgender people. Also, transgender people are harassed by shelter employees and other shelter clients, often with no recourse.
In Washington, DC, NCTE has been working with other area organizations such as the DC Trans Coalition, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Different Avenues, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, Neighbors’ Consejo, and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless to develop a curriculum to train homeless shelter employees on how to comply with the DC Human Rights Act and treat transgender residents with equality and respect. The first training will be taking place in mid-July and will include employees from shelters around the city. Though this is only a first step, it is an extremely important one in the fight for transgender equality on all fronts.