From the desk of Paul Dragon, E.D. (8/19/2020)

New HUD rule threatens transgender individuals 

This piece was published in VTDigger on 8/19/2020.


The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced its proposed rule change that would weaken protections for transgender individuals experiencing homelessness. Emergency shelter providers are empowered to deny individuals a safe space based on gender identity. This denial of safe access to shelter for transgender individuals is harmful, but not surprising, considering this administration’s ongoing hostility toward the transgender community. In 2017, Trump tweeted that he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. 

Where does this administration’s hostility toward transgender people come from? Its roots are in society’s view of what is normal and what is not. This normality is self-serving and is the foundation for a social and economic system built for and led by white male heterosexuals. To maintain this normality and power, we will go to great lengths and even pathologize people who don’t fit this definition of normal. For example, in 1974, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). And today, gender dysphoria constitutes a diagnostic class in the DSM. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis that refers to people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with, making gender dysphoria a mental illness. This label and the concomitant treatment it entails is a helpful tool lending legitimacy to a powerful group of people who created a world in the image of themselves.

It is the imposition of this fixed and “normal” view of the world that has such dramatic repercussions for people on the margins. Consider that the suicide rate for transgender people and in particular transgender youth is one of the highest of any cohort of people in the country, with 40% of transgender people having attempted suicide. The hopeful news, however, is the emerging evidence that with family and social supports this high suicide risk can be dramatically decreased. There is another view of the world and of normality to which we can turn for perspective.  This view found in both modern science and ancient thought  is that nature, biology and thought are not static, but ever-changing through a shared process of give and take. From this standpoint, there is not one absolute normal to which we can attach ourselves. 

When we take away the basic human rights of the transgender community, we violate not only their social and political rights, but the universal and more fluid facts of science, nature and thought. This world is not static or fixed. There is no absolute normal to which we can attach. People in power may look for normality by gazing at themselves in the mirror but this so-called normality is not only contrived, it is killing transgender individuals.  

For information on HUD’S proposed rule weakening shelter access for trans people experiencing homelessness and how you can advocate against it please call the Champlain Valley’s Office of Economic Opportunity’s Fair Housing Program at (802) 660-3456 ext.106 or submit comments to HUD here or through



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