Bus Tour Newsletter #26 – November 2022

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Did you know that Transgender Awareness Week is the week of November 13? It’s meant to help increase the visibility about transgender people, addresses issues members of the community face, and leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20.

TDOR began in 1999 when transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death and began the tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender people experience extremely high rates of housing discrimination, a problem which is even worse among trans people of color. This month’s newsletter includes a history of the transgender community in Portland, details housing discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people experience, and includes resources for transgender people.

A Timeline of Transgender Rights in Oregon

The First Nations Two-Spirit Collective teaches that in Native culture “2-Spirit” people, those who carry the spirits of both male and female, have been honored and revered for millennia. Despite the influences of colonial patriarchy, the Portland Two-Spirit Society is one Native group that has kept Two-Spirit pride alive. The following is a timeline of transgender rights in Oregon in more recent modern settler-colonial history. 

1917 – Alan L. Hart, an Oregon physician, researcher, and writer, is one of the first female-to-male transgender people to undergo a hysterectomy in the U.S. Despite successfully transitioning, Hart experiences discrimination based on his transgender identity throughout his career as a medical practitioner, moving from state-to-state across the West each time his gender is called into question.

Open original Digital object

Portrait of Christine Jorgensen, a performer and transgender woman, visiting Portland to try out a new comedy routine, 1956. (Source: Oregon Historical Society)

1970 – The Portland Gay Liberation Front (PGLF) forms shortly after the famous Stonewall Riots take place in New York City on June 28, 1969. The PGLF comes together in response to a call to action from John Wilkinson, an openly gay staff writer at the underground newspaper, Willamette Bridge.

1973  Rep. Vera Katz introduces Oregon’s first gay rights bill. It fails to pass by only two votes.

1975 – The first outdoor Pride event is held downtown in the Park Blocks near Portland State University.

1977 – Portland holds its first gay civil rights march, going from the Park Blocks to Waterfront Park.

1980 – The Northwest Gender Alliance is founded as a nonprofit, social, support and educational group for trans individuals.

1998 – Benton County passes an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, one of the first laws in Oregon making it illegal to discriminate against transgender people.

2000 – The Portland City Council votes unanimously to add “gender identity” to the city’s 1991 civil rights ordinance that already bans employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation.

2006 – The TransActive Gender Center, which works to empower transgender youth and gender nonconforming children, is founded by pioneering transgender activist, Jenn Burleton.

2007 – The State of Oregon enacts the Oregon Equality Act, banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, and some other areas.

2008 – Stu Rasmussen is elected Mayor of Silverton in Marion County, becoming the first openly transgender mayor in the U.S.

2014 – Portland Trans Pride becomes an official event during Pride Weekend in downtown Portland in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Stonewall.

2015  The Oregon Health Plan begins offering transgender healthcare coverage, and Oregon Health and Science University establishes its Transgender Health Program.

2017 – Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) helps to pass the first standalone transgender equity law, which creates an administrative option for Oregonians to update their birth certificates. In addition, BRO helps make a third gender marker on state IDs through the Department of Motor Vehicles, making Oregon the first state to legally recognize non-binary, intersex, and agender people on ID cards.

There are many more notable events in the history of the trans community in Oregon – check out this timeline of events to learn more about this rich history marked by the activism of trans rights leaders.


Transgender Housing Rights and Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act protects against sex discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity. 

HUD announced in February of 2021 that it interprets the Fair Housing Act to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and directed HUD offices and recipients of HUD funds to enforce the Act accordingly, based on a June 2020 Supreme Court ruling in the Bostock v. Clayton County case.

In this landmark Supreme Court ruling about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Gerald Bostock, a gay man working for Clayton County in Georgia, filed a lawsuit against the county after he was terminated, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court ruled in Bostock’s favor, stating that an employer who fires an individual employee merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

HUD’s announcement began the implementation of the policy set forth in President Biden’s Executive Order 13988 on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation (Executive Order), which directed executive branch agencies to examine further steps that could be taken to combat such discrimination.

HUD’s 2016 Equal Access Rule requires equal access to HUD housing programs without regard to a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The Equal Access Rule also makes it unlawful for a landlord or housing provider of a covered dwelling to deny housing because of actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status under the FHA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Under the Equal Access Rule, HUD-funded homeless providers also must place clients in a shelter or facility that corresponds to the gender with which the person identifies, taking health and safety concerns into consideration. Providers must also ensure that their policies do not isolate, or segregate clients based upon gender identity.

It is also prohibited for a lender to deny a HUD-insured mortgage to any qualified applicant based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

Despite these protections, transgender people experience higher rates of homelessness than individuals who identify as cisgender. Based on a yearly one-night count by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of 2020 there were 3,161 homeless individuals who identify as transgender living in the U.S. According to the Point-in-Time Count, the number of homeless and unsheltered transgender people is increasing at an alarming rate.

Since 2016, the number of adult transgender individuals experiencing homelessness increased 88% and the number experiencing unsheltered homelessness increased 113% during the same period.

This rise in homelessness in the transgender population is not surprising considering the high rates of housing discrimination this community experiences. One in five transgender people in the U.S. has been discriminated against when seeking a home, and more than one in ten have been evicted from their homes because of their gender identity.

An estimated 20-40% of the over 1.6 million homeless youth are transgender and LGBQ-identified. On top of that, the impact of the pandemic has made it even harder for transgender people to find housing.

Transgender people experience overall higher rates of poverty than their cisgender peers. Trans people of color experience even higher rates of poverty than their white counterparts. Around 29 percent of trans adults live in poverty, including 39 percent of Black trans adults, 48 percent of Latinx trans adults, and 35% of Alaska Native, Asian, Native Americans and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island trans adults.

Higher rates of poverty in the trans community are connected to higher rates of discrimination due to the stigma trans people often face based on their gender identities. Over the past five years alone, 390 anti-trans bills were introduced across the U.S.

Trans women in particular experience high rates of discrimination in homeless shelters. In a telephone test on 100 homeless shelters across four states, the Center for American Progress and the Equal Rights Center found that only 30 percent of women’s shelters are willing to house trans women. In 34 percent of the tests, a shelter employee explicitly refused to shelter the tester or placed the tester in a men’s facility or in isolation.

Transgender people also face barriers when it comes to accessing student housing. Although federally funded educational institutions are barred from discrimination based on sex and gender under Title IX, there are still many cases where transgender students are discriminated against when seeking housing on college campuses.

One such case took place at George Fox University in Oregon in 2014 when a transgender student, Jayce M. was denied the option to live with his male friends in on-campus housing. However, the university was quickly granted religious exemption to discrimination by the Department of Education. LGBTQIA+ activists in the area protested this religious exemption, arguing it to be discrimination.

Nursing homes have also been known to discriminate against senior transgender individuals. It is estimated that there are at least 771,000 LGBTQ adults over the age of 65 in the U.S., including 171,000 transgender seniors. Trans seniors are shown to be more likely than the general older population to need housing in assisted living facilities, partly because they are more prone to be alienated from family members, be in poorer health and live on lower incomes.

Despite the overall persistent alienation that the trans community experiences, the number of people who support trans rights in the U.S. increased to 62 percent by 2019, compared with only about 25 percent of people only five years prior.

Resources for Transgender Individuals

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Is there a particular topic we discuss on the bus tour that you are interested in learning more about? Does your organization host events related to racial justice or other topics that come up on our bus tour? Email your events and ideas to information@fhco.org to have them included in our future newsletters. 

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