Reporting about New York City
A pilot policy to allow transgender people to choose between men’s and women’s shelters has reduced violence. But women’s shelters are safer for either identity.
Tiffany Jones became homeless when she aged out of foster care last year. Although Jones identifies as a woman and takes female hormones, her legal paperwork identifies her as a man. But Jones was pleasantly surprised when she went to apply for help at a men’s shelter last September and was asked if she was transgender and wanted to live in a women’s shelter.
“They saw that I’m a woman,” says Jones, 22, who has been living in a women’s shelter for 10 months. “There’s still some negative attention surrounding living with women. I had a couple fights when I first came in but not anymore. I had to prove a point that just because I’m transgender there’s no way of beating me. But if I were in the men’s shelter I’d be beaten up or raped,” she said.
Jones was fortunate that the staff member who handled her intake at the men’s shelter knew about [ the city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) policy allowing a transgender and gender nonconforming person to choose to stay in the shelter for the gender that he or she identifies as, regardless of whether the person has taken legal or medical steps to align his or her body with that identity.
New York City’s policy was implemented in January 2006 after LGBT advocates lobbied DHS for three years about ending the harassment of transgender women living in men’s shelters.
Besides permitting transgender shelter-seekers to stay in shelters appropriate to their identity, the policy states that “staff will address individuals with names, titles and other terms appropriate to their gender identity” and “staff at Intake/Shelter assignments will receive training on diversity, transgender and intersex issues.”