For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
(Washington, DC, Nov. 3, 2016)—To help combat religious discrimination against the LGBTQ community, today the American Humanist Association launched a program to mobilize grassroots activists across the country who will ensure that local transitional housing spaces are inclusive and welcoming to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
The program, Humanists Optimizing and Upholding Shelter Equality (HOUSE), is an initiative of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance, one of the American Humanist Association’s adjuncts dedicated to advancing equal rights for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) community both within the humanist movement and in American society. Lead by an advisory board of openly LGBTQ humanists, the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance is providing educational resources to humanist groups so that they can reach out to and collaborate with their local transitional housing facilities to implement policies that actively affirm and support transgender individuals. Humanist groups participating in the program include: Camden County Humanists in Blackwood, New Jersey; Free Inquiry Group of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, Florida; Harbor Humanists in Hoquiam, Washington; Humanists of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York; Humanist Community of Central Ohio in Columbus, Ohio; Humanists of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida; Lehigh Valley Humanists in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Montgomery Humanists in Montgomery, Alabama; and South Jersey Humanists in Galloway, New Jersey, among others.
“Humanists have long been ahead of the curve in affirming gender non-conforming individuals,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Now we are turning that support into coordinated action that exemplifies the humanist values of equality, justice, and human dignity while taking a stand against religiously-motivated discrimination that harms the LGBTQ community.”
“With more than one in five transgender individuals experiencing homeless at some point in their lives, there is a clear need for shelters to appropriately serve transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” said Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator of the American Humanist Association, in reference to a statement from the National Center for Transgender Equality. “By connecting humanist groups with shelters in their regions to educate them about best practice recommendations that encourage inclusivity, we will create grassroots change to positively impact the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people in local communities.”
Many religious shelters have a history of discriminating against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. In September, many shelters run by religious organizations, such as Union Mission Ministries in Norfolk, Virginia, criticized a new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation stating that transitional housing facilities receiving federal funding must provide equal access for transgender individuals. Last year, a trans woman in Toledo, Ohio, was turned away from a shelter run by Cherry Street Mission Ministries because of her gender identity. In 2013, a women’s shelter in Washington, DC, run by New Hope Ministries was sued for denying a transgender woman service at its facilities. Perhaps one of the most well-known charities, the Salvation Army, has a documented history of discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.
Some ways that shelters can meet the needs of homeless, transgender individuals include: welcoming them into the shelter, housing individuals in spaces that match their gender identity, identifying them with their chosen pronouns and name and preventing discrimination and harassment against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in the shelter.
Since the 1970s, the American Humanist Association has consistently advocated for equality for LGBTQ individuals. The American Humanist Association observes Transgender Day of Remembrance to confront the continued marginalization of the transgender community across the country. More information about the American Humanist Association’s advocacy on behalf of transgender Americans can be found on the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance’s website.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.