I saw a post on Facebook this week that mentioned difficulties that LGBT people may face with access to housing. It’s true that there are many LGBT people who are homeless or in precarious situations. That made me realize how minor any difficulties are in my own situation, and how well I’ve done in my life.
When I first moved out of my parents’ house, my college dorm was covered by the Empire State Scholarship of Excellence. After college I lived with my dad for a year while I saved up enough for a rental deposit. Through tech jobs and student loans I was able to afford my share of the rent in Brooklyn and other places.
When my kid was young I worked part time so I could be home with him and finish my PhD, and my wife’s income covered the maintenance and mortgage on our co-op. Now that I’m working full time again, I can afford to pay my share of housing expenses, and also my mother’s rent, if the need arises.
In 2014 our entire co-op board resigned after evidence of mismanagement surfaced, I was elected secretary of my co-op board, even after coming out as trans at the candidate night. In the same election, an out lesbian lawyer upstairs was elected vice president.
I’m telling you these tales of success and minor inconvenience to illustrate the fact that not all LGBT people struggle with access to housing, and to point out some factors that can make the difference between struggle and success.
The biggest factor is family acceptance. The vast majority of homeless LGBT youth are on the streets because their families either abused them or kicked them out. This is what Eyricka Morgan’s family did, and even when she got housing she had to live with a murderer.
The next factor is financial security, which is connected to family acceptance but not automatically. My family’s acceptance has provided me with a lot more financial security than I would have had otherwise. It helps that my family had financial help to give, particularly my grandfather’s savings from his fish market. On the other hand, some people are able to obtain financial security without help from family, and others are financially insecure despite family help.
A third factor is race. Again: it’s only a factor: my co-op board former vice president is Latina, and her wife is Asian. But Eyricka Morgan was black, and so are many other LGBT people who are homeless or insecure in their housing situations. We don’t have rigorous statistics documenting the effects, but we know that racist discrimination is common in housing. There may also be a greater tendency in some communities to practice “tough love” (really, brutal abuse) against children who do not conform to gender norms.
Visibility is another factor. When my wife and I have looked for housing, we looked like a straight couple. I’ve been out online since 1996, but if potential landlords and co-op boards have seen anything about my trans status, they didn’t mention it. Someone who is visibly trans when applying for housing would face more discrimination, especially in some places.
As with access to health care, these differences are important to keep in mind. I don’t need help getting access to housing, and a lot of other trans people I know are also doing fine. Any resources directed to us would be wasted. We need to target them better than just “LGBT.” We need to solve the problem intersectionally.