Discrimination in Shelters and College Dorms


In San Francisco, homeless shelters are required by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to treat transgender people according to their self-identified gender. This means transgender women are housed with women and transgender men with men. Further, shelters are required to address the individual according to his or her gender identity, and allow the person to use the appropriate restroom.1 Cities in other states have developed model policies serving transgender guests in homeless shelter facilities.2

Ideally, the shelter should make available a private shower facility, though many shelters do not have the resources to do so. In such a case, shelters should arrange a safe solution on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, not all homeless shelters have such transgender-friendly policies. Without such policies in place, shelters can be dangerous for transgender people. If a transgender person is faced with a harmful or dangerous situation in a shelter, it is best to seek immediate legal assistance. For more information on making homeless shelters more safe and transgender-inclusive, see Transitioning Our Shelters: A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People, a helpful guide published by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless.


There’s an emerging trend on college campuses to offer not just co-ed dorms but also mixed-gender and gender-neutral housing for students. More than 80 colleges and universities now offer gender-neutral housing.3 The gender-neutral housing movement across college campuses began mainly as a way to accommodate LGBTQ students although even straight-identifying students have roomed in mixed-gender housing.

Schools in California that allow such housing include the University of California (UC), Berkeley, the UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, Humboldt State University, San Diego State University, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvey Mudd College, Occidental College, and Pitzer College.

The National Student Genderblind Campaign helps students lobby for gender-neutral housing. For more information, see http://www.genderblind.org.

  1. Compliance Guidelines to Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination, San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Last visited August 1, 2012. 

  2. Health Services Guidelines for Serving Transgender Guests, Boston Public Health Commission Homeless Services, Last visited August 1, 2012. 

  3. Colleges and Universities that Provide Gender-Inclusive Housing, Transgender Law Center, Last visited August 1, 2012.