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Transgender Coloradans Say Discrimination Persists

Transgender Coloradans say housing discrimination persists. (Dcsliminky/iStockphoto)
Transgender Coloradans say housing discrimination persists. (Dcsliminky/iStockphoto)
December 28, 2016

DENVER – It's been eight years since transgender people were added to Colorado's anti-discrimination laws, but many in Denver's transgender community say they're still experiencing housing and other forms of discrimination.

Sable Schultz, program manager of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, said it's common for trans folks to be told, after they arrive for their appointment, that an apartment already has been rented.

"Perhaps that is indeed the case, but it's also just as possible that the landlord decided that they didn't want to rent to a transgender person," Schultz said. "A lot of the marginalization that we experience, in terms of job and housing discrimination, is very subtle."

Nearly one-in-four transgender people in the U.S. experienced housing discrimination in the past year, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, and a statewide survey by One Colorado found transgender people also struggle with threats of violence, limited employment options and poverty.

Karen Scarpella, executive director of The Gender Identity Center of Colorado, said not being able to land a job that pays a living wage can lead to substandard housing and poorer health outcomes.

"Well if you're living in an unsafe neighborhood, you're nervous, upset, uncomfortable, you don't feel safe and you don't rest well," she explained. "So, your anxiety level is automatically never going down. That affects your health."

LGBT advocates say many Coloradans don't know that discrimination is against the law and are encouraging people to take legal action. Scarpella said ultimately discrimination is rooted in fear and ignorance.

"And so, while I think that passing laws and anti-discrimination bills are important, I really believe that none of that is truly going to change until people meet somebody who's transgender, and understand that they're just regular people with something that's a little different about them," she added.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and family status. Adding gender identity and sexual orientation protections would require Congress to amend the law.

This story was produced with original reporting from Chandra Thomas Whitfield for The Colorado Trust. Find out more at coloradotrust.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO