By Belle Vang, COSS Communications Student Assistant
It comes as no surprise to the average Fresnian that the city of Fresno has a high number of homelessness. However, a subcategory of homelessness that is heavily neglected in the community and is often left out of the town reports are transgender communities.
Dr. Katherine Fobear, Women’s Studies assistant professor, tackled the issue of transgender homelessness in Fresno with her students in the Women’s Studies activist class held in spring of 2019 by creating Fresno’s first Transgender Housing Report. In collaboration with Trans-E-Motion chair, Zoyer Zyndel, Dr. Fobear and the student activists address the pertinent stigmas that have resulted in transgendered homelessness.
A large source of discrimination comes simply from transphobia and homophobia. Dr. Fobear expresses her concern for the lack of conversation taking place in the community.
“Transgender individuals experience homelessness at greater rates because of transphobia, sexism, and racism–all those sorts of intersectional factors impact their lives, but far too often, their voices are left out of the conversation,” said Dr. Katherine Fobear.
The report addresses that a severe cause of the transgender community’s lack of representation is fear. The effects range from undocumented homeless transgender to being deported. Language barriers create even more difficult issues of representation.
The report states that the lack of conversation goes as far as to relay the lack of resources. Elvia Lopez, Women’s Studies Alumna and student activist, found that many of the organizations do not have established procedures for clients to complain, use incorrect pronouns or have refused to use correct pronouns, and do not have anything to guarantee the safety from harassment and/or assault.
“There’s structural discrimination within the organizations. They don’t have the organization set up to be friendly towards the homeless transgender communities. We found it to be quite abundant in Fresno,” said Elvia Lopez.
A few of the solutions Dr. Fobear and student activists have looked into consist of raising awareness for cultural sensitivity through proper training, navigating homelessness through policies such as the Housing & Urban Development’s (HUD) Equal Access Rule, and creating an online directory and hotline to connect LGBTQ+ individuals to local shelters and services.
Through the Transgender Housing Report, the group of student activists intended on raising awareness and sharing their knowledge with the community to encourage them to acknowledge the prominent issues and possible solutions of transgender homelessness. Within a few weeks of publishing the report, there had already been quite a few positive responses.
“Many people showed up to the Town Hall meetings–that’s both the trans communities and the community of helping professionals. It’s very overwhelming to see people come to the table and genuinely discuss how we can tackle this with the approach of it being something we can actually overcome. People usually don’t care; they just don’t. But seeing that people cared was very heartwarming,” said Zoyer Zyndel.
The report is publicly available and has been shared with housing authorities in Fresno. You may find it on Fresno State’s Women’s Studies website.
Women’s Studies will be offering the “Feminist activism” class (WS 175S) with a different focus this upcoming spring 2020. For more information, please contact the Women’s Studies department at 559.278.2858.