Gender Identity, Pronouns & Fair Housing

Posted On: October 20, 2021

Discussions about gender identity are more commonplace in 2021. Today is International Pronouns Day, a designation several people may not know about; however, the third Wednesday of October is the perfect time to remind owners and agents of how a resident identifies relates to fair housing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued the first Equal Access rule in 2012. This rule stated any HUD-assisted FHA-insured (mortgage) housing ” made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”

The Gender Identity Rule came in October 2016, ensuring “all individuals have equal access to many of the Department’s core shelter programs in accordance with their gender identity.” HUD also released a third final rule in November 2016, applying the same equal access from the first rule to Native American and Native Hawaiian programs.

Gender identity is therefore determined regardless of the gender identified on an individual’s identity documents.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD’s definition

HUD defines it as “the gender with which a person identifies, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth and regardless of the person’s perceived gender identity.” The October 2016 final rule amended the definition to accomplish two things:

  1. To more clearly reflect the difference between actual and perceived gender identity.
  2. Eliminate the prohibition on inquiries related to sexual orientation or gender identity, so that service providers can ensure compliance with this rule.

However, the rule clarifies that although a housing provider can ask how a person identifies, they can not use the information to determine eligibility or deny housing.

gender identity
Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Identity example

Gender identity relates to how a person, in their head, thinks about themselves. It is different from biological sex and gender expression. All three are different from sexual orientation as well. For example:

  • Mary was born female (birth sex)
  • Mary identifies as a man and prefers they/them/theirs pronouns. (gender identity)
  • They dress in a masculine manner (gender expression)
  • They are attracted to men (sexual orientation)

While this may confuse Mary’s housing provider, it is important for their landlord to provide them with equal access and respect their preferred pronouns.

It is illegal for a housing provider, real estate professional or lender to.. Refuse to refer to a.. tenant by his or her preferred pronoun or name.

International Pronouns Day

The goal of International Pronouns Day is “to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.” For example, a resident may tell you their preferred pronouns upfront. You can make them feel accepted and welcomed by honoring that.

If you feel the need to ask a resident or applicant their preferred pronouns, the simplest solution is to share your own. For example, you could say, “I go by he, him, his pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” or “How would you like me to refer to you?”

Seek legal advice!

As always, legal questions need legal answers. If you have questions about addressing the gender identity of applicants and residents, please consult your attorney.


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