Friday, March 25, 2011

Homeless service stats can say "Gender: Other"

Homeless people just got a little more freedom from reductive ideas of gender. A major federal statistical system has authorized a new gender category: "Other."

Important, when you consider how shelters and other institutional kinds of housing tend to sort people by perceived gender, and how people whose identities flummox the sorters tend to get treated badly.

OK, now, I'm going to geek out, but there is a civil rights point under the technicalities about to commence, so please bear with:

The Annual Performance Reports (formerly Annual Progress Reports) are a mainstay source of statistics for the many special HUD programs serving homeless and near-homeless and seriously disabled people -- that is, the "Community Planning and Development" category, which is kind of the safety net under the safety net. I explained a little here in January about what APRs were like a few years ago.

Anyway, last year HUD replaced the paper APR with a more flexible electronic version. (That's also when "Progress" became "Performance". I guess we call that realism.) The old HUD-40118 APR forms allowed people to be "Male" or "Female" and that was it. If I'm understanding correctly, the new electronic APR, as of last year, already had gender categories for "Male," "Female," "Transgendered," "Don't Know/Refused" and "Information Missing."

Now the HUD listserv covering federal homelessness programs says "Other" has just been added to the list. The change happened this February, according to the PDF guidance document it recommends, at "Continuum of Care APR Programming Specifications."

Hey, good news doesn't have to be big or simple to be good news.

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