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Small study find discrimination against transgender tenants

December 18, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A small study suggests that transgender residents face high levels of discrimination while looking for housing in North Dakota.

The nonprofit High Plains Fair Housing Council conducted the study in anticipation that legislators would consider banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in 2019. Similar proposals have failed in 2015, 2013 and 2009 legislative sessions.

The organization’s executive director, Michelle Rydz, tells The Bismarck Tribune that lawmakers have said there “wasn’t any evidence, they didn’t see that this was a problem.”

The nonprofit conducted tests on 15 pairs with one of the pair transgender and one not, to see if transgender residents were treated differently in Fargo, Grand Forks, Valley City and Jamestown.

The organization says 80 percent of transgender participants were shown fewer or inferior units than the control group. Seventy percent said they experienced subtle forms of discrimination, such as no eye contact, handshake or refusal to use their proper pronouns. Transgender testers also reported being asked snoopy questions 60 percent of the time.

“The discrimination was never blatant,” said Rebel Marie, a transgender woman from Fargo who coordinated the testing. “If I didn’t have a control, a lot of times I wouldn’t have even known that I would have been discriminated against.”

Although the North Dakota Apartment Association declined to comment until it could see the study, Marie said she has been harassed by an employee of the property management company on social media. Despite the uphill battle for equal housing, she still finds North Dakota to be a “great place to make home.”

House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, who was the main sponsor of the nondiscrimination bill that failed in the 2017 session, said there’s “certainly interest” in reintroduction. He added the House is looking at the capacity progress might be made “this session versus any other session.”

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