Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson is facing criticism for remarks about “big, hairy men” in women’s homeless shelters perceived as attack on transgender people.
The Washington Post reported late Thursday Carson made the comments earlier when visiting HUD’s San Francisco office, where he expressed concern about “big, hairy men” trying to infiltrate women’s homeless shelters.
During the incident, Carson reportedly also lamented society no longer sees a distinction between men and women.
According to the Post, Carson’s comments “visibly shocked and upset many of the roughly 50 HUD staffers who attended Tuesday’s meeting, and prompted at least one woman to walk out in protest.”
Carson has a history of making anti-trans comments. When running for president, Carson the “height of absurdity” and “a few people who perhaps are abnormal,” even suggesting transgender people should use separate bathroom from the rest of society.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Carson’s comments were consistent with anti-trans views of the entire Trump administration.
“This is what Donald Trump’s cabinet officials do,” David said. “Ben Carson has spent his career in politics expressing disgust toward the existence of transgender people. From his comments on trans people in the military to his support for a proposal that would literally permit emergency shelters to turn away trans people who are homeless to his unqualified support for a White House that has made attacking trans people a mantra, it is hardly surprising that Ben Carson would blatantly dehumanize trans people in his official capacity.”
A HUD spokesperson was quoted in the Washington Post article denying Carson made disparaging comments: “The secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals. Any reporting to the contrary is false.”
Zeke Stokes, vice president of the LGBT media watchdog GLAAD, highlighted an upcoming LGBT forum with Democratic candidates in denouncing Carson, adding the secretary’s remarks to the Trump administration’s list of attack on LGBT people.
“As we head into tonight’s #LGBTQforum in Iowa, the Trump Administration launches a new attack — the 125th — against LGBTQ people,” Stokes said. “Ben Carson is unfit to serve.”
Carson made the comments as HUD is proposing a rule change to gut an Obama administration regulation prohibiting homeless shelters from discriminating against or turning away people for being transgender.
The propped would rule would allow shelters with sex-segregated facilities — such as bathrooms or shared sleeping quarters — to establish a policy consistent with state and local laws in which may consider “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs” as well as gender identity in determining where to place individuals.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who had previously called on Carson to resign after the rule was proposed, reiterated that call in a statement criticizing Carson’s remarks as anti-transgender.
“Secretary Carson’s remarks are revolting. These comments only affirm that his recent efforts to erase the Equal Access Rule are rooted in ignorance, not sound policy. By allowing shelters to discriminate against transgender Americans, the Secretary is putting lives in danger.
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with HUD seeking comment on whether Carson will seek to correct his remarks.