Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reportedly made dismissive comments about transgender people in San Francisco this week duringPresident Trump’s trip to California.
The Washington Post reports that HUD staff members were shocked after Carson said “big, hairy men” identifying as women were trying to access women’s homeless shelters, and that society does not know the difference between men and women anymore. HUD staff members told the Post that during the meeting, Carson was speaking about his conversations with women’s shelter operators who told him that homeless women would be upset. He added that single-sex shelters should be able to reject transgender people.
The comments, which were reportedly made at a meeting of about 50 staff members at HUD’s San Francisco office, led to at least one woman walking out in protest. The Post reports that the woman spoke out against what staffers saw as a clear attack on transgender women.
When contacted by the Washington Post, a HUD official said Carson was referring to men who pretend to be women to gain access to women’s shelters, not calling transgender women “big, hairy men,” although employees who were at the meeting said that that was not clear from the remarks.
“The Secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals. Any reporting to the contrary is false,"the official said.
The National Center for Transgender Equality responded to the statement late Thursday night.
“‘Transgendered’ isn’t a word, but ‘transgender’ is. Used in a sentence: Today, HUD Secretary Ben Carson used demeaning language to describe 2 million transgender Americans,” the organization tweeted.
Carson was in the Bay Area and Los Angeles this week with President Trump, who largely focused his two-day fundraising trip on homelessness in the state. The visit also came after officials from Trump’s administration spent several days in Los Angeles meeting with city and county officials and homeless advocates.
Hours before the Post published its report on Carson’s alleged comments, 61 lawmakers penned a letter to him urging that he reinstate 2018 HUD grant-making provisions because of concerns that recent funding changes would diminish LGBTQ protections, especially for transgender people.
“Close to 1 in 3 transgender and gender nonbinary individuals will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. The situation is even more dire for LGBTQ individuals of color, who nearly half report experiencing homelessness,” wrote the Congress members.
Today, @RepPressley and I wrote to @SecretaryCarson, along with 59 of our colleagues, to demand LGBTQ protections be reinstated in HUD's grant making process.— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) September 19, 2019
HUD should not allow housing providers to discriminate—and I can’t believe we have to say that. pic.twitter.com/iXdzzhm8fk
Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton, one of the representatives who wrote the letter, called Carson’s reported comments in San Francisco “revolting.”
“This only further confirms that his efforts to wipe out the Equal Access Rule are rooted in ignorance. Secretary Carson has already lied to Congress and his bigotry is putting lives in danger. He needs to resign,” Wexton tweeted Thursday night.
In May, HUD proposed weakening the Equal Access Rule, which guarantees LGBTQ individuals access to homeless shelters. If adopted, the proposal would mean that shelters would have permission to consider factors including “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs” in turning LGBTQ individuals away.