U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson is under fire this week for remarks he made to members of his San Francisco staff that caused at least one staffer to leave the room and human rights advocates to publicly condemn him.
During the internal meeting, Carson was discussing homeless shelters and said he was concerned about “big hairy men” sneaking into women’s homeless shelters, The Washington Post is reporting. At the Tuesday meeting that included 50 Housing and Urban Development staffers, Carson also complained that society no longer seems to know the difference between men and women, the Post reported.
One HUD senior official defended Carson, a physician vaulted to the HUD post by President Trump. The official said in a statement shared by the Post, “The secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals. Any reporting to the contrary is false.”
The official said Carson was referring to men preferring to be women in order to get access to the women’s shelters. But HUD employees who were at the meeting said that was unclear from what Carson said.
Transgender advocates condemned the remarks.
“It’s a mythical notion that policies that are inclusive of transgender people somehow pose a threat,” Gillian Branstetter, spokeswoman for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Post. “It’s frankly despicable that such a harmful notion would be used by someone charged with facilitating programs meant to help people in need, many of whom are transgender.”
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, also slammed Carson for his remarks.
“Ben Carson has spent his career in politics expressing disgust toward the existence of transgender people,” organization president Alphonso David told Politico.
“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,” David said.
Carson has a history of remarks insulting transgender people, according to one official who asked not to be named in the Post piece. During internal meetings, the secretary often speaks of transgender people in dismissive and mocking tone, the official said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, he said, “Transgender people should get the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get to change things for everybody else,” one HUD staffer asking to remain anonymous told the Post.
During the meeting, Carson also reminisced about the days when there were “just women and just men,” two staffers who asked to remain anonymous told the news organization.