Housing Secretary Ben Carson can’t stop using slurs against trans people.
Carson joined President Trump on his shame-California tour this week, which included a trip to the San Francisco office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. During that visit, Carson referred to trans people as “big, hairy men” trying to invade women’s shelters, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Carson also “lamented that society no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women,” the Post reported.
It was the latest example of Carson’s years-long habit of making transphobic remarks. It prompted at least one of the 50 HUD staffers present to walk out of the meeting. And it comes as more than 60 members of Congress, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Virginia), wrote a letter to Carson criticizing what they call HUD’s efforts to “invite discrimination” against trans people.
In the letter, sent Thursday, the members say that HUD has removed references to trans people in some of its grant-making literature, which has historically aimed to incentivize housing providers to serve trans people experiencing homelessness.
“These changes invite discrimination and could result in trans people being denied access to critical homeless services, forcing them to remain on the street and putting them at further risk of physical violence and abuse,” the members said in their letter.
“The Secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals,” a HUD spokesperson told the Post. “Any reporting to the contrary is false.”
But it’s not the first time HUD has been criticized for implementing anti-trans policy — or that Carson has made transphobic comments.
This spring, HUD rolled out a proposed rule change that would make it easier for federally-funded homeless shelters to deny entry to trans people.
Last year, Carson said that trans men make homeless women in shelters “uncomfortable.” In 2016, when he was running for president, Carson said that trans people are “abnormal” and “the height of absurdity.”
“We have known what a man is and what a woman is for thousands of years,” Carson told Katie Couric in 2016. “All of a sudden, we don’t know anymore. I said that is absurd.”
“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female, and just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it,” he continued. “Just — a leopard can’t change its spots.”
The administration of President Donald Trump has also expressed interest in rolling back critical anti-discrimination protections for trans people in the workplace, as well as in health care and insurance coverage.
Democrat Julian Castro, the presidential candidate and former Housing Secretary, tweeted Thursday: “As HUD secretary, I protected trans people, I didn’t denigrate them.”
“19 black trans women have been killed this year because comments like Ben Carson’s normalize violence against them,” Castro said.
Cover: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson, right, with Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales, at the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)