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Ben Carson invokes trans shower panic to justify rollback of LGBTQ protections at HUD

HUD Secretary claims transgender people's use of shelter facilities matching their gender identity may infringe on others' rights

Ben Carson — Photo: Gage Skidmore

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has come under intense criticism after inferring that transgender people in showers are a threat to safety and privacy, in order to justify HUD’s rollback of protections for transgender people.

Appearing before a congressional committee, Carson responded to a question from U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) about a decision by HUD to rescind the Equal Access Rule, which, under the Obama administration, had guaranteed that homeless transgender people were able to access shelters that match their gender identity.

Quigley asked Carson how transgender protections would impact the rights of others in homeless shelters, Carson responded: “I’ll give you an example: there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, of being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

LGBTQ advocates accused Carson of spreading misinformation and relying on outdated myths or stereotypes that portray transgender people as predators.

“It is because of derogatory myths like this, which have been debunked time and time again, that the transgender community faces disproportionate levels of discrimination and homelessness,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAAD, said in a statement. “Today’s blatant and factually inaccurate anti-transgender rhetoric is the latest in a long line of uninformed and biased statements about LGBTQ people that make Dr. Carson unfit to be the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

Carson has previously come under criticism for removing pro-LGBTQ language from HUD’s mission statement. HUD is also being sued by People For the American Way and Right Wing Watch for removing a guide from its website involving pro-LGBTQ housing policies. The department also cancelled a survey of pilot programs to reduce reduce LGBTQ homelessness in Cincinnati and Houston, and disassociated itself from a study on LGBTQ housing discrimination.

Carson has also developed a reputation for opposing LGBTQ rights dating back to his presidential campaign. He has previously derided LGBTQ protections as granting “extra rights” beyond those enjoyed by others, insisted that sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice, equated same-sex marriage to bestiality, and linked acceptance of homosexuality to the fall of Rome.

The Human Rights Campaign also released a statement denouncing Carson’s actions.

“Ben Carson today testified before Congress that he is ignoring protections for LGBTQ people in homeless shelters, and defended his inaction by citing debunked and mean-spirited claims about transgender people that completely lack merit,” HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. “The level of ignorance he has consistently shown as the nation’s top housing official is deeply alarming, and has clear consequences for LGBTQ people who experience disproportionate rates of homelessness. When homeless shelters become unwelcome spaces for LGBTQ people, the consequences are devastating.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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