Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has refused to apologize for describing transgender women as “big, hairy men” during a HUD meeting.
Carson’s comments came to light last week, after staffers at a meeting in San Francisco reported them to the Washington Post.
During a discussion on homeless shelters, Carson reportedly said he was concerned about “big, hairy men” trying to enter women’s shelters, and “lamented that society no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women.”
While a HUD official denied that Carson had used “derogatory language,” a government official in Washington also accused Carson of repeatedly mocking transgender people.
Carson — no stranger to anti-transgender or anti-LGBTQ rhetoric — refused to walk back the comments during an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, PinkNews reports.
“I simply pointed out the fact that we have to have policies that take into consideration everybody’s rights,” he said. “Everybody has equal rights, nobody gets extra rights.”
He added: “If I wake up tomorrow and feel like I’m Chinese, it doesn’t necessarily make me Chinese. There are biological and scientific issues. Somebody wants to be transgender? That’s fine, but we also have to take into consideration other people.”
Carson also tried to invoke religion to justify his comments, implying that he was being “persecuted” for sticking to “Biblical principles.”
“They’ve already made up their mind that I hate transgender people, which is completely untrue. The Bible tells us that we have to love everybody, and that Jesus died for everybody,” he said. “I truly believe that. It also tells you that if you stick to Biblical principles, you will be persecuted, so I’m not surprised at that either. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always try to do what is right.”
He also clarified that he believes women’s shelters should be able to discriminate against trans women, saying, “If you have a women’s shelter and you’ve been operating well, you get to decide how you’re going to run that. The federal government doesn’t need to be telling people who’s a man or who’s a woman. That’s a decision they can make by themselves.”
According to the Washington Post, Carson also defended his comments in a note sent to his staff, denying that he had made “hateful statements toward the transgender population.”
He said he had “heard from many women’s groups about the difficulty they were having with women’s shelters because sometimes men would claim to be women, and that HUD’s policy required the shelter to accept — without question — the word of whoever came in, regardless of what their manifested physical characteristics appeared to be.”
He added: “This made many of the women feel unsafe, and one of the groups described a situation to me in which ‘big hairy men’ would come in and have to be accepted into the women’s shelter even though it made the women in the facility very uncomfortable.”
Carson said it was a “danger” to society to “pick one issue (such as gender identity) and say it does not matter how it impacts others because this one issue should override every other common-sense consideration.”
According to an official who spoke anonymously to the Post, Carson reportedly penned the note after learning that “folks were upset.”
Under Carson, HUD has sought to rollback protections for transgender people, particularly homeless transgender women. In May this year, the department announced plans to allow federally funded homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender women.
Last year, Carson invoked the “trans shower panic” tactic to justify denying access to shelters to transgender people, inferring that transgender people in showers are a threat to safety and privacy.
“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,” Carson told a congressional committee in 2018.
He was also heavily criticized last year after HUD removed language from its mission statement which committed to ensuring LGBTQ people would be “free from discrimination.”
During his confirmation hearing prior to becoming HUD secretary, Carson also called LGBTQ rights “extra rights,” part of an anti-LGBTQ record that includes comparing being transgender to changing ethnicity, saying trans rights are “not a civil rights issue,” and saying transgender people should be forced to use separate bathrooms. He has also insisted that biological sex is immutable, and called the concept of being transgender “the height of absurdity.”