Ben Carson: Trans People in Homeless Shelters Make Others Uncomfortable

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has defended the removal of training materials for housing providers to prevent LGBT discrimination, arguing that the presence of transgender people in homeless shelters makes others feel uncomfortable.

Responding to a question by Illinois Democratic Representative Mike Quigley during a House subcommittee hearing, Carson said: "There are some women who said they were not comfortable with being in a shelter [with] somebody who had a very different anatomy."

Carson said: "We obviously believe in equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT community. But we also believe in equal rights for the women in the shelters, and shelters where there are men, and their equal rights. So, we want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn't impede the rights of one for the sake of the other."

When asked by Quigley how protecting transgender individuals impinges the rights of others, Carson continued: "There are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy."

Carson added that the HUD's general counsel would be open to discussing protections for homeless transgender people with Quigley and members of the LGBT community, CNN reported.

Quigley raised the issue after the HUD removed online resources created to help housing providers protect LGBTQ people and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Earlier this month, the advocacy organization People for the American Way filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the HUD.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBT rights advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement regarding Carson's comments: "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."

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Ellis added: "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."

Citing a statement released in April 2016 by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, GLAAD described Carson's comments as a "a common fear-mongering argument that is often used by anti-LGBTQ activists to target transgender protections, which has been debunked by more than 250 sexual assault and domestic violence organizations around the county."

The HUD secretary's statement follows the release of a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, where nearly one-third of respondents said they had experienced homelessness.

The survey of 27,715 respondents across all fifty states was conducted in 2015, and revealed that 70% of transgender people who stayed in a shelter reported mistreatment, including sexual and physical abuse as well as being removed from a facility because of their gender identity.

LGBT rights organizations previously criticized Carson in 2015 for suggesting that being gay was a choice, comments he later said did "not reflect fully" his views on "gay issues."