Julian Castro, Kamala Harris slam Ben Carson over trans comments

Julian Castro, Kamala Harris slam Ben Carson over trans comments

Savannah Behrmann


Published 7:27 PM EDT Sep 20, 2019

WASHINGTON– After Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reportedly made offensive remarks about transgender people earlier this week, Julián Castro, former Obama HUD secretary and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, had some choice words. 

“19 Black trans women have been killed this year because comments like Ben Carson’s normalize violence against them,” Castro tweeted.” As HUD Secretary, I protected trans people, I didn’t denigrate them.” 

According to the Washington Post, during a stop at HUD’s San Francisco office on Tuesday, Carson said “big, hairy men” identifying as women were trying to infiltrate women’s homeless shelters. The Post also reported that the HUD secretary alluded to society being unable to tell the difference between men and women. 

Reportedly, he also added that single-sex shelters should be able to reject transgender people.

Carson’s comments upset many of the roughly 50 HUD staffers, and at least one woman walked out in protest, also according to the Post’s reporting,

One San Francisco staffer told the Post “That was the first time any of us heard him use such derogatory language,” adding Carson is “more tactful when he’s talking before Congress, whereas this sounded like a slur to me.”

A HUD senior official provided a statement to the Post: “The Secretary does not use derogatory language to refer to transgendered individuals. Any reporting to the contrary is false.”

However, Carson has a record of anti-LGBT comments — calling transgender people “abnormal”, claiming that being gay is “absolutely” a choice, and as proof to the prior statement, saying “a lot of people” go into prison and change their sexual orientation while incarcerated. 

He also called transgender citizen’s existence “the height of absurdity.”

“For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is,” Carson said in 2016. “And now all of a sudden we don’t know anymore. Now, is that the height of absurdity?”

The HUD spokesperson quoted by the Post tried  to clarify that Carson was referring to men who pretend to be women to gain access to women’s shelters, not meaning to single out transgender women as the “big, hairy men.”

In a statement provided to USA TODAY on Friday, HUD spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick did not deny Carson’s comments.

Rather Vanvick reiterated a view Carson espoused during his remarks Tuesday in San Francisco when he reportedly also said that “transgender people should get the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get to change things for everybody else.”

Vanvick echoed that sentiment saying in her statement that Carson “will continue to make sure everyone is guaranteed equal rights—not given extra rights. He does not believe any one group deserves to be treated better or worse than any other group.” 

“It’s a sad state of affairs when staff tasked with serving the public would attempt to twist his words in order to politically grandstand,” Vanvick continued. 

Carson was in San Francisco earlier this week as a part of the Trump administration’s focus on homelessness in California. 

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The president of the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT organization, tweeted in response that: “From his comments on trans service members to his support for a proposal that would literally permit emergency shelters to turn away trans people who are homeless, hardly surprising that @SecretaryCarson would blatantly dehumanize trans people in his official capacity.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., another 2020 Democratic contender, said that Carson’s “derogatory remarks are harmful to the LGBTQ+ community and just downright cruel.”

Sabrina Singh, the national press secretary for Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in a statement provided to USA TODAY that Carson’s comments were “vile and disgusting.”

“This administration has done everything possible to roll back protections for LGBTQ Americans,” she continued.

The backlash over the comments comes as dozens of Democrats signed a letter to Carson on Thursday, asking him to reinstate provisions aimed at helping LGBT people as part of the criteria for a competition to receive grants from HUD. 

“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 letter reads.

In May, HUD proposed a new rule that would allow federally-funded shelters to deny people admission, forcing transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men. 

Nearly one-third of transgender Americans who responded to a 2015 survey have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Requiring transgender people to stay in shelters that don’t match their gender identity can put them at further risk of violence and harassment, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, called Caron’s comments “sick” and elaborated that we “cannot allow this kind of behavior to be normalized.”

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