Yes, Carson is somehow relevant again. This time, it's because he believes someone's feelings are more important than a trans citizen's ability to have safe, clean shelter.
Homelessness is one of the biggest issues that plague the transgender community. According to reports from the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender people experience discrimination when looking for a home. Over one in ten have been evicted from their homes because of their gender identities. Though discrimination against trans renters on the basis of gender identity has been categorically made illegal by The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the reality looks a little bit different on the ground. Recently, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (yes, he's somehow relevant again) stated that it was okay to turn trans folks away from HUD facilities because apparently it's important to "take everybody’s feelings into consideration," LGBTQ Nation reports.
Carson made the statement when responding to a question posed by Democratic Representative of Illinois Mike Quigley during a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee. The Representative asked him about his previously-stated claim to "work on" ensuring the Fair Housing Act's guidance on how single-sex or sex-restricted HUD facilities must operate begin to materialize on the ground. Despite the existing rules, Quigley pointed out that the HUD is at present proposing that would allow the department to discriminate based on gender identity. Though Secretary Carson promised he had no intention to alter the rule, a revision filed in Spring 2019 implies otherwise. The revision would allow for housing shelters to bar or mistreat those in the trans community.
When asked about the revision, Carson simply stated that no one should be allowed to benefit from so-called "extra rights," an argument the Donald Trump administration has been peddling ever since he assumed office in 2016. He told Representative Quigley, "You probably wouldn’t like [my answer]... Because in the past, you don’t agree with my statement that everybody gets equal rights, but nobody gets extra rights." Quigley responded, "Just for reference, that’s the third year in a row you’ve said that." But the Congressman refused to back down after his response. Pointing out the various ways the revision was flawed and discriminatory, he continued, "That means in three years, the protections haven’t been in place. You have never documented what you just talked about. So, you’re telling the trans community... Because of how you perceive how some people react to them, it’s okay to discriminate against them?"
Carson's answer was perhaps the weakest defense known to humankind. "What I’m saying is we have to take everybody’s feelings into consideration," he stated. "You can’t just select a group and say that their feelings trump everyone else’s groups. I’m saying that no one’s rights get to obliterate anyone else’s rights." To this, Quigley had the perfect response: "You’re pretty well obliterated when you’re on the street and you’re not allowed in the facility!" The Housing Secretary, defeated, then asked Representative Quigley what solutions he had in mind "because I know you’re passionate [about] this issue." His solution was simple. Quigley affirmed, "The law says you can’t discriminate. That’s my solution."
The possibility that someone's "feelings" could get in the way of another citizen's ability to access safe and affordable housing should be appalling to Carson, who has been tasked with the protection of all Americans - regardless of gender identity - and their right to shelter as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Just because a bigoted individual cannot grasp the idea that gender is not a binary does not mean a trans citizen should be forced to sleep on the street. It's time to do better, Carson.