Last week, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson caused a stir by stating the obvious, that some women say they would be uncomfortable sharing a shower in a sex-segregated homeless shelter with a biological male. LGBT groups viciously attacked Carson’s statement, but one of them actually suggested that women’s concerns about showing with transgender people were a “debunked myth.”
“We obviously believe in equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT community,” Carson said last Tuesday. “But we also believe in equal rights for the women in the shelters, and shelters where there are men, and their equal rights.”
“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.
“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, president and CEO of the LGBT activist group GLAAD, 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,” Ellis concluded.
To support her claims, Ellis linked to a statement from “Anti-Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access for the Transgender Community.” In this statement, representatives of more than 250 sexual assault and domestic violence organizations stated that transgender people are not a threat to women in restrooms.
Those who genuinely suffer from gender dysphoria (the psychological condition of identifying with the gender opposite your birth sex) are indeed unlikely to use their transgender identity as an excuse to spy on women or men in dressing rooms and bathrooms. That does not mean, however, that some voyeurs would not take advantage of protections for transgender people in order to indulge their disgusting habits.
At least nine men across the country dressed as women in order to peep into women’s restrooms and changing rooms after Target announced its pro-transgender policy in 2016.
While Ellis might have intended to claim that transgender people are not a threat, her actual remarks suggested that she was entirely dismissing the concerns of women.
Carson said, “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.” Ellis called this a “derogatory myth” that has been “debunked time and time again.”
On its face, her comment means that there are no women anywhere who express discomfort with the idea of sharing a shelter or a shower with a biological male. This is patently false, and extremely offensive.
Whatever her intentions, Ellis actually said that the very existence of women concerned about this issue is a “debunked” and “derogatory myth.”
Last year, a poll found that a full 56 percent of Americans disagreed with legal provisions allowing a person who is “transitioning to become the opposite sex” to “use whichever bathroom they want to.” Another 66 percent of Americans disagreed with the statement that transgender people “should be legally allowed to use whichever public or school showers or locker rooms they want to.”
Americans support equal rights for LGBT people, but this poll suggests that there are millions of Americans — and particularly American women — who are uncomfortable with the idea of transgender people sharing restrooms, showers, and changing rooms with members of the opposite sex.
Whether or not Americans have good reasons for it, this discomfort is anything but a “debunked,” “derogatory myth.” It stands to reason that some women did indeed tell Ben Carson they would be uncomfortable sharing restrooms with biological men, even if they identify as women. Whatever her intentions, Ellis actually said that these people do not exist.