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Nikki Haley Falsely Connects Trans Athletes to Girls’ Suicide - Yet Again

Nikki Haley Falsely Connects Trans Athletes to Girls’ Suicide - Yet Again

Nikki Haley

The former governor made up false assertions about transgender girl athletes negatively affecting the mental health of cisgender teen girls at a CNN town hall event.


Nikki Haley, a presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2024, suggested Sunday that transgender girls playing sports contribute to teenage suicide ideation.

The former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations explained her definition of woke during a CNN town hall event in Iowa.

“There’s a lot of things. I mean, you want to start with biological boys playing in girl sports. That’s one thing,” Haley said. “The fact that we have gender pronoun classes in the military now, I mean, all of these things that are pushing what a small minority want on the majority of Americans, it’s too much. It’s too much.”

According to Haley, “The women’s issue of our time” is “the idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports.”

“My daughter ran track in high school. I don’t even know how I would have that conversation with her,” she noted. “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.”

Haley was referring to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from February that found one out of three girls in the U.S. have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

As a result of Haley’s comments, mental health experts and LGBTQ+ advocates expressed outrage.

Tim Miller, a gay former Republican political consultant, criticized Haley on Twitter. He invoked Don Lemon, fired from CNN after a series of missteps, including a comment about Haley, which many perceived as misogynistic.

“Imagine if Don Lemon hadn’t just said that Nikki Haley wasn’t in her prime but also that her very existence was making young girls want to kill themselves. That’s the equivalent of what she said here on CNNs air. Despicable,” Miller tweeted.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis criticized Haley’s comments.

“The record reflects that politicians like Nikki Haley lie about transgender people to score political points and avoid discussing real threats to all women and girls like abortion bans, gun violence, book bans, and other state-imposed restrictions on their health, well-being, education and futures,” Ellis tells The Advocate.

“Every voter and reporter needs to demand answers from candidates on real problems. Until Nikki Haley has a plan to restore reproductive freedom and eliminate gun violence, no one should be listening to her about keeping girls and women safe,” her statement continues.

Director of law and policy at the Trevor Project, Casey Pick, explained the actual harms of banning trans athletes from participating in sports.

“Banning transgender women and girls from playing sports is not only unfair and unnecessary, but it also denies them yet another potential source of connectedness, stress relief, and joy. Transgender young people deserve to have the same opportunities as their peers, and like all young people, they can only thrive when treated with dignity and respect,” Pick said in a statement to The Advocate.

“We understand that this can seem like a complicated issue for people who’ve never met a transgender person,” she continued. “But the impact of exclusion and discrimination on our young people is clear and dire. Local schools and athletic associations have already been successfully managing programs that balance fairness with inclusion for years. We urge lawmakers to listen to the subject matter experts, and the trans athletes and families who would be impacted before rushing to create overreaching government mandates that harm young people and help no one.”

It wasn’t the first time Haley made the unsupported claim that teen girls are being negatively affected by transgender teen girls’ participation in sports. She made the same assertion in New Hampshire in May.

Transgender and nonbinary youth, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted on behalf of The Trevor Project, say state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively affected their mental health.

Among transgender and nonbinary youth, 64 percent said they felt angry, 44 percent sad, 39 percent stressed, and 1 in 4 scared when asked about new policies that banned transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and transgender boys from playing on boys’ sports teams.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, tweeted, “Nikki Haley suggesting that 1/3 of American teenage girls are contemplating suicide because of the existence of trans people is an unserious, untrue, and hateful thing to say. But hate is the point, isn’t it?”

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

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