Recently unearthed comments from Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee epitomize the absurdity of transphobic talking points — and provide yet another opportunity to debunk them.
The former Arkansas governor and Fox News host made the comments in February at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, reports BuzzFeed.
In a video posted to YouTube over the weekend by right-wing site WND, (formerly known as World Net Daily), Huckabee told the audience that he wished someone would have told him in high school that he could access the girls' locker room by saying he "felt like a woman."
"Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E.," Huckabee said. "I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.' You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous, doesn’t it?"
Huckabee might see basic equal accommodation for transgender people as something "ridiculous," but for countless trans youth especially, access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams that correspond with one's gender identity is a very serious issue. In fact, the federal government just issued guidelines for employers wanting to accommodate trans employees, affirming that individuals should be allowed to use the gender-segregated space that corresponds with their gender identity.
The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that isolating trans and gender-nonconforming students, making them use staff facilities, or forcing them to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender assigned at birth puts youth at an increased risk of stigmatization and harassment, and can, over time, increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of school altogether.
Huckabee's suggestion that boys could simply "pretend" to be transgender women to access women's spaces not only echoes thoroughly debunked transphobic scare tactics, but also disregards the reality that transgender people are at greater risk of physical and verbal violence when using gender-segregated spaces than their cisgender (nontrans) counterparts.
And then there's the minor detail that there has never been a verified instance of a man "pretending" to be a trans woman, then sneaking into women's facilities to harass cisgender women or girls.
Finally, Huckabee's anecdote perpetuates the myth that transgender people choose to trans, and that one's gender identity is a temporary state. This line of thinking easily leads to a support of so-called reparative therapy, which aims to change a person's gender identity (or sexual orientation). In April, Huckabee defended the use of the scientifically discredited practice sometimes called "ex-gay" therapy, which has been denounced by every major mental health organization in the country, as well as by President Obama and other top federal officials. In fact, such "therapy" is illegal to use on minors in California, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and as of last month, Oregon.
The Advocate submitted numerous requests to Huckabee's campaign for comment about the former governor's remarks, but received no response by press time.
Watch Huckabee's February remarks in full below.