Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) belittled efforts to make public facilities more accessible to transgender individuals in a speech earlier this year, saying that he wished he could have "found his feminine side" in high school so that he could have showered with girls.
"We are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your seven-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom cannot be offended, and you can’t be offended, if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man,” Huckabee said in February at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville in comments that were first reported by BuzzFeed on Tuesday.
“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 PE,” 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.’"
At least 17 states and 200 cities have passed laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, according to Mother Jones. Some legislatures have tried to pass measures that would make it more difficult for LGBT individuals to use a public restroom that did not correspond with the gender identity they were assigned at birth.
In his speech, Huckabee, who is running for president, added “that there is something inherently wrong about forcing little children to be a part of this social experiment."
Chris Hartman, the director of the Kentucky LGBT advocacy group Fairness Campaign, a group that has worked on increasing public restroom access for transgender individuals that match their gender identity, said that Huckabee's comments were ridiculous.
"What Huckabee doesn't seem to understand, but any law enforcement officer or educator can tell you, is that allowing folks to use restrooms that match their gender identities doesn't change the laws that govern appropriate bathroom behavior," Hartman said in an e-mail. "If someone is seeking to sexually exploit others--as Huckabee suggests he might have tried in high school--they will be dealt with by the proper authorities."
Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, a national LGBT advocacy group, said that Huckabee's comments showed the kind of discrimination that transgender people continue to face.
"Everyone needs to use the restroom and everyone cares about safety and privacy. Mr. Huckabee's comments contribute to a climate in which, despite recent gains in visibility, transgender people continue to face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination and violence," Isaacs said in an e-mail. "His jokes and comments are cynical attempts to drum up fear for political gain."
This story has been updated to include comment from Rebecca Isaacs.