The trans movement is at an interesting crossroads in the United States right now. On the one hand, a high-profile figure like Caitlyn Jenner can come out on the cover of a national magazine and receive plaudits for her courage from liberals and centrists. On the other hand, a perpetual Republican presidential candidate like Mike Huckabee can use trans people as a political piñata, ridiculing them as freaks and predators. As BuzzFeed noted on Tuesday, the right-wing outlet WND recently uploaded one of Huckabee’s most galling anti-trans obloquies, delivered during a speech at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Speaking about civil rights ordinances that protect trans people from discrimination, Huckabee said:
[These] ordinances [say] if your 7-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.
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. 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.”
Huckabee has long enjoyed bashing gay people and marriage equality, but this disgusting joke suggests the former Arkansas governor has lately discovered the joys of ridiculing trans people—who already face a stunning amount of discrimination and harassment. For what it’s worth, no state that has passed trans protections has seen Huckabee’s bathroom fever dream come to pass. But, of course, Huckabee isn’t really concerned about facts: He’s concerned about finding the kind of red meat Republican voters still care about. It seems that, by his calculation, maligning one of the most reviled and marginalized groups in society will still push GOP voters to the polls.
Update, June 3, 2015: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that BuzzFeed first flagged Huckabee's comments.