GOP Candidates Competed Over Who’s the Most Transphobic

The four GOP candidates sparred over many things Wednesday night—including who is the most anti-trans.Gerald Herbert/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.The four GOP candidates competed over many things at the Republican debate Wednesday night—support for Israel, fitness to lead, and how they felt about Donald Trump. But one recurring theme was which one could claim to be most anti-trans of them all.
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sparred over who took a more draconian stance on so-called bathroom bills, which prevent transgender people from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity.
Haley pointed out that while running for governor in 2018, DeSantis once dismissed legislating the “bathroom wars” as not “a good use of our time.” DeSantis clapped back, noting that he signed a bathroom bill as governor and took Haley to task for refusing to do so herself. She claimed such a bill was unnecessary and voters weren’t asking for it.  
“I stood up for little girls,” DeSantis declared. “You didn’t do it.”
Vivek Ramaswamy falsely claimed “transgenderism” is a “mental health disorder,” adding that he wants to impose a federal ban on gender-affirming care for minors. 
Meanwhile, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stood behind his opposition to bans on gender-affirming care for minors as being consistent with traditional small-government Republican values.
“No one loves my children more than me,” he said. “Look at these jokers down in Congress. It takes them three weeks to pick a Speaker … and we’re going to put my children’s health, and my decisions, in their hands?”
But lest you think Christie’s a trans ally…think again. Of gender-affirming care, he said: “This is not something I favor—I think it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do, but that’s my opinion as a parent Megyn, and I get to make the decisions about my children, not anybody else.”

“No one loves my children more than me … Look at these jokers down in Congress. It takes them 3 weeks to pick a Speaker … and we’re going to put my children’s health, and my decisions, in their hands?”
— Chris Christie on why he opposes bans on gender-affirming care for minors
— The Recount (@therecount) December 7, 2023

Debate moderator Megyn Kelly, who asked Christie to defend his stance on the issue, has vocally opposed gender-affirming care for kids. She told RealClearPolitics last week she’s “become almost a single-issue voter on what we’re doing to children in the trans lane.” 
That makes Kelly—and all the presidential hopefuls besides Christie—anomalies among most American voters, polling shows. Only 17 percent of Americans, and 29 percent of Republicans, believe politicians should focus on restricting gender-affirming care, according to a September poll from The 19th and SurveyMonkey. That poll also found that 57 percent of Americans support adults accessing gender-affirming care, and 39 percent support trans minors accessing the same kind of care. Surgeries for minors are rare, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health has recommended kids don’t get hormone treatments before they’re 14, the Associated Press has reported.