GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley went after transgender rights during a Republican town hall Sunday in Iowa, calling the debate over whether transgender women and girls should be allowed to compete on sports teams alongside their cisgender peers the “women’s issue of our time.”
“The idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports, it is the women’s issue of our time,” Haley, a former South Carolina governor and former ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “My daughter ran track in high school. I don’t even know how I would have that conversation with her.”
Haley also suggested during Sunday’s town hall that allowing transgender girls to use school restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity is contributing to an increase in suicidal ideation among cisgender teenage girls.
“How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year,” Haley said, referencing research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.”
The same CDC report, released in February, found that more than half of young LGBTQ people in the U.S. had experienced poor mental health over the past year, and a staggering 22 percent had attempted suicide. No connection was drawn between thoughts of suicide in teenage girls and the presence of transgender students in school restrooms, locker rooms or sports.
A report released last month by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, found that more than half of transgender and nonbinary children, teens and young adults in the U.S. had seriously considered suicide over the last year.
Since launching her White House bid, Haley in February has zeroed in on transgender issues on the campaign trail, frequently criticizing the inclusion of transgender women and girls in sports and in media.
At a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month, Haley took jabs at Dylan Mulvaney, the transgender influencer at the center of the Bud Light controversy, calling her a “guy, dressed up like a girl, making fun of women.”
“Women don’t act like that,” Haley continued in remarks that were mostly met with silence, according to reporting from Newsweek. “Yet, everybody’s wondering why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year?”