If there is a litmus test for what constitutes a “conservative,” surely opposition to sex change surgeries, cross-sex hormones, and puberty blockers for children must be one of them. If “conservatives” buckle on that, after all – something that most would not have believed possible a decade ago – what won’t they buckle on? If they won’t protect children from surgeons engaged in the greatest medical scandal since eugenics, what are they good for, anyway?
One of the most satisfying moments of television in a long time was an interview Tucker Carlson conducted in 2021 with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson after the governor vetoed a bill designed to protect children from transgender surgeries, including chemical and physical castration. Hutchinson claimed that the bill was too sweeping, but the Arkansas legislature overruled his veto. Many suspected that Hutchinson’s veto had a lot more to do with corporate interests threatening to leave the state than any principle, and Carlson spent ten minutes completely dismantling the sputtering governor.
Former South Carolina governor and current presidential candidate Nikki Haley, as it turns out, is of the same breed. In a recent interview with CBS, a host asked her: “What care should be on the table when a 12-year-old child in this country assigned female at birth says, ‘actually I feel more comfortable living as a boy’? What should the law allow the response to be?” Haley should have challenged the framing of the question – the ideological nonsense of “assigned female at birth” or referring to transgender quackery as “care.” Instead, Haley caved.
“I think the law should stay out of it and I think parents should handle it. This is a job for the parents to handle,” Haley responded. “And then when a child becomes 18, they can do that. But I think up until then – we see with our teenage kids, they go through a lot in puberty. They go through a lot of confusion, they go through a lot of anxiety, they go through a lot of pressures. We should support them, the whole way through, but we don’t need to go in and force something in schools. We don’t need schools sitting there hiding from parents what gender pronouns their kids are using. We don’t need to have those conversations in schools. Those are conversations that should be had at home.”
At the December 6 Republican presidential primary debate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted Haley’s prevarications. “I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors. It’s child abuse, and it’s wrong,” DeSantis said. “She opposes that bill. She thinks it’s fine and the law shouldn’t get involved with it. If you’re not willing to stand up for the kids, if you’re not willing to stand up and say that it is wrong to mutilate these kids, then you’re not going to fight for the people back home. I will fight for you, and I will win for you.” This is precisely how conservatives should be talking about transgender surgeries – as usual, DeSantis speaks with moral clarity and gets the big issues right.