LOGANVILLE, Ga. (WGHP) — On the same day that Governor Roy Cooper issued his veto of North Carolina’s abortion bill, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the presumptive Republican frontrunner in the 2024 North Carolina governor’s race, kept his focus on children and gender-affirming care during a Georgia rally, where he spoke as an invited guest.
On Saturday, Robinson appeared at the Faith Over Fear Rally, a ticketed event hosted by Lucretia Hughes, a gun rights activist from Georgia, alongside Republican figures like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor and Kentucky gubernatorial hopeful Eric Deters, who was defeated in the primary on Tuesday.
Hughes shared his speech from the rally on her social media, and Robinson sat down with Hughes for a brief interview before he left the event.
Faith Over Fear
In the interview, Robinson explains his recent campaign launch for governor, explaining that the two things his campaign will be running on are education and the economy, due to the wide influence those sectors have. This matches his campaign launch rally speech, where he discussed the need for improved conditions for teachers and workforce development as North Carolina continues to attract jobs.
In both his main speech and in the interview, he addressed transgender youth and what he refers to as “child abuse.”
During the speech, Robinson said, “I can assure you of this. If you believe that a 5-year-old should have transgender surgery, I am sorry, but you are a bad person. You are a child abuser, and you should be placed in jail. And I draw a hard line with that. If our society continues to cosign on the abusing of our children in that way, we will not have a society for long.”
Later, during his interview with Hughes, Robinson added, “I don’t care what anyone says. When you start talking about clinics allowing 5-year-olds to have transgender surgery, that is outrageous, that is abusive. As far as I’m concerned, it should be illegal. You know that’s one of the many social issues that we’re going to try to push back against.”
He goes on to say in the interview that conservatives have to stop being afraid to “stand up for what’s right” and that he is confident in his position on gender-affirming surgery because, he said, “I have not met one person who agrees with that agenda or understands that agenda.”
This line of rhetoric matches a recent discussion Robinson had on a show called “America180,” hosted by David Brody, on an episode titled “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” with a graphic emblazoned with the phrase “Fighting the transgender illusion.”
In the episode, he can be heard saying: “You know, it’s fine if you want to be a transgender person in your home and you want to be that in your personal life, that’s fine,” he said, which echoes similar comments made during an appearance on Sebastian Gorka’s podcast in February. “But you can not come to me and tell me as an individual that I have to accept that, that I have to go along with that delusion. And here’s where I absolutely draw a hard line. And I’m going to say this time and time again, these folks need to leave these children alone,” he said, calling gender identity “highly sensitive adult topics.”
“Stop dragging children into this and stop forcing this on the children in North Carolina. I’m going to do whatever I can to protect the children of this state from the wilds of these folks who are trying to push these highly sexual topics on them,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s child abuse, it’s child molestation, and we will not stand for it.”
Gender-affirming care for minors
Robinson’s comments about “clinics” that offer “transgender surgery” for young children mirror recent legislative moves in North Carolina, seeking to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, as states across the country take up similar bills.
This ban includes treatments like puberty blockers, which are prescribed to delay the onset of puberty in children experiencing gender dysphoria, as well as hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery.
While Robinson says children as young as five are getting “transgender surgery,” it is worth noting that surgery for transgender minors is not common practice and that gender-affirming care that is practiced with minors is largely reversible.
A table on the American Academy of Pediatrics website explains the steps that go into gender affirmation and the level of reversibility of each step, as well as the rough age range that each type of care would be considered appropriate.
The AAP recommends, for young children, limiting gender affirmation to social transition. That might include calling a child by a new name and different pronouns and allowing them to dress the way they’d like to. Growing out or cutting one’s hair are common markers of social transition.
At the onset of puberty, a pre-teen or young teen might be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, which are reversible. Senate Bill 639 calls puberty blockers “experimental” and “not FDA approved.” The Associated Press notes that using puberty blockers for transgender children is, while not technically what the FDA designated the treatment for, considered a common “off-label” use for them, “which is an accepted and permitted practice” in medicine.
Hormone therapy is typically reserved for adolescents onward and is partially reversible depending on the length of time they’re used, according to the AAP.
Surgical options are largely reserved for adults, but older teens have the option depending on their medical history and doctor recommendations. Guidelines drafted by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health state that hormones can be started around age 14 at a doctor’s direction and some surgical options can be explored at 15, for chest reconstruction, and 17 for “bottom” surgery, such as vaginoplasty.
No medical body the Associated Press spoke with advocated for anything resembling surgical options for anyone under the age of 15, and puberty blockers are only recommended for youth within a year or so of the onset of puberty.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that every child’s experience with gender affirmation will be unique and should be overseen by medical professionals as well as counselors.
Robinson continues with a discussion of his position on abortion, which he declined to comment on in the wake of lawmakers passing a 12-week abortion ban, saying he’s “not interested” in the abortion debate.
On Tuesday, the Senate and the House overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 20, which bans most abortions after 12 weeks, and Robinson shared a statement on his social media channels, saying in part that Republicans have “taken a stand to create a culture of life in North Carolina.”
In recent speaking engagements, Robinson’s stance seems to have softened from prior years. Rather than discussing bans, which he has previously expressed support for, both in this interview and during his campaign speech, he spent more time discussing improvements to childcare, foster care and adoption in North Carolina as a way to support abortion restrictions.
“We want to stand up for life in the womb. And not only do we want to stand up and protect every life in the womb,” he said. “If we’re not taking care of life all the way through, from cradle to grave, from womb to grave, so to speak, then we can’t say that we’re pro-life. We’ve got to start fighting for life instead of fighting against abortion. Abortion is not the issue. Life is the issue.”
At that point, Hughes, noting that Robinson needs to catch his flight, starts to wrap up the interview, praising Robinson’s growth. She then thanked him for his support and encouragement of her in the past and thanked him for helping the people of North Carolina and the country.
“Thank you for standing up and fighting,” Robinson concluded as the interview ended.
“They are going to attack,” Robinson said during his speech at the rally. “It will not matter if I’m silent, they are going to attack. It will not matter if I use all the right words, they are going to attack. It does not even matter if I decide just to sidestep the issue and walk away from it. They are going to attack. So I figure as long as they’re going to attack, I might as well go ahead and attack first.”
Later on in the speech, he continues to discuss what he expects the reaction to his comments about transgender youth, saying: “The newspapers can get mad at me, the television can get mad at me, but as long as God Almighty is on my side and I know he is on that issue, I do not have a problem with stating what is obvious.”
Likely, Robinson is addressing CNN’s recently published reports about years-old social media comments that Robinson had made, where he called school shooting survivors “brats” and a podcast appearance where he decried the Civil Rights movement as driven by “communists.” Robinson responded to the first report by posting a brief statement on his social media slamming “the liberal elite” for reporting on his words from 2018. Then he shared a video where Robinson is endorsed by Clarence Henderson, with Robinson saying that he “couldn’t be more proud” of Henderson’s work in the Civil Rights movement and that he intends to make history as well.
Prior to CNN’s coverage, Talking Points Memo had exhaustively combed through Mark Robinson’s social media footprint, painting a portrait of the current Republican frontrunner as a confrontational conspiracy theorist.
The 2024 Governor’s Race
Multiple polls have Robinson as the favorite in the primary and neck-and-neck in the election against the only declared Democratic candidate, Attorney General Josh Stein.
North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell is running against Robinson as a Republican candidate, and former representative Mark Walker has signaled his intent to run, with an engagement scheduled for May 20 in Kernersville. Libertarian Mike Ross has also announced his campaign.
Recently, Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes) declared he would run for lieutenant governor, adding his name to a race that also includes Hal Weatherman, a former aide to previous Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Peter Boykin, founder of Gays for Trump, on the Republican side and Sen. Rachel Hunt, daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt, and former Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey among Democratic candidates.
Primaries will be held in March.