More Transphobic Comments from Bloomberg Surface

As he prepares for his first debate against rival Democratic presidential hopefuls, Mike Bloomberg faces a spiraling controversy about the way in which he has discussed transgender people and their rights, even in the recent past.
Wikimedia Commons/ Gage Skidmore

Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg last year referred to transgender women as “he, she, or it” and “some guy wearing a dress,” adding to the former Republican New York City mayor’s problematic record on issues like race, gender, and LGBTQ rights.

Bloomberg made the comments at a Bermuda Business Development Agency event in Manhattan on March 21 of last year and said those words while he was explaining why he believed presidential candidates would not win if they prioritized transgender rights.

“If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people,” Bloomberg said, according to a YouTube video that appears to have been removed from the platform. BuzzFeed News reported on the video clip on February 18 and the video was subsequently re-posted on Twitter and distributed widely.

The comments surfaced just weeks after a video showed Bloomberg pushing a classist and transphobic narrative about Midwestern voters during an event at Britain’s Oxford University in 2016. While there, he similarly referred to trans women as men “wearing a dress” and suggested that folks from the Midwest do not accept LGBTQ rights. Rather, he insinuated that only educated and wealthy people understand queer issues.

“If you want to know if someone is a good salesman, give him the job of going to the Midwest, and picking a town, and selling to that town the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter,” Bloomberg said in a video published on Twitter by journalist Walker Bragman. “If you can sell that, you can sell anything. I mean, they just look at ya and say, ‘What on earth are you talking about?’ And you say, ‘Well, this person identifies as her gender as different than what’s on her birth certificate.’… ‘What do you mean? You’re either born this or you’re born that.’”

Bloomberg, who was mayor from 2002 to 2013, has most prominently faced stinging criticism for the proliferation of racist stop-and-frisk incidents during his tenure, but the 2020 hopeful has still managed to climb in the polls after dumping hundreds of millions of dollars — and counting — on television ads. His increased exposure has also led to other revelations, including a 2011 PBS interview during which Bloomberg said an “enormous cohort” of Black and Latino men “don’t know how to behave in the workplace.”

The billionaire’s record on queer issues, however, has also been a longstanding issue dating back more than a decade, as outlined by Gay City News’ Duncan Osborne. During his tenure as mayor, Bloomberg made cuts to HIV/ AIDS funding in the city, challenged a state judge’s 2005 ruling requiring city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and oversaw a police department that lured gay and bisexual men into consensual sexual encounters at city porn shops before busting them for prostitution after offering to pay them for sex. During the final years of the push for marriage equality in New York, however, Bloomberg was a big supporter of the issue and, curiously, he signed the city’s transgender rights law during his first six months in office in 2002.

Meanwhile, numerous outlets have reported on allegations of rampant sexism in the workplace at his business, Bloomberg LP. In one example, Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a former sales representative there, sued Bloomberg in 1997 after she said he told her to “Kill it!” when she told him she was pregnant. A former Bloomberg employee who said he was there during that conversation told the Washington Post, “And Mike came out and I remember he said, ‘Are you going to kill it?’ And that stopped everything. And I couldn’t believe it.”

In her complaint, Garrison described a misogynistic culture in which Bloomberg would frequently refer to women by saying, “I’d fuck that in a second” and “that’s a great piece of ass.”

Garrison also recalled a time when, in the presence of several colleagues, Bloomberg combined sexism with racism when he allegedly hurled disturbing comments at an employee who was unable to find a nanny to take care of her child. “It’s a fucking baby! All you need is some Black who doesn’t have to speak English to rescue it from a burning building,” Bloomberg allegedly said.

Bloomberg’s poll numbers have risen to match or exceed other moderate Democratic contenders but he trails Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. A national ABC/ Washington Post poll from February 14 to February 17 showed Sanders holding the lead at 32 percent, followed by 16 percent for former Vice President Joe Biden, 14 percent for Bloomberg, and 12 percent for Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Bloomberg is slated to participate in his first debate on February 19 in Nevada, though he won’t be competing in the caucuses there on February 22 or the South Carolina Democratic primary a week later. It will be a key test for a candidate who has, until now, mostly relied on scripted TV ads to spread the word about his campaign. His first encounter with voters themselves will come on March 3 when 14 Super Tuesday states hold primaries.