Photo: AP

As the Indiana Republican primary looms, the New York Times reports, Ted Cruz has sought to galvanize conservatives by raising the issue of transgender women’s right to use women’s bathrooms, arguing that Republicans should reject Donald Trump’s support for such purportedly deviant behavior.

Last week, after North Carolina passed a measure requiring people to use the restroom of the gender stated on their birth certificate, Trump said people should be free to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” In response, Cruz has stoked fears (fantasies?) about sexual predators entering women’s bathrooms. The Times offers the following anecdote:

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both agree that grown men should be allowed to use the little girls’ restroom,” Mr. Cruz said on Tuesday night as a crowd in Knightstown, Ind., booed heartily. He made the remarks after coming before the crowd with his two daughters, 7 and 5, who wore matching pink dresses.

And elsewhere:

“If Donald Trump dresses as Hillary Clinton, he still can’t use the little girls’ restroom,” he said in South Bend, Ind. “And I apologize for putting that image in your mind.”

Earlier, Mr. Cruz said, “If the law says that any man, if he chooses, can enter a women’s restroom, a little girls’ restroom, and stay there, and he cannot be removed because he simply says at that moment he feels like a woman, you’re opening the door for predators.”

Setting aside the implication that transgender women aren’t ‘actually’ women—as well as the myth that trans people assault (sexually or otherwise) cisgender people in bathrooms, and also the fact that trans people disproportionately suffer from hate crimes—it is worth noting that there is actually no such thing as the “little girls’ restroom.” There is also no such thing as the “little boys’ restroom.”

However, taken on their own terms, the implicit inverse of Cruz’s remarks is that grown men should be allowed to use the “little boys’ restroom.” If such a restroom were to exist (which it doesn’t), and if our primary concern is for the children (which it should be), surely we would want to restrict grown men’s access to it, irrespective of gender.

Cruz is far from the first person to describe “the women’s restroom” as “the little girls’ restroom,” but this construction is creepy and infantilizing in any context. At best, it betrays a pathological discomfort with the human body; at worst, it assumes a shared interest between grown, adult humans in contemplating the bodily functions of children.

Here, though, the only reason for Cruz to use this language is to invoke in the listener the image of child rape; and he did so while referring implicitly to his own daughters. It is no wonder they reject his performative affection.