Huckabee: I wish I could’ve identified as female in high school gym

Updated 2:08 PM EDT, Wed June 3, 2015
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(CNN) —  

Mike Huckabee says there’s a time he wishes he could’ve been transgender: When it was time to hit the high school showers.

If he “could have felt like a woman,” the Republican former Arkansas governor joked earlier this year, then he could have seen his female classmates without their clothes on.

“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee said.

“I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn’t it?”

Huckabee’s comments came in February at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. They were uploaded to YouTube over the weekend by World Net Daily and picked up more prominently by BuzzFeed on Tuesday.

The comments were notable because transgender people say their decisions aren’t driven by sexuality and are a matter of personal identity: they identify with a gender they were not assigned at birth.

A Huckabee spokeswoman did not respond to CNN’s request for a comment on those remarks.

Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, was in Orlando, Florida with other GOP presidential candidates on Tuesday. A CNN reporter asked for his reaction to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover in which the former Olympic champion, and self described Republican, came out as a female.

“Not going there,” Huckabee said.

Caitlyn Jenner gets bipartisan support

The former Baptist pastor has attracted the support of religious conservatives in previous elections because of his stances on gay rights issues — and doesn’t seem to be backing off those positions headed into the 2016 campaign.

He’s already said there are ways for states to ignore a potential Supreme Court ruling in June legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki, a new entrant into the GOP’s field of presidential candidates, said Tuesday that while Huckabee’s remarks were “meant in humor” he could have used more tact.

“I think the more important point is we should give people their dignity and let them make their own decisions,” Pataki told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

“If someone chooses a path that’s different than mine, we should respect it as opposed to mocking it or in any way trying to prevent that,” Pataki said.

Opinion: Huckabee, transgender is not a joke

CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.