Jonathan Van Ness Dressed Down Dax Shepard After He ‘Parroted’ Anti-Trans Propaganda on Podcast

"I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want to be included," JVN told the podcaster in a tense exchange.

Jonathan Van Ness Dressed Down Dax Shepard After He ‘Parroted’ Anti-Trans Propaganda on Podcast
Photo:Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

Dax Shepard fell for anti-trans propaganda and seemed to decide the best person to push for answers about it was Queer Eye host/author/fellow podcaster Jonathan Van Ness, who made an appearance on Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast Monday. What started out as a podcasting lovefest between the two devolved into a showcase on the divide between cis people, who think they’re supporting women by questioning trans rights, and trans people whose bodies, health care, sports participation, bathroom usage, and more are legally targeted every day. In the episode, Shepard’s anti-trans talking points got to be so much that Van Ness—a nonbinary person who has a big stake in trans rights!—started to cry.

The pair started talking about electoral politics (i.e. is Joe Biden a good choice?), but the conversation quickly shifted when Shepard brought up The New York Times and how many “bad news” headlines it published about covid. Shepard insisted that the Times is a “left-leaning” newspaper, while Van Ness pushed back, arguing that the Times has platformed numerous anti-trans beliefs and misinformation and therefore is not a progressive publication.

Shepard said, “On the very far right, let’s say, you would say, ‘My support of trans folks would have them competing in the Olympics’… On the far other end of the spectrum, you have people saying they’re not entitled to these rights, they shouldn’t be allowed to transition. There’s this huge spectrum. I don’t think the entire news organization is no longer left-leaning because they fall off on one area of this spectrum.”

“How you do anything is how you do everything,” Van Ness countered.

After some more back-and-forth about the Times, Shepard started talking about trans kids specifically: “Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning. They’re challenging that. How do we know that person’s not gonna change their mind? Then there’s another counter argument: Well, if they kill themselves, that’s really fucking permanent. That’s a good counter argument,” Shepard said, adding, “To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward.”

JVN replied, “I feel like I’m talking to my dad.”

After a lengthy and incredible dressing down of Shepard—in which JVN touched on how sports are inherently dangerous (ie. anyone can sprain an ankle while figure skating), how the ability to pay or not pay can impact a kid’s ability to participate in sport, and the actual science of trans people competing in sports—they ultimately wanted to know why this was the hill to die on.

“There’s just so many things that are so much more important, and we’re over here being like, ‘Well, there’s legitimate concerns [about transgender athletes],’” they said. “When you have an outsized reaction to something, there’s a good chance that you’re being exposed to misinformation and disinformation.”

I would recommend listening to the back-and-forth between JVN, Shepard, and co-host Monica Padman that starts about 34:30. Here’s a revealing monologue from Shepard:

“Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dreams? I do. Will I elevate her rights over women? We’re pretending that women aren’t the ultimate marginalized class throughout history. People have written ‘cervix haver’ and she goes, ‘No, no, no, there’s a name for us. You can’t steal my identity to help your cause. You can’t take away the defining characteristic that allows me to relate to all these other women that have been oppressed.’ Now there’s hatemongers. There’s people who fucking don’t like trans people… People are questioning, which is: Could the captain of the water polo team that was male for 19 years, next month or in one year compete against girls and women? Would that be fair to girls and women? That’s a fair question.”

Sure sounds like he’s eaten up a lot of anti-trans propaganda.

Van Ness said sports are ultimately about camaraderie and friendship, but because of the glut of anti-trans legislation introduced around the country, it’s worth re-examining what questions are being asked. “There isn’t legitimate questioning going on. There’s a public, targeted onslaught towards queer people,” Van Ness said. It’s a “bogeyman” to make it seem as though girls are being attacked, they added.

“It does hurt my heart to see people I respect taking up for [these] positions,” Van Ness said. They continued, addressing Shepard and Padman: “You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs.” Then, they started to tear up, saying they just expected to talk about their new podcasts.

“I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids, because they just want to be included,” they said. “I wish that people were as passionate about little kids being able to be included or grow up as they were about fictitious women’s fairness in sports. I have to tell you I am very tired.”

To recap: Shepard’s parroting of anti-trans talking points made his podcast guest cry! Eventually, Shepard and Padman apologized for the debating nature of the discussion. Shepard then struck a different tone to cheerlead Van Ness’ new podcast, the thing they were supposed to be promoting.

On Tuesday, Van Ness shared a short video on Instagram with extra information and stats about trans kids in sports to seemingly supplement the podcast episode. There was no promotion of their appearance on Armchair Expert on the grid, which gave me a big ol’ laugh.

The Spotify description of Armchair Expert says Shepard “will celebrate, above all, the challenges and setbacks that ultimately lead to growth and betterment.” I hope he uses this interview to consider what beliefs he himself is espousing on his massive platform of an estimated 20 million monthly listeners. And I hope JVN got to snuggle one of their cats and/or dogs today.

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