During the most recent episode of “Armchair Expert,” Dax Shepard and his guest, Jonathan Van Ness, got into a heated debate over anti-trans rhetoric permeating American politics.
Van Ness, who is non-binary, joined the show to chat about their own podcast and Netflix series, “Getting Curious,” but the conversation turned sour when a debate regarding trans rights arose.
“I have so much love and compassion for even Trump supporters,” said Van Ness, highlighting what they believes to be a lack of adequate education for those with conservative ideologies.
“I reject that,” Shepard replied. “They are conservative. They don’t like how quickly the country is changing. I understand that. I can sympathize with that. They have different fears than we do. It’s not because they’re dumb or uneducated.”
Van Ness pointed out that “misinformation and disinformation plays a huge role in that especially when it comes to gender-affirming care and access to abortion.”
But Shepard argued that the left has just as much of a problem with misinformation as the right. He specifically mentioned the New York Times’ COVID-19 coverage, referring to the Gray Lady as a left-leaning publication.
“The New York Times isn’t a left-leaning publication,” Van Ness said.
“It absolutely is,” Shepard shot back.
“They’re anti-trans. They platform multiple anti-trans people,” Van Ness continued. “To be against trans liberation and queer liberation in the year of our lord and savior, 2023, makes you absolutely not progressive and left-leaning.”
“How you do anything is how you do everything,” Van Ness said.
“I think what a lot of people and what that article in the Times was pointing out is, anytime you have any questions or any pushback,” you are labeled as anti-trans, Shepard said.
“Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning, they’re challenging that. How do we know that the person is not going to change your mind?” the “Armchair Expert” host argued. “Then there’s another counterargument. Well, if they kill themselves, then that’s really f–king permanent.”
“Even to question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Shepard noted.
“I feel like I’m talking to my dad,” Van Ness replied.
“When you have an outsized reaction to something there’s a good chance that you’re being exposed to misinformation and disinformation,” Van Ness continued. “And a lot of the rhetoric around anti-trans inclusion and just the anti-trans backlash does have a lot of misinformation and disinformation in it.”
“If you aren’t personally impacted by an issue, for people who are, it is just a bit exhausting,” Van Ness said.
“Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dreams? I do,” Shepard said. But, he said, “Will I elevate her rights over women?”
“Without cheerleading, I probably would have killed myself in high school,” Van Ness reflected. “And I sometimes really wrestle with my gender identity.”
“There is like a public targeted onslaught towards queer people,” Van Ness argued, to which Shepard agreed.
“But for me to sit here and watch Dax Shepard parrot a lot of those same things,” was disheartening, Van Ness said.
“The thing that I’m bummed about right now is that if you wanted to lay out your points where you’d say this would make you supportive of the movement, if you laid out 10, if I’m along for nine of them and not the 10th, you file me in this enemy category,” Shepard remarked.
“I’m not filing you in an enemy category,” Van Ness said. “I’m just saying that it is disappointing when you realize the amount of people that think they’re really fighting or something.”
“I definitely think a lot of people who are anti-trans are using this as a Trojan horse,” Shepard said.
“I’m a non-binary f–king trans person,” Van Ness said. “When I talk to my dad or people who face similar things, it’s hard to be cool through that.”
“Honestly, I just wanted to come to chat about my podcast,” Van Ness said, clearly exhausted by the unexpected debate.
Shepard said he had no intentions of getting into a debate during the podcast.
Van Ness then started to get choked up saying, “I could just like cry because I’m like, so tired of having to like fight for little kids because they just want to be included.”
“I have to tell you, I am very tired. And I’m really sorry,” an emotional Van Ness said.
Van Ness then mentioned their friend who could explain why “this was so f–king trigger city.”
“I’m sorry it was trigger city,” Shepard said. “I do think we fell into it honestly.”
“I’m sure you’re disappointed in me,” Shepard said.
“I’m not disappointed in you,” Van Ness replied. “I’m just like, emotionally exhausted.”