February 23, 2024

In the most recent episode of Dax Shepard’s podcast “Armchair Expert,” Jonathan Van Ness broke down in tears while defending the rights of transgender kids.

Shepard and Van Ness engaged in a light-hearted conversation about a range of topics before they began talking about The New York Times. When Van Ness said the publication should not be considered left-leaning, Shepard responded with, “It absolutely is.” Van Ness then said the publication shares anti-trans content.

After the two went back and forth on the topic, Shepard said, “Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning. They’re challenging that. How do we know that the person’s not gonna change their mind?”

“To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Shepard continued before prompting Van Ness to offer a rebuttal.

Van Ness said it felt like they were talking to their dad. They then went on to discuss how transgender athletes do not have the competitive advantage that some — like J.K. Rowling, who Van Ness mentions — claim they do. Shepard responded by asking whether the inclusion of transgender athletes is safe or fair for cis-women in the sports. The two then discussed the topic for over 20 minutes. Van Ness said that as a non-binary person, it is “disappointing” when people claim to be fighting for women while excluding trans children from playing sports.

“I’m not calling you a transphobe. You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs and not be transphobic,” Van Ness said.

Van Ness said they were hoping to come on Shepard’s show to chat about their podcast, to which Shepard responded that he did not intend to start a debate and then praised Van Ness for being an activist.

As they started to break down in tears, Van Ness said they “could just cry” because of how exhausted they are from having to fight for little kids who “just wanted to be included.”

“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,” Van Ness said to Shepard, who apologized again.

Van Ness went on to say: “You can have racist beliefs and not know you’re racist, just like you can have transphobic beliefs and not realize you have transphobic beliefs. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Shepard told Van Ness he was sure they were disappointed in him, but Van Ness said he was not disappointed — just “emotionally exhausted.” Adding that they still struggle with their gender expression, Van Ness said, “I’m scared of the vitriol that trans people face everyday.”

Shepard and his cohost Monica Padman told Van Ness they admired their braveness and apologized again before changing topics.

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