On the latest episode of his highly popular Armchair Expert podcast, host Dax Shepard got into a heated conversation about gender-affirming care and transgender children competing in sports with his guest, Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, that culminated with Van Ness breaking down into tears of frustration.
“Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dream? I do,” Shepard said at one point during the interview. “Will I elevate her rights over women? We’re pretending that women aren’t the ultimate marginalized class throughout history.”
“I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want to be included,” Van Ness eventually responded as they could be heard audibly shedding tears. “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.”
At various points during the uncomfortable conversation, Van Ness told Shepard, “I feel like I’m talking to my dad” and “I‘m not calling you a transphobe. You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies and beliefs.”
“Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning,” Shepard said at another point. “They’re challenging that. How do we know that person’s not gonna change their mind?. [Conversely], what if they kill themselves? And that’s really fucking permanent—that’s a good counterargument.”
“This whole notion that to be critical or to question, you’re seeing the whiplash reaction to that,” the host added later, a statement which seemed to sum up his overall stance. “To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward.”
Since it aired, the widely-shared episode has sparked backlash against Shepard, who adopted a just-asking-questions stance about teenagers transitioning and transgender athletes that’s left a bad taste in the mouth of many listeners. The Daily Beast reached out to both Shepard and Van Ness for comment.
“Thank you to Jonathan Van Ness for your brilliance and strength in speaking out in support of trans youth, and against biased, inaccurate coverage [done by the New York Times],” the GLAAD official account tweeted.
“Jonathan’s pain is palpable and I understand his fear,” another tweeter commented. “This is a discussion we are going to have to keep having until no one has to live in the shadows. If your child or a friend is trans or queer, you may understand this.”
“Has the day finally come where we all collectively agree that Dax Shepard is a freaking moronic asshole???” said another tweeter. “I’m very excited but also sad that it came to Jonathan Van Ness almost breaking down on his podcast.”
On Tuesday, Van Ness appeared to respond to the conversation caused by the episode by continuing to post about trans rights on their Instagram, saying, in a video, “the science we have now says that transgender women do not hold an unfair biological advantage over cis women.”
“We have states in the United States that have outlawed gender-affirming care for trans kids,” Van Ness continued. “If there was a young trans girl who wanted to be a gymnast or a figure skater or a golfer, she wouldn’t be able to access the hormone blockers to ensure that she would not go through a puberty. We have governments and governing bodies in athletics who are making it so trans people can’t play sports anyway.”
Meanwhile, Shepard’s Instagram post about the episode didn’t acknowledge Van Ness’ breakdown. Instead, Shepard simply captioned pictures of himself and Van Ness with “I’ve been a @jvn fan since Gay Of Thrones. Jonathan even convinced me to buy beard oil and green tint moisturizer.”