Jonathan, who is nonbinary and uses any pronouns, had planned on discussing their own podcast and Netflix series, Getting Curious, during their chat with Dax. However, a huge chunk of their conversation ended up centering around trans rights.
Things kicked off when Jonathan suggested that right-wing ideologies and beliefs stem from a lack of education. Dax disagreed with this, instead stating that people on the right simply have a “difference of opinion.”
“They are conservative. They don’t like how quickly the country’s changing. I understand that, I can sympathize with that,” Dax said. “They have different fears than we do — it’s not ‘cause they’re dumb or uneducated. They have a difference of opinion.”
Jonathan then argued that “misinformation and disinformation plays a huge role” in their thinking, “especially when it comes to gender-affirming care and access to abortion.”
The two went on to debate whether the New York Times was more left or right leaning, with Jonathan arguing that it was far more right because of its “anti-trans” content. “They’re anti-trans, they platform multiple anti-trans people,” they said.
For reference, the NYT has previously been called out by GLAAD, a not-for-profit organization “focused on LGBTQ advocacy,” for its “inaccurate, biased coverage” of trans people. What’s more, earlier this year, almost 1,000 NYT contributors — and tens of thousands of its subscribers and readers — signed an open letter condemning the outlet’s coverage of transgender identity, too.
However, in response to Jonathan saying that the NYT platforms “anti-trans” content, Dax suggested that the support of trans rights is a “huge spectrum,” and that the publication was simply “challenging” ideas around trans rights — such as teens’ access to hormones and blockers.
“Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning. They’re challenging that. How do we know that person’s not gonna change their mind?” he said, before posing an argument on the other side: “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,” he added. “To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward.”
Jonathan firstly responded by noting that any media outlet should platform content in line with its views. They later told Dax, “I feel like I’m talking to my dad,” before going on to discuss the dangers of misinformation when it comes to trans people, citing trans athletes as an example. The Queer Eye star said that contrary to what the right-wing media portrays, trans athletes are not hugely advantaged when it comes to competing in sports.
Jonathan later told Dax, “When you have an outsized reaction to something, there’s a good chance that you’re being exposed to misinformation and disinformation. 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.”
Pointing out that marginalized communities have historically always been scapegoated, Jonathan added, “I think if you aren’t personally impacted by an issue, for people who are, it just is a bit exhausting.”
But Dax kept going, bringing the erasure of womanhood into the debate. He said, “Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dream? I do. Will I elevate her rights over women? We’re pretending that women aren’t the ultimate marginalized class throughout history.”
Dax then questioned whether or not it’d be “fair” for cis girls and women to have to compete in sports against someone who’d lived decades of their life as a male athlete before transitioning. “That’s a fair question,” he said.
Jonathan reiterated that there is a “public targeted onslaught toward queer people,” to which Dax agreed. Then, Jonathan noted that it was frustrating having to sit there and “watch Dax Shepard parrot a lot of the same things.”
Dax then said that if he agreed with 9 out of 10 statements that Jonathan made about trans rights, he’d be classed in the “enemy category” for disagreeing with one. Jonathan hit back by saying, “I’m not filing you in an enemy category. Have whatever beliefs you want. Go for it,” before adding that it’s “disappointing” to see people “think they’re really fighting for something” when they’re actually just diminishing the issues trans people face.
Seeming audibly upset, Jonathan added, “I’m a nonbinary fucking trans person. When I talk to my dad or people who say similar things, it’s hard to be cool through that.”
“I’m not calling you a transphobe,” they went on. “You cannot be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs... Just like how I have to challenge biases about white privilege and make sure I’m not speaking over someone who is a person of color or a Black person if we’re talking about racism or police brutality.”
Dax later apologized for getting into such a heated debate with Jonathan, noting that he “did not intend” to do so at all.
“I didn't want that at all,” he said. “I adore you. I think that you're hysterical and talented, and I love that you're an activist.”
Jonathan then burst into tears as they explained how “tired” they were of fighting for kids who “just want to be included.” They said, “I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want 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,” Jonathan added again, to which Dax said, “I’m really sorry.”
Reacting to the discussion online, some listeners of the podcast questioned why Dax felt the need to “play devil’s advocate” and present Jonathan with “fictitious, fear-based, ‘what if’ narratives.”
“I understand the need to have discussions about sensitive issues. I don’t understand having to find a middle ground when one side’s ask is just to exist. I hope this episode leads to some reflection,” one person wrote.
“This was hugely disappointing to hear your continued need to play devil's advocate at all times, especially in this type of conversation. I hope in the very least, the one silver lining that can come from this is that you educate yourself a bit more,” said another.
On the flip side, other listeners argued that these kinds of “honest and vulnerable” discussions are important for educating people about such sensitive topics.
“I’m so sorry JVN had to educate and defend, but I know this conversation will be transformative for so many people,” one person commented.
“Not only was this raw and informative but showed a true healthy argument occur,” said another.