Dax Shepard at SXSW and Jonathan Van Ness at the GLAAD Awards

Dax Shepard Spent His Whole Interview With Jonathan Van Ness Parroting ‘Exhausting’ Conservative Anti-Trans Talking Points

When it comes to celebrities talking about issues involving marginalized people, whether they be a person of color, part of the LGBTQ+ community, have a disability, or anything else, things can become very heated very quickly, especially if the celebrity happens to be cisgender and white.

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And that’s exactly what happened when beauty expert/influencer Jonathan Van Ness appeared on Armchair Expert, the podcast hosted by actor Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. Shepard and Van Ness started out having a lighthearted conversation before they started discussing whether The New York Times should be considered a “left-leaning/progressive news organization,” which Van Ness refuted as they constantly pump out anti-trans content.

Shepard seemed put off by Van Ness’ comments as he responded to the claim by saying, “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?”

The actor went on to double down on his incredibly anti-trans sentiments when the group discussed trans inclusion in sports, as he stated, “This whole notion that to be critical or to question [something], you’re seeing the whiplash reaction to that. To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward.”

Van Ness, who identifies as non-binary, first tried to defuse the tension by saying that Shepard was “acting like [their] dad,” but quickly hit back against Shepard’s anti-trans points. “When you have an outsized reaction to something, there’s a good chance that you’re being exposed to misinformation and disinformation,” Van Ness explained, “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.”

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However, Shepard wouldn’t let up about the discussion about trans people in sports as he said he wouldn’t “elevate [a trans woman’s] rights over women” because cis women are the “ultimate marginalized class throughout history.” He also explained that it was a “fair question” to evaluate if it was “fair” for cisgender women to compete against someone who had been classified as a male athlete before transitioning.

Seemingly fed up with the conversation at this point, Van Ness brought up the “targeted onslaught toward queer people” that has been happening in the last few years and how hard it was to “watch Dax Shepard parrot a lot of the same things.”

“I’m a non-binary f*cking 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,” Van Ness said. “You can not 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.

“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.”

Shepard eventually apologized for getting into such a heated debate with Van Ness as he didn’t “want any of that to happen,” but the damage was already done.

Shepard might not be a transphobe, but his willingness to parrot the same talking points one can find on Fox News or any other right-wing conservative media outlet is frankly terrifying. The actor has declared himself a Democrat and has regularly reaffirmed his commitment to liberal causes, but has no issue hearing “both sides” about trans rights.

There are no both sides to human rights; trans people should be able to exist in society without people like Shepard turning their humanity into a talking point. “Just asking questions” is a favorite phrase of conservatives because it allows them to bigoted without having to say it with their chests.

Shepard is a very influential figure who’s using his platform to confirm the narrative of every anti-trans people who happens to be listening to the episode. Whether Shepard realizes it or not, this one podcast episode will have real life ramifications.

Trans people have been under all kinds of attacks in this country since conservatives decided they were the new boogeyman. Their healthcare is being threatened, they’re being put under scrutiny for participating in school events, and they’re being harassed online thanks to wild conspiracy theories. The trans community has enough to worry about without a Hollywood actor coming in to “just ask questions.”

(featured image: Jason Bollenbacher/Getty Images for SXSW/Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for GLAAD)


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Kayla Harrington
Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a staff writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or cuddling with one of her four pets. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.