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Spotify Allows Joe Rogan to Say So Much Transphobic Bullsh*t That it’s Baffling

He thinks trans rights is a sign of the collapse.

Joe Rogan speaks with Abigail Shrier on The Joe Rogan Experience.

By now, you’re probably familiar with Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience and the sheer level of COVID-19 misinformation coming out of his show.

The production has come under increasing scrutiny from health care professionals for Rogan’s just-asking-questions approach. One epidemiologist called the color commentator “a menace to public health,” stating his podcast gives a platform to “fringe ideas not backed in science.” As she told Rolling Stone, “The overwhelming evidence is the vaccine works, and it is safe.”

Streaming service Spotify holds exclusive rights to host Rogan’s podcast, and the service has not backed down from letting him say what he wants. Neil Young gave Spotify an ultimatum, and the platform ultimately chose Joe. Young and Joni Mitchell both pulled their music from Spotify afterward, and the comedian’s show has now become synonymous with half-truths, misinformation, and conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 pandemic.

But COVID-19 misinformation is just the latest in a long line of terrible viewpoints from Rogan and his guests. On Feb. 1st, 2022, India.Arie announced that she would follow suit in removing her music from Spotify because of Rogan’s “language around race.” And for a long, long time, hateful rhetoric directed at transgender men, women, and nonbinary people has been present on Rogan’s podcast. When you look at just how much anti-trans content has been on The Joe Rogan Experience in the past two years alone, it’s kind of nuts that Spotify is OK with just how much bullshit is coming out of his show.

Peddling transphobic misinformation

The cover for Abigail Shrier's book Irreversible Damage.

In June 2020, journalist Abigail Shrier published her transphobic book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. In short, Shrier argues that a social contagion effect has “biological female teens caught up” in a “transgender craze” being pushed by trans rights activists. Shrier’s work is antagonistic toward teenage trans men seeking out gender-affirming care, as she believes many young trans men simply have coinciding mental health issues that need to be addressed.

Shrier has been highly criticized by experts on transgender rights. Psychology Today’s Dr. Jack Turban, who specializes in mental health care for trans youth, calls her book “bizarre and full of misinformation” reinforced by “irresponsible journalistic practices and out-right falsehoods.”

Critics particularly focus on Shrier’s belief in rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), the discredited idea that gender dysphoria can emerge as a social contagion or through peer influence. The theory, which is generally used in relation to trans youth and young adults, was popularized by a Brown University study criticized for its methodological issues and bias toward perceiving gender dysphoria as a disease and a disorder, BuzzFeed News reports. Baked into ROGD is the anti-trans belief that one can “catch” gender dysphoria. Like the parallel belief that homosexuality is socially contagious, the logical conclusion is that trans teens must be forced into conversion therapy.

Nonetheless, in July 2020, Rogan hosted Shrier as a guest on his show, where he gave credence to ROGD’s ideas. There, Shrier relayed the basic ideas behind her book and suggested many trans teenage boys were really just coming out because of peer pressure from their friends. Rogan joined in on Shrier’s fears and expressed concern against 17-through 20-year-olds accessing testosterone for gender transition, arguing young adults may not be in their right mind to seek out hormone replacement therapy.

He also criticized Planned Parenthood for not having a “long transitional therapy session” for prescribing testosterone to 18-year-olds. (Gender-affirming medical care access for trans youth has “broad consensus from The American Psychiatric Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Endocrine Society, The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and The World Professional Association for Transgender Health,” Turban writes.)

A breakdown by Media Matters for America reveals an obscene amount of transphobia by Rogan and Shrier during the show, including Rogan’s suggestion that trans teens are being looped into cults around gender transitioning, and the two belittling Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out.

Inviting anti-trans hostility to the show

Joe Rogan with anti-trans writer Meghan Murphy.

This happens pretty consistently on The Experience: A transphobic guest comes on, and Rogan talks shop.

Shortly after Shrier, Rogan brought on Dr. Debra Soh, who GLAAD has criticized for her transphobic book The End of Gender. Like Shrier, Soh’s work peddles a moral panic over trans kids, with a particular focus on so-called gender ideology in academia and science. On the show, Soh claimed college students are essentially being brainwashed into supporting the belief that gender is a spectrum. She also outright dismissed the existence of nonbinary people, instead claiming that gender is “either male or female.” Rogan called her “important” for her work.

“Just saying there’s two genders will get you cancelled,” he told her.

Then in late August 2021, Rogan invited transgender-exclusionary radical feminist writer Meghan Murphy, where she claimed “men transitioning to women [have] a really, really big and negative impact on women and girls.”

Rogan gave no pushback to this claim. Instead, he insisted trans women carry “male tactics and male behavior” with them as they “invade feminist spaces,” dominating conversation with their “male minds.”

“But the big complaint that I hear from women, especially women that get labeled as TERFs, is that these trans women invade these traditionally just biological women groups and they sort of handle them like a man,” Rogan said.

He also proceeded to agree with Murphy that some trans women act like “predators” in women’s groups. And when Murphy floated the idea of saying activist Charlotte Clymer’s deadname on the show, he encouraged her. “You can say whatever you want,” he told her. “We’re on Spotify.”

The Experience isn’t just a place for transphobes to get a platform, they have an advocate in the room with them.

Entertaining transphobic pet theories

Joe Rogan poses for the camera.

When Rogan isn’t directly agreeing with guests on their transphobia, he’s off entertaining his own pet theories on trans issues. Look no further than Jordan Peterson—who came on to the show on Jan. 25, 2022 to criticize Canada’s Bill C-16 for, you guessed it, causing a “sociological contagion” of gender dysphoria.

Rogan himself brought up ROGD, and during the show, he ran one of his trans theories by Peterson: That the growing push for transgender visibility, and the growing questioning of traditional Western conceptions of gender, is connected with Western civilization’s incoming collapse.

Based on a theory from far-right writer Douglas Murray (who has called it “a lie” that “a man can become a woman”), Rogan argues collapsing societies become “obsessed with gender” in their dying days. As Rogan said in a Sept. 15, 2021 episode, “gender swapping”, “men dressing up like women,” “women dressing up like men,” and “blurring the lines” in gender are all connected to “excess and indulgence and too much prosperity,” leading people to look for “weird ways to be nonconformist.”

“But on the other hand, throughout history, people have felt trans, people have felt like they’re in the wrong body,” Rogan said. “It’s when society embraces that trend to the point where it becomes something to strive for. If you do that, and if you lean toward that, you will get an immense amount of positive attention. Publicly.”

The problem for Rogan isn’t so much trans people, in other words, but their excess. Their visibility. Their platform. Their ability to cause contagion. And that as trans conceptions of gender identity grow, this signals the increased instability of Western civilization. This theory only makes sense if you think being transgender is bad. And it suggests that Rogan—like many of his guests—feels threatened by the idea that gender and sex may be far more complicated than the cisgender conceptions of the gender binary allows.

This culminates in Rogan’s own fears around transgender athletes. For years, Rogan has erroneously claimed that trans women have superior physical advantages to cisgender women in certain sports. This idea is pervasive in right-wing U.S. politics, and the ACLU has pushed back against it. One study found “no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals […] have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition” over cisgender women. And a report by Scientific American reveals bills forcing trans girls to play with trans boys on sports teams have been unable to come up with any proof that trans athletes are outperforming cis ones. Nonetheless, Rogan continues to peddle the idea.

Fallon Fox, a transgender MMA fighter who has received Rogan’s scorn over the issue, said he “shouldn’t speak, especially on this issue that’s so important to transgender people and transgender people’s lives.”

“Just like coronavirus is important to people’s lives. He just brings up these things and just makes them up,” Fallon told Entertainment Today Canada. “I think people should pay attention to what he said, that he’s not an expert. You know, he’s not an expert, so people should take what he says with a grain of salt.”

Why won’t Spotify act?

In an all-hands meeting several months after the streaming giant purchased exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast, Spotify’s LGBTQ employees warned that they felt “unwelcome and alienated because of leadership’s response in [The Joe Rogan Experience] conversations.” At the time, Rogan dismissed these complaints as the brainchild of “a 23-year-old woke kid.”

Months later, the chickens have come home to roost. Transphobic conspiracy theories now rest alongside COVID-19 misinformation on Rogan’s show. These two are related. On Twitter, trans science writer Zinnia Jones pointed out that Rogan “was pushing bad science on trans people before he was pushing bad science on COVID,” and that “he was a danger to our health and now, because you didn’t stop him when he did that, he’s a danger to yours.”

“You can lie about trans people and everyone will believe it. You can tell the truth about trans people and nobody will believe it,” Jones told The Mary Sue. “Almost nobody who isn’t trans is interested in learning anything about the specifics of our needs, what helps us, or the general quality of the lives we live and what’s interfering with that. They don’t have the knowledge needed to recognize disinformation about us, but they also don’t care to learn in the first place.”

The entire problem has put Spotify in an embarrassing position in the stock market, where it’s scrambling to assure investors its 18 percent stock slump truly has nothing to do with the Rogan controversy. But if Spotify knew its own employees were upset with Rogan’s misinformation, then why didn’t they act from the start?

As the New York Times reported last July, “among top Spotify leadership, people familiar with the company say, the notion that Mr. Rogan presents any kind of regrettable executive headache is laughable.” He is “central” to the brand and brings with him a “young, loyal, and increasingly global brand,” the report notes.

That’s an incredible asset over a few grumbling queer employees, in other words. And don’t expect Spotify to act against Rogan without further threat to its bottom line.

“Large businesses will not choose their small contingent of LGBT employees over 95 percent of the population who frankly cares very little, generates their profits, and would be disoriented and outraged if their favorite mass disinformation support group was felled over some incomprehensible fine point of facts about trans lives and health,” Jones said. “No, they will not defend us. We are small and need allies.”

Until then, The Joe Rogan Experience will be a contagion for conspiracy theories. And not just ones on COVID-19.

(Image: JRE Clips)

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Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.