"I could just cry because I'm so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want to be included," Jonathan Van Ness told Dax Shepard through tears while discussing the topic of trans kids in sports.
UPDATE 2:50 PT 9/27/2023
On Wednesday, Jonathan Van Ness addressed his appearance on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast for the first time, taking to his Instagram Stories to share a screenshot of the episode's title card.
"I don't quite have words for this yet but I will someday," he wrote.
Van Ness also spoke out about transphobia in an Instagram video the day prior, as a follow-up to his tense conversation with Shepard.
"There's so many conversations about trans inclusion in sports, we have state houses all over the United States that consider passing bills to make sure that no trans kids are able to play sports at any level in their state," the Queer Eye star began.
He continued, "And I just think that this is a huge travesty. The science that we have now says that transgender women do not hold an unfair biological advantage over cis women."
Discussing the narrative around "protecting women's sports," Van Ness turned to the blockade against gender affirming care that exists in many states, which would prevent a trans girl from going through the very male puberty that some believe would put them at an unfair advantage where competitive sports are concerned.
"So do you see how we have governments and governing bodies of athletics that are making it so trans people can't play sports anyway?" he asked. "But not only have trans women been able play tennis or swim for the last two decades, how many Olympic trans tennis players or swimmers can you think of?"
"Exactly. Zero," Van Ness clapped back.
He also explained what he learned from being able to play sports himself. JVN, who identifies as a non-binary trans person and uses he/she/they pronouns, said having the opportunity to be a part of a team taught him valuable life lessons that trans kids will miss out on should they be banned from sports.
"We are doing a huge injustice to trans kids for just not letting them play," Van Ness maintained.
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During a recent appearance on Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, Van Ness broke down during a back-and-forth between the pair over gender-affirming care and the issue of trans kids in sports. Shepard's cohost Monica Padman prefaced the interview by issuing a bit of a "trigger warning" to listeners, saying the two "inadvertently" began debating what Dax admitted was a "very sensitive topic" before playing the full audio.
"Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning," Shepard said, before bringing up the arguments of those opposed to gender-affirming care. "How do we know that the person's not gonna change their mind? Then there's another counterargument. If they kill themselves, then that's really f–king permanent ... To even question it makes you an enemy. I don't think that’s the way forward."
"There's just so many things that are so much more important and we're over here being like, 'Well, there's legitimate concerns [about transgender athletes],'" Van Ness -- who said he felt like he was "talking to my dad" -- said to Shepard, when discussing the topic of trans kids in sports. "All I'm saying is what we know about misinformation and disinformation is when you have an outsized reaction to something, there's a good chance that you're being exposed to misinformation and disinformation."
JVN, who identifies as a non-binary trans person, continued, "And a lot of the rhetoric around the anti-trans backlash does have a lot of misinformation and disinformation in it."
As Shepard continued to push back against Van Ness' arguments, the Queer Eye star said he's exhausted, not just over having to fight for trans rights but especially in his fight for kids who are bullied over their gender identity, kids who "just want to be included" in sports or any other activity where trans children have been barred.
"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 told Shepard, audibly breaking down in 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. I have to tell you I am very tired."
JVN went on to say the arguments being had publicly were more of a "targeted onslaught towards queer people," based on statistics he said don't add up. "I'm not calling you a transphobe," he continued, saying people can "not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs."
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The conversation, which started over whether or not the New York Times was a left-leaning publication, was one that JVN called "trigger city," prompting Shepard to apologize on more than one occasion for putting the TV star and hair stylist in a position where he felt he had to defend himself.
"Sincerely, I did not want you to come in and challenge your position on any of these things," Shepard said. "I'm just emotionally exhausted," Van Ness added of having to defend issues surrounding trans people and gender.
"I think you're right to feel like it's not on my shoulders to set the table for you," Shepard said.
Van Ness, who seemingly outwardly oozes confidence on TV and social media, said he still struggles with his gender expression, and noted that had it not been for sports like cheerleading, that allowed him to be himself while growing up, he doesn't know if he'd be able to live the way he does now.
"I don't know that I don't live like this because I'm scared of the vitriol that trans people feel every day," he explained. "For people who are like, 'You're so authentic and you're so brave,' I'm not.'"
"I'm sure you're disappointed in me," Shepard told his guest, who responded by saying he wasn't.
While the pair eventually reached an impasse, the conversation continued online, after the episode went live, with fans taking to the comments Shepard's Instagram post promoting the episode.
"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 user wrote.
Another commented, "A lot of straight liberal men I know feel exactly how Dax does. I'm so sorry JVN had to educate and defend but I know this conversation will be transformative for so many people. 👏"
Listen to the full discussion below; it starts around the 24-minute mark.