Dax Shepard Debates Trans Rights With Jonathan Van Ness – Ends in Tears

By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Oct 10, 2023

Dax Shepard had high expectations when he extended an invite to Jonathan Van Ness for an open conversation on the Armchair Expert podcast. The intent was to promote Van Ness’ podcast and Netflix series, both called “Getting Curious.”

Unexpectedly, things deviated far from the plan as the conversation degenerated into a heated debate. Van Ness was left dejected and in tears after trying to talk about the anti-trans victimizations across the US.  

The Raving Podcast Participants

To get a perspective of the trans rights conversation that cropped up between Shepard and Van Ness, it is necessary to know who these two individuals are. 


Source: Queerty

Jonathan Van Ness is a non-binary celebrity hairstylist who has been a top voice in the trans rights movement. Dax Shepard, on the other hand, is a notable actor and comedian who has hosted the Armchair Expert podcast since 2018.


How the Conversation Started

During the latest episode of Shepard’s podcast, Van Ness had gone on to help people understand the plot of Getting Curious. 


Source: Armchair Expert Sessions/YouTube

However, since Armchair Expert is a free-thought podcast, the duo started swerving from one topic to another. Before long, some conservative ideologies came to the fore. 

Van Ness Accused Conservatives of Misinformation

During the conversation, Van Ness said something along the lines of Trump supporters being staunch conservatives. The hairstylist also posited that such people tend to be religious about their ideologies and often showed traits of lack in education or misinformation. 


Source: Ivy Dawned/Flickr

To douse the severity of the statement, Van Ness then proceeded to say that conservatives are adorable and should be accommodated, irrespective of their lapses. 

Misinformation and Aggression Against the Trans Community

Shepard, however, did not agree with Van Ness’ view about conservatives. While conservatives might be slow at adjusting to new social norms, Shepard feels it is wrong to address them as uneducated and lacking in information. 


Source: Ted Eytan/Wikimedia Commons

It is one thing to be outrightly ignorant and another to prod new knowledge that has been made available with a long stick of intellectualism. 

How Liberal Is the West?

Still affirming their stand, Van Ness then proceeded to cite examples of the mass misinformation surrounding abortion and gender care in the United States. 

Source: Ted Eytan/CP Review

Summarily, Van Ness feels conservatives would probably take a more liberal stance on these issues if mainstream media does not shove false information down their throats. 


Mass Media and the Trans Fight

The next turn of the conversation will then help explain how trans rights came up and how the conversation ended in tears. 

Source: Charles Miller/Ms. Magazine

Van Ness mentioned that the New York Times is a conservative news outlet, culpable of large-scale misinformation because they have several contributors that are anti-trans in ideology. However, Shepard begged to differ and believed Van Ness was holding that opinion due to ideological dissonance. 


It Gets Emotional

Shepard then proceeded to ask a number of questions and made statements that seemed to floor Van Ness emotionally.

Source: Ted Eytan/WCU Quad

First, he brought up the issue of teenage transitioning, the emotional traumas that might come with it and its long-term implications. At this point, Van Ness started getting agitated in their responses. 


Victims of Mainstream Misinformation

Van Ness stated that Shepard does not come off as homophobic, but when the Armchair Expert host—or any other person—has an oversized reaction to trans-related issues, they might be victims of mainstream misinformation. 

Source: Dallas Morning News

It was at this point that Van Ness mentioned how exhaustive it is, fronting the cause of trans communities because of casually provocative arguments like Shepard’s. 


The Trans Athlete Perspective

Shepard tried again to make his case as objectively as possible, citing the trans athlete issues that have lately been making the rounds. 

Source: SportsLeo

He said: “Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dreams? Will I elevate her rights over women?” In response to this, the celebrity hairstylist shared how disheartened they were having to listen to Shepard share such anti-trans views. 


Steering Back to Course

Before leaving the show, Van Ness stated that they didn’t see Shepard as an enemy. However, they are simply sorry that the purpose of the interview has been left unattended. 

Source: Amala Ekpunobi/YouTube

Shepard, on the other hand, apologized, stating that it was not his intention to start a debate. But the deed had already been done.


Sorry it Came to This

With a choked voice and visibly drawn to tears, Van Ness said, “I’m not disappointed in you, I’m just like, emotionally exhausted.” 

Source: Ted Eytan/Wikimedia Commons

There has been a lot of backlash against the host of the Armchair Expert since the content of the Van Ness podcast went public. While the podcast didn’t go as planned, it was certainly an interesting debate to witness.